Join the National Air and Space Museum for Sally's Night to explore the wonder of our universe. Use the Sally's Night Celebration Guide, full of activities for the whole family, to join the celebration from wherever you are, and share on social media how you #ShineLikeSally.Explore the Celebration Guide
Sally Ride lived her life with extraordinary energy, passion, curiosity and joy. All astronauts lead exciting lives, but some are larger than life even before they reach for the stars. Whether in the classroom or on the tennis court, in the lab or on the launch pad—it was clear from the start that Dr. Ride would reach great heights.
The evening of June 18 marks the anniversary of just one exciting episode of Sally’s extraordinary life—the first night she looked back at Earth from space and experienced the special exhilaration and joy that energy, focus, and passion can bring to those who reach for the stars. Early interests and clear role models can lead to excellence in any field—particularly science, technology, engineering, and math, where not even the sky's the limit.
This June 18, in celebration of this anniversary, we invite everyone, everywhere to join Sally’s Night. Celebrate and share what about space and science brings you energy, passion, curiosity, and joy. Whatever your passion, whoever you are, tell us how you #ShineLikeSally on social media and use our celebration guide to explore space and science with your family and friends.
Sally's Night Celebration Guide
Be Inspired Like Sally
As a learner and an educator, Sally understood the power of role models to inspire young people to explore their own interests and talents. Meet these inspiring role models who shine through science. Let us know who inspires you on social media using #ShineLikeSally!
Sally Ride: Astrophysicist, Astronaut, and Educator
- In 1983, Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.
- She co-founded Sally Ride Science in order to promote equity and inclusion in STEM studies, especially for girls.
- Watch a video about Sally Ride, narrated by her partner Dr. Tam O'Shaunghnessy.
- Take a closer look at Sally's Ride flight jacket.
Mae Jemison: Astronaut and Physician
- In 1992, Dr. Mae Jemison became the first African American woman to go to space.
- She flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour and during the mission she conducted life science experiments.
- Read more about Jemison's journey to space in a Museum blog.
Claudia Alexander: Space Scientist and Author
- Dr. Claudia Alexander worked on many missions in our solar system. She was a project manager for the Galileo Mission to Jupiter, the Rosetta Mission to Comet 67P, and team member of the Cassini mission to Saturn.
- She also wrote science fiction and children’s books!
- Learn more about Claudia Alexander in a remembrance blog on the Museum website.
Madhulika Guhathakurta: Heliophysicist
- Dr. Lika Guhathakurta studies the Sun, how it works, and how it affects the solar system through space weather.
- She is a scientist, mission designer, instrument builder, director, manager, and teacher — sometimes all in a single day!
- Learn more about Guhathakurta in a short Women@NASA video.
Mary Golda Ross: Engineer
- Mary Golda Ross (Cherokee) performed classified research on aircraft and rockets in Lockheed’s Skunk Works Division.
- She helped write NASA’s Planetary Flight Handbook, a guide to space travel in the solar system.
- Read more about Ross's life and legacy in the Smithsonian's American Indian Magazine.
Henrietta Swan Leavitt: Astronomer
- Henrietta Swan Leavitt measured the brightness of variable stars over time. She became fascinated with how many variable stars she could find in the Magellanic Clouds.
- After many years studying these stars she discovered something called the period-luminosity relationship that unlocked a way for astronomers to calculate distances to other galaxies.
- Explore the Smithsonian Learning Lab about Leavitt.
Mary Fowler: Computer
- Mary Fowler worked as an astronomical “computer” at the turn of the 20th century. She worked to calculate the most precise distance to the Moon (for that time) using photographs and the position of the stars taken at different locations around the world.
- There is no known photograph of Mary Fowler. “Computers” performed important work but were often overlooked because people thought their job wasn’t as important as the work of astronomers.
- Take a look inside the notebooks of Mary Fowler.
Alma Thomas: Artist
- Alma Woodsey Thomas was a Washington, DC-based artist who was active in the 1960s and 70s.
- Her work was often inspired by current events, including the Apollo Moon landings.
- Learn more about the art of Alma Thomas in a Museum blog.
Valentina Tereshkova: Cosmonaut
- Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to go to space on June 16, 1963.
