Ross Lucksinger

Roaming the Cosmos – The Caves of 87 Sylvia, Asteroid Belt

Hidden among millions of massive objects in the Asteroid Belt is a rare astronomical gem: an asteroid with two moons of its own.

Asteroid 87 Sylvia, named for the Roman mythical mother of twins Remus and Romulus, is an oblong rock averaging 286 kilometers in diameter. It’s twin moons are, of course, named Remus and Romulus.

Sylvia is an exceptionally low density asteroid. At least a quarter and probably more than half of its interior is empty space. At about 385 kilometers from tip to tip, there are plenty of weaving catacombs through 87 Sylvia to explore. Thanks to the light gravity of the asteroid, the caves can be traversed quite easily with huge leaps and bounds.

Though you can jump tremendous distances, you don’t have to worry about accidentally launching yourself into space. With an escape velocity of 138 meters a second, your giant leaps will carry you far, but will always bring you back to the surface. (Though… how gently depends largely on the nature of your leap. Please be cautious and utilize proper safety equipment for any bouncing space spelunking.)

Now that you know where to go, we can address the question of when.

Thanks to its twin moons, you can end your leaping cave exploration by finding a spot on the asteroid’s porous surface to watch a spectacular double (double!) eclipse.

A “double eclipse” sounds like it would be a rarity, but not on 87 Sylvia. Due to the asteroid’s relatively high rotation speed, a double eclipse is a surprisingly frequent occurrence. 87 Sylvia completes a rotation about once every five hours, Remus orbits its parent asteroid about once every day-and-a-half, and Romulus orbits 87 Sylvia about once every three-and-a-half days.

So, about once every three (Earth) years, Remus and Romulus come together in alignment between 87 Sylvia and the Sun. Each moon makes a nearly perfect eclipse of the other, as they each would look like they’re the same size from the surface (the farther one, Romulus, being larger than the inner moon, Remus).

This is not like a terrestrial eclipse. Romulus and Remus are relatively small (about 14 and 7 km in diameter, respectively), but they’re so close that they’ll appear to be huge to you, about twice as big as the Moon appears from Earth. The Sun, meanwhile, looks much, much smaller so far out.

Remus and Romulus totally devour the Sun in an eclipse. And with the light of the Sun converted into a soft halo around apparently massive twin spheres, the full sky is visible.

You won’t see other asteroids. Despite popular imaginings of the Asteroid Belt, most asteroids are so far from each other that no other asteroids are visible from each other’s surfaces. In fact, a third of the mass of the Belt is in one object, the dwarf planet Ceres.

But you’ll see so, so many stars. You have to travel great distances on Earth and wait a very long time to see all the stars above and below the poles. The fast rotation of 87 Sylvia means you only have to wait a few hours to see every star in the sky. With no sun and no atmosphere, the double eclipse on 87 Sylvia gives you the clearest star-filled sky in the inner solar system.

Well, except for one very big object.

87 Sylvia is part of the Cybele Group, on the outer edges of the Belt, which means if it’s nearby in its orbit, Jupiter would dominate the sky. When they’re on the same side of the solar system, Jupiter is almost three times closer to 87 Syliva than it is to Earth. You should even be able to make out Jupiter’s biggest moons with just the naked eye.

While sitting in your viewing spot, if you reached down to pick up a rock or part of asteroid, it would likely crumble away. 87 Sylvia is dark, ancient rubble pile of the primordial pieces of the Solar System’s creation held together by the collective gravity of those rocks.

The Asteroid Belt is a strange place, and a window into its star system’s early days.

As the giant planets moved all about – and Jupiter causing the most damage – over 99 percent of the Asteroid Belt’s original mass was lost in the first 100 million years of the Solar System’s history.

It was a chaotic time. At one point there were two large, rocky planets passing around the Sun at the same distance. (They eventually ran into each other and created the Earth and the Moon.) Other planets fell into the Sun or were ripped free. No doubt there are entire planets from the early days of our Solar System out wandering between the stars, unknown lost worlds flung from the Sun’s gravity.

Eventually it all stabilized. Relatively speaking, of course. Though it appears stable, the Solar System is constantly changing. 87 Sylvia likely got its moons in a collision with another asteroid.

The truth is the chaos never stopped. The Solar System is so old, so massive, so complex, that we are only experiencing a moment of apparent stability. The Asteroid Belt is a reminder of that. Every time Jupiter passes by it stirs up the rocks.

Eventually all of this apparent order will scatter. But for now, as in every moment of a solar system’s evolution, there are perfectly balanced wonders to find.

Like an asteroid with two moons.

Sources/Additional Reading:

Asteroid Diversity Points to a “Snow Globe” Solar System – Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Asteroid Belt Between Mars And Jupiter Is A ‘Melting Pot’ Of Diverse Celestial ObjectsInternational Business Times

Asteroids, Meteorites, and Comets by Linda T. Elkins-Tanton

Could You Walk on the Surface of a Comet?WIRED

First Asteroid Trio Discovered –

Roaming the Cosmos – Alpha Regio, Venus

Veiled in gold, Earth’s sister planet was once a tantalizing mystery. What lay below those clouds? Oceans? Jungles? Many imagined a lush garden world.

They were quite wrong. The mean surface temperature is 735 K (462 C, 863 F). Atmospheric pressure is ninety-two times that of Earth. The evocative descriptor “hellish” is often used to describe Venus.

But it is so very beautiful.

Eighty percent of the planet’s surface consists of overlapping lava plains, with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of volcanoes spiking upward from the surface. On Earth there is only a single volcano greater than a hundred kilometers across (the Big Island of Hawai’i). Venus has one hundred and sixty-seven.

Not all are active at once (at least, not right now), but when active a Venusian volcano can create lava flows hundreds of kilometers long and tens of kilometers across. So plan your trip for a period of high volcanism.

As for where to sit and watch, we recommend the Alpha Regio region in Venus’s southern hemisphere. Don’t worry, it’s easy to spot.

The granite uplift is one thousand five hundred kilometers across and much lighter in color than the surrounding basalt plains. Alpha Regio is so large and distinct that it was the first surface feature to be identified by Earth-based radar.

There are several volcanoes in the plains surrounding the Alpha Regio, but your best bet is probably to find a lovely spot on the southwestern edge… especially if Eve Corona is active.

A corona is formed when plumes of rising magma push the crust upward into a dome which then collapses in the center, leaving a crown-shaped crater hundreds of kilometers across with tremendous flows of lava leaking out of its craggy edges. Coronea are a geologic feature unique to Venus, and quite spectacular when active. (The only other place in the solar system with remotely similar features is Uranus’s moon Miranda, which are probably formed by upwelling of warm ice.)

So if you’re there at the right time, you can sit above and watch the lava drift by. You’ll probably notice that the flow is smoother and much more viscous than terrestrial lava. The average surface temperature on Venus (863 F) is hotter than even the melting point of lead (622 F). That’s still cool enough to solidify the basalt, but at a bit slower pace. However, you’ll find that the rock beneath your feet should still be nice and sturdy, given that granite has a much higher melting point (well over 2000 F).

Heat will no doubt be an issue, but we still recommend finding a spot close to the lava flows. Visibility on the surface of Venus will be about three kilometers at the very most. As such, very little sunlight reaches the surface and everything will be covered in a dim, golden haze. Of course, the low lighting also gives a marvelous glow to the lava.

Plus, there will occasionally be brilliant flashes of light, especially around active volcanoes… due to acid lightning (real thing). Venus is one of four planets in the solar system that generates lighting – along with Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn. But unlike like those three, Venus does so without water. Instead, lightning is generated by clouds of sulfuric acid.

But though you’re going to deal with relatively low light, there’s no need to worry about the sun going down while you’re relaxing by the lava flow. ‘Time of day’ is a fairly useless concept on Venus. The planet completes a single retrograde rotation once every two hundred and forty-three Earth days. One Venusian day lasts longer than one Venusian year. It’s the slowest rotation of any planet in the solar system and the slow spin makes the planet highly spherical. (Earth is really more of an oblate spheroid.)

Once you’ve got your spot, you’ll need to weigh yourself down in order to keep that spot. Though conditions are relatively calm near the surface (especially compared to the violent upper-atmosphere), even a slow breeze is capable of knocking you over. The thick atmosphere means that each gust hits like a great wave. Some kind of wind-screen is advisable and do not attempt to walk against the wind. You will find it… inconvenient.