- An experienced parachutist with a spirit of adventure, Tereshkova wrote to the Soviet space organization to volunteer as a cosmonaut after she learned about the flight of Gherman Titov in 1961.
- Discover Tereshkova's story in a blog on the Museum website.
Explore Like Sally
Sally was a scientist, astronaut, author, and educator. There are so many ways to do the things that Sally and our other role models in science have done! Try these activities together to discover how science can shine in your life. Share your explorations on social media with #ShineLikeSally.
Sally Ride was fascinated with space — she even studied it in school! You can explore space by just looking up and observing the Moon, stars, and even planets! No matter where you are on Earth, at some point during the year you will be able to see planets in your sky. Sometimes it can be hard to tell planets and stars apart. Which direction should you look? How high up? Follow this quick guide to find a planet!
What you’ll need: Your eyes, a view of the sky at night.
1. Look for something bright.
The five brightest planets (Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Mercury) will be brighter than most of the stars around them. Venus will be the brightest of all. Not only is Venus our next-door neighbor, but its runaway greenhouse effect causes its atmosphere to reflect a lot of the Sun's light toward Earth. It may even look like a bright airplane near sunset or sunrise, but it isn't actually moving. Because of this, Venus is often called the morning or evening star.
2. Look for something that doesn't twinkle.
Stars are so far away that they look like tiny bright points of light to our eyes. Before reaching us, starlight first shines through Earth's atmosphere. The atmosphere has moving layers, which cause the light to bounce around as if you were looking above pavement on a hot day. That is why stars appear to dance around a little, or twinkle. Planets in our solar system are much closer, so they look like tiny disks to our eyes instead of points. Their light comes through the same moving atmosphere, but the light bounces around within its own disk. Therefore, planets usually appear to be steady lights.
3. Look for something that is in the same path in the sky as the Moon and Sun.
No matter what planet you're looking for, they will always appear near the same part of the sky - the same path that the Moon and Sun follow every day as the Earth rotates. This path in the sky is called the "ecliptic," or the plane of our solar system. All of the planets in the solar system lie along this plane. Though the height of the ecliptic will change depending on the time of year, just find where the Moon or Sun is in the sky — this is where you should look for planets.
4. Now you are ready to go and find a planet! The best time to find a planet is right after sunset or before sunrise. How can you tell which planet you are looking at? Consult a sky map, download a sky app, or ask a friend!
Many people have studied the Moon over time. Sally Ride guided the GRAIL MoonKam project, where students were able to take pictures of the Moon from a special spacecraft and study those images in the classroom or at home. Over 100 years before the MoonKam, other scientists — like Mary Fowler — were also studying the Moon. You can study the Moon too, with these simple steps!
Mary Fowler helped estimate a very precise distance to the Moon in the 1910s by studying the position of the Moon in photos taken over many months in different locations on Earth. You can calculate a rough estimate of the distance to the Moon just by knowing the diameter of the Moon, and using your own thumb and arm as a measuring device.
What you’ll need: measuring tape, something to take notes on, your body.
- Find the Moon in the sky.
- Outstretch your arm and hold up your thumb, comparing it to the Moon. You should find that with your arm outstretched, your thumbnail just covers the diameter of the Moon.
- Have a friend or family member use a measuring tape to measure the distance from your eye to your thumb with your arm outstretched, and also measure the length of your thumbnail. Write down both of these measurements.
- Now we can use geometry to work out the distance to the Moon knowing the Moon’s diameter is 2,159 miles across. First divide the distance to your thumb by the length of your thumbnail to find the ratio for the right triangle. Now multiply that number by 2,159 to approximate the distance to the moon in miles. The answer is below this helpful graphic.
Answer for June 18, 2021: 223,666 mi How close were you? How could you improve this experiment to make it more accurate?
Sally’s first flight to space in 1983 took her all the way into orbit around Earth — which takes a lot of energy! Scientists and engineers build rockets with enough energy to fight against Earth’s gravity, which pulls things back down toward the ground. Try this simple experiment to learn what it takes to launch astronauts like Sally Ride off of Earth.
What you’ll need: An object you can throw, like a small ball.