Along with the occasional massive lava flow, you’ll also observe some strikingly large craters. The craters will stand out because of how smooth the plains are around them and because there are no small craters at all. Only big ones. This is because of Venus’s dense atmosphere. Any rock not big enough to punch through burns up. In addition, volcanism tends to wipe away smaller surface features.

Venus is shaped and defined by volcanism. But though there is a great deal of activity, Venus has no tectonic plates. Or, rather, the entire crust is one giant plate.

On Earth, the plates move, carrying the continents with them. At fault lines, one plate is dragged under the other and new land is pulled up from below on the far side. No such subduction occurs on Venus. Instead, pressure slowly builds and builds, forcing volcanoes to pop up all over the planet. Eventually the pressure builds so much that it all releases in a “resurfacing event.”

It is exactly as violent as you might expect the changing of the entire surface of a planet to be.

The current surface of Venus is estimated to be between three hundred and six hundred million years old. Some day it will get a new one, and everything you’ll see before you, including that granite lounging spot, will be gone.

Venus has had many different surfaces in its past, including a surface that might have looked quite familiar.

Think about that granite rock.

To make granite, you need water. But there is no water on the surface. Even the pure acid rain that falls on Venus evaporates long before hitting the rock.

Recent evidence from both rock and sky (including the incredibly high amount of deuterium in the atmosphere) on Venus suggests that the planet once had oceans. And not briefly, but for perhaps as long as two billion years. Half its lifetime it could have been a habitable planet.

But that time is long gone, destroyed by a runaway greenhouse effect. The result is an atmosphere that traps enough heat to make Venus the hottest planet in the solar system by a huge margin. It doesn’t matter that Mercury is closer to the sun.

But most details of that potentially watery past have been swept away by a planetary surface that will continue to change.

Just something to think about while you sit, have a coffee, and watch the lava flow.

Sources/Additional Reading:

Did Venus’s ancient oceans incubate life?New Scientist, October 10, 2007

New map hints and Venus’ wet, volcanic pastSpace Fellowship, July 14, 2009

Clouds on VenusUniverse Today, August 6, 2009

The Surface Features of Venus – The University of Tennessee Knoxville – Department of Physics and Astronomy

NASA Scientist Confirms Light Show on Venus, NASA, November 28, 2007

Venus: The corona conundrumAstronomy & GeophysicsOxford Journals

Venus – Three-Dimensional Perspective View of Alpha Regio, NASA JPL, December 2, 1996

Interactive Map of Venus – U.S. Geological Survay

Image 1: Venus as seen by NASA’s Pioneer Venus Orbiter.

Image 2: Three-dimensional perspective view of the Alpha Regio region on the surface of Venus. The simulated hues are based on color images recorded by the Soviet Venera 13 and 14 spacecraft. The image was produced at the JPL Multimission Image Processing Laboratory by Eric De Jong, Jeff Hall, and Myche McAuley.

Image 3: NASA computer generated three-dimensional perspective view of craters Saskia (foreground), Danilova (left), and Aglaonice (right). The image was created by superimposing Magellan images in topography data, and coloring is based on Venera 13 and 14 Lander images.

Roaming the Cosmos – Noctis Labytinthus, Valles Marineris, Mars

Earth’s solar system contains hidden wonders for the enterprising cosmic adventurer to discover. For example, if you were to visit your near neighbor Mars, the more obvious spot is Olympus Mons.

Olympus Mons is obvious because Olympus Mons is big. Ridiculously big. The colossal mountain stands over three times as tall as Mount Everest, Earth’s highest point above sea level.

As its slope only rises at an average of 5°, the entire mountain covers roughly 300,000 square kilometers. Olympus Mons is bigger than the whole of New Zealand.

It is quite a sight, but Olympus will no doubt become an exceedingly common tourist destination. The need to stand at the highest point is already a problem on Earth. Over 3,000 individuals have combined for a total of over 5,000 ascents to the summit of Mount Everest. Environmental destruction is significant problem and there are now expeditions for the sole purpose of cleaning the mountain of rubbish from previous expeditions.

Olympus Mons is the largest mountain on any planet in the solar system by a tremendous margin. (In fact, Mars is home to the four tallest: Olympus, Ascraeus, Elysium, and Arsia.) The moment travel to Mars becomes a practical reality expect the great mountain to become a dumping ground.

Our recommendation? Stay off the beaten path. We say if you want mystery and adventure, don’t go up, go down! Down, down into the hidden depths of the Red Planet… and into the Valles Marineris!

Named for the Mariner 9 space probe that orbited Mars in 1971, the great canyons stretch for nearly a quarter of the planet’s diameter (over 4,000 kilometers). But to enter this great chasm, one must navigate Noctis Labyrinthus…

The Labyrinth of the Night.

The far western reach of the Valles Marineris begins with not one grand canyon but hundreds of smaller canyons that run through each other, creating a massive maze.

We recommend visiting just before sunrise for a truly spectacular experience.

The Martian sunrise appears quite the opposite of Earth’s. Rather than red around the sun and blue in the sky, the iron-rich dust in the air makes the sky red and the area around the sun is a blueish purple.

As you descend into the the Labyrinth, the rose-colored sky above will disappear into a thick fog. You’ll find the criss-crossing canyons of Noctis Labyrinthus filled with mist, a white haze caused by frost sublimating in the early-morning sun. The clouds cling to the low canyon areas and only rarely spill over onto the plateau surface, creating a stark difference in your view, whether you are on the lip, staring into the mist… or if you travel into the Labyrinth itself. Don’t get lost!

Adding to the confusion: the floor of the Labyrinth is an ever-shifting pattern of dunes that form complex structures.

Along with plenty of iron(III) oxide, you’ll find a high abundance of elements with low boiling points, such as chlorine, phosphorus, and sulfur. The stochastic (rather than a deterministic) process in which the solar system formed gave each planet its own flavor.

The flavor of Mars is rust. But though it appears a uniform clay color from orbit, at ground level you’ll find beautiful streaks of red, white, black, green, and gold.

The entire Valles Marineris looks as if some great claw extended from the Martian sky. Or as the result of a glancing blow of some ancient kinetic impactor. In reality, the valleys were ripped open along tectonic plates.

But though Mars is a place of great rifts and great volcanoes, there is very little active volcanism today… which reminds us, in addition to dealing with the thin atmosphere (one percent the thickness of Earth’s), proper radiation shielding is critical on Mars.

Mars has no magnetosphere because the planetary dynamo has long since stopped. Earth’s magnetic field comes from circulating currents in its liquid metal core. But’s dynamo stopped ground to a halt roughly four billion years ago.

When solar radiation hits Earth’s magnetosphere, you get the Northern Lights. There are no Northern Lights on Mars.

Perhaps there will be some day. Humans have about a billion years to get Mars’ dynamo started (or find some other, more pragmatic way to provide protection).

Being in roughly the middle of its ten-billion-year lifespan, the Sun has about five billion years left. But as it consumes its hydrogen fuel, it will get hotter. Earth has about one billion years of livability, assuming a number of other factors haven’t rendered the planet unlivable beforehand.

Not only could humans live on Mars in the relatively near future, someday Mars could be humanity’s home planet.

It will be a different Mars. Perhaps warmer due to the sun. Perhaps warmer because human-introduced plant life converts the 95-percent carbon dioxide atmosphere into a breathable biome. Ice would melt, filling valleys and converting the crisscrossing canyons into waterways.

For now, the Labyrinth of the Night sits shrouded, waiting to be explored.

Sources/Additional Reading:

Mount Everest Statistics –

Nepal’s ‘Super Sherpa’ breaks his own Everest record – BBC News, May 11, 2001

Morphometric properties of Martian volcanoes – Journal of Geophysical Research

The Martian Sky: Stargazing from the Red Planet

Trough deposits on Mars point to complex hydrologic past – Planetary Science Institute

UCLA scientist discovers plate tectonics on Mars – UCLA Newsroom

The Solar Wind at Mars – NASA Science

Date set for desert Earth – BBC News, February 21, 2000

Photograph No. 1: mosaic of Viking Orbiter images, Photograph No. 2: Viking 1 Orbiter, Photograph No. 3: HiRise image of dunes, NASA/JPL/University of Arizona, Photograph No. 4: mosaic of Viking Orbiter images.

Roaming the Cosmos – Copernicus, Ocean of Storms, Luna

Congratulations! You are now a space-faring species.

No doubt you’ve discovered your Earth is but a small stage in a vast cosmic arena. This may give you the desire to strike out your own and go where the solar wind takes you.

But let’s not get too ambitious just yet. Before we start star-hopping, let us begin a bit closer to home. After all, there’s so much to see in your own planetary system.

Many of you already have been to your moon, Luna. (Yes! Like the planets of your solar system, it does have a Latin name, though “The Moon” is acceptable, which is fair I suppose since it’s the only one you’ve got.) Indeed, it is the most commonly visited location by humans outside of Earth. Of course, it’s the most commonly visited location because it is the only place you’ve been.

But what a place! Just listen to these testimonials from past moon visitors:

109:43:18 Armstrong: Isn’t that something! Magnificent sight out here.
109:43:24 Aldrin: Magnificent desolation. (Long Pause)
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 transcript

“As I stand out here in the wonders of the unknown at Hadley (lunar region), I sort of realize there’s a fundamental truth to our nature. Man must explore. And this is exploration at its greatest.”
David Scott, Apollo 15 transcript

“I think the thing that impressed me the most was the Lunar’s sunrises and sunsets. These in particular bring out the stark nature of the terrain… The horizon here is very, very stark, the sky is pitch black and the earth, or the moon rather, excuse me, is quite light, and the contrast between the sky and the moon is a vivid dark line.”
Bill Anders, Apollo 8 telecast from lunar orbit, December 24, 1968

With so much to see on just your moon, what spot should you pick for your visit? Our recommendation: Copernicus!

Copernicus a massive crater near the center of the “Ocean of Storms.” (Look at the moon; the Ocean of Storms is that really big dark splotch on the left). It’s not an ocean in the sense you’re used to. The mass of dihydrogen monoxide that covers most of your planet moves. This ocean doesn’t, though some ancient astronomers thought it did. They were accidentally right in one sense. At one point the Ocean of Storms did move because the darker portions of Luna are solidified pools of ancient basaltic lava.

The surrounding basalt plains highlight the size and complexity of Copernicus. It is ninety-three kilometers wide, with walls reaching four kilometers into the black sky. Those walls are terraced, creating a complex overlay of rock expanding out in concentric circles that crest and then fall into a thirty-kilometer-wide rampart descending to the “ocean” floor.

The rough edges at the rim of the crater can cast long, beautiful shadows when the sun is just right. And with no air to scatter light, these are shadows of pitch black, like blades of nothing creeping across the crater floor.

Travel tip: Be careful where you stand! There is a 250-degree difference between sun and shade on the moon (roughly 100 degrees C and –150 degrees C). We advise proper hot and/or cold gear depending on the time of moon-day. We would also advise against jumping back and forth between shade and sun, as it will do little to solve the problem.

Of course, that might cause you to work up an appetite! If you’re looking for a great place to picnic, we suggest choosing one of the three mountains that formed in the center of the crater following impact. The tallest stands more than a kilometer high and should provide great views of the surrounding lunar landscape.

Wherever you sit for your meal, do be careful not to disturb the ground too much. Due to the preserving vacuum of space, every footprint is permanent. So at least bring a blanket to sit on, avoid accidental trampling, and please, please, please resist the temptation to leave intentional markings. The luminous immortals that will replace the human race eons in the future need not know that “Jeff wuz here.”

This is not to say the surface of the moon never changes. Indeed, Copernicus’s serrated edges and pristine peaks are present because it was so recently formed… only eight hundred million years ago! (Give or take.) It came to be when an asteroid struck the moon, sending volcanic basalt flying over eight hundred kilometers from the point of impact. Falling ejecta from the initial blast created thirteen surrounding craters of three kilometers or greater in diameter… giving you plenty of interesting features to look at!

Like most rocks in most solar systems, Luna has a violent history. The moon itself was created by a great impact. Most evidence on the subject points toward a massive collision between your Earth and an object roughly the size of Mars that occurred approximately four and a half billion years ago, not long after the Earth first coalesced out of the protoplanetary disk surrounding the young sun. Thus Earth, thus moon, thus Copernicus, thus your next vacation destination.

If you travel to Copernicus, you’ll be the first of your species, or any species, to stand on that spot (and, obviously, also the first to have a nice lunch on that spot). This was nearly not the case. The crater was a possible landing site for the canceled Apollo 18 mission. Apollo 17 was the last to visit the moon and no human has set foot on Earth’s natural satellite since 1972.

It is also an appropriately named place to begin our journey. The crater is named for Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543). The Renaissance mathematician was the first to create a fully predictive model of the universe that did not have Earth at its center.

He was not the first to speculate this. The earliest known scientist to present a heliocentric (sun-center) model of the universe was ancient Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos (c. 310 – c. 230 BCE). But Copernicus was the first to create a workable model with the sun squarely in the center.

The sun is, of course, not the center of the universe. Due to its expansion from a singularity there is no “center of the universe.” But Copernicus’s work was a key first step to understanding that the Earth is not the center… that you are not the center.

And there are wonders out there to find.

Sources/Additional Reading:

Douglas Adams and the Cult of 42,” The Guardian, February 3, 2011

Douglas Adams’ speech at Digital Biota 2, Cambridge U.K., September 1998

Exoplanet discovery rate goes from a trickle to a flood,” Ars Technica, February 26, 2014

NASA Exoplanet Archive

Apollo 18 through 20 – The Canceled Missions – NASA

Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature – FAQ

Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal – One Small Step

Temperature of the Moon,” Universe Today, October 13, 2008

Space: A New Look at Copernicus,” Time, December 9, 1966

Copernicus Crater Central Peak: Lunar Mountain of Unique Composition,” Science, January 1, 1982

Origin of the Moon in a giant impact near the end of the Earth’s formation,” Nature, August 16, 2001

Photograph No. 1: Lunar Orbiter 4, Photograph No. 2: Lunar Orbiter 2, Photograph No. 3: Apollo 12

[Note: As work of the U.S. Government, all NASA photos are in the public domain.]

[Note: No, seriously, go check. They’re all in the public domain. That’s neat.]

January Book Signings: San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Austin

I’ll be at the Camp Longhorn carnivals again this month, signing copies of TEX.

Camp Longhorn — the summer camp Tex founded — puts on a series of carnivals in the off-season for campers, parents, and alumni, as well as people who are either interested in coming to Camp Longhorn or want to find out about it. All are welcome.

The first signing is tomorrow (Jan. 4th) in San Antonio. Next weekend I’ll be in Houston, the next in Dallas and Ft. Worth, and I’ll be at the Austin carnival the following weekend.

Book signing dates, times, and locations:

Sunday, January 5 — San Antonio

1:30 — 5:30 p.m.

San Antonio Country Club
4100 North New Braunfels Avenue

Saturday, January 10 — Houston

9:30 a.m. — 4:00 p.m.

Hilton Houston Post Oak
2001 Post Oak Blvd.

Sunday, January 11 — North Houston

2:00 — 4:00 p.m.

John Wesley United Methodist Church
5850 Bermuda Dunes Dr.

Friday, January 16 — North Dallas

4:30 — 6:30 p.m.

Stonebriar Country Club
5050 Country Club Dr. (Frisco)

Saturday, January 17 — Dallas

9:30 a.m. — 4:00 p.m.

Church of the Incarnation — Fellowship Hall
3966 McKinney Avenue

Sunday, January 18 — Ft. Worth

1:30 — 3:30 p.m.

Ridglea Country Club
3700 Bernie Anderson Dr.

Sunday, January 25 — Austin

2:30 — 6:30 p.m.

Riverbend Centre — Fellowship Hall
4214 N. Capitol of Texas Hwy.


SO ADORABLE. SERIOUSLY. YOU GUYS… She even made a sock puppet of Tex for her book report!

Exploring Austin with Kids by Annette Lucksinger

My sister wrote a book! And if you live in Central Texas and have kids, it’s a really, really useful book.

Exploring Austin with Kids is a guidebook that describes over a hundred family-friendly places in Austin and twenty-five annual festivals. As Annette told “I wrote it to help new parents find their way into the ‘kid culture’ as they transition into becoming parents, for experienced locals to find new places to explore, and for visitors looking