- First, try holding the ball straight out in front of you, and letting it go. What happens to the ball? It falls straight down! That is because of Earth’s gravity which pulls everything towards it - and keeps us from floating away!
- Pick up the ball, and this time, toss it in front of you. What happened to the ball this time? It went farther! That’s because you added energy, causing the ball to travel in a direction at a speed (we call this velocity)! However, gravity still pulled it down to the ground.
- Now, imagine your ball is a spaceship, with astronauts like Sally Ride strapped in and ready to launch. That spaceship is being pulled to Earth by gravity, so it would need a LOT of energy to make sure it doesn’t fall back to Earth. Just like the big engines on the Space Shuttle, we have to add a lot of energy to the ball we throw to help fight the pull of gravity. How much energy can you give the ball? Enough to launch it to space? Try it out!
Sally Ride went to space — and looked back at Earth. She was passionate about protecting our planet and combating climate change, and celebrating the world we have all around us. She worked on a special project, EarthKam, to help kids take pictures of Earth from space! She even wrote the book Mission: Save the Planet with her partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy.
Taking pictures of Earth can be both a science and an art. Try these photography techniques to capture and share the beauty you find in the world around you.
What you’ll need: A camera, like the one on a phone.
1. Head outside and look for objects that interest you, from big to small. Entire fields or forests, individual trees or rocks, or even small bugs and plants can make great candidates for photos.
2. Look for different textures, light, and shadows. Finding a good mix of these elements can make for an interesting composition.
3. Choose whether you want to take a picture close up or from far away. Close up can show a lot of detail; from far away, you’ll capture many different things and can create a scene.
4. Compose the picture in thirds. Imagine two equally spaced lines going up and down across your view, and two equally space lines going across your view. Where the points of those lines intersect, especially in the middle band, is a good place to position your primary object to make the image pleasing to the eye.
5. Take a picture or a series of pictures. A series of pictures can help you tell a story - you can take a series of pictures of the same object over time, or include multiple subjects.
6. Share your photography with your friends and family, and with all of us on social using #ShineLikeSally!
Share Like Sally
Sally loved to share her passion for science with everyone in her life, especially young people. Sharing what you learn — and love — about space helps us remember what we’ve learned, and gets others excited about the topic too! You can have a conversation, write a story, or even record a song to share what you’ve learned. Here are some ways to learn and share science with your friends or family!
Share Through Conversations
Starting a conversation about space and science is a great way to #ShineLikeSally. Questions are our favorite part of conversations with each other, because they give us a chance to listen closely, think together, and potentially discover something new. Pick a question to start, be flexible and patient with where the conversation goes, and remember - no one knows everything, so saying “I don’t know” to a question is okay! Learn more about having conversations in our “Wondering About Astronomy Together” Guide.
Share Through Stories
Want to find the answers to some of your questions? There are many great resources out there to explore space without leaving Earth! You can find different perspectives about space from both past and present through stories told in movies and books. If you were asked to tell a story about space, what would it be about? Let us know using #ShineLikeSally on social media!
- Celebrate Sally’s Night by checking out some of our favorite stories about space:
- Exploring our Solar System by Sally Ride and Tam O'Shaughnessy (2003) tours the planets in our solar system and explores their formation, their conditions today - and the possibility of life in our own neighborhood.
- Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky (2016) shares the stories of 50 women in science accompanied by whimsical illustrations.
- Hidden Figures (2016, 20th Century Fox) explores the stories of the African American women mathematicians that worked at NASA during the early years of the Space Race.
- Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001, Paramount Network Television, CBS) follows the 24th-century journey of the starship USS Voyager across the Milky Way galaxy.
- For our youngest learners - listen to stories from the National Air and Space Museum!
Share Through Art
Art is a great way to share what you’ve learned and love about space and science and get everyone excited about it, too! You can make your own art inspired by space — create a painting, choreograph a dance, or write a song. "Be inspired by these artists to share your own art on Sally’s Night using #ShineLikeSally on social media!
Here are some space-themed artworks that we love.
Don’t forget to continue the celebration with our Sally’s Night playlist!
Thank you for celebrating Sally’s Night with us! Learn more about Sally Ride on our website, including artifacts in our collection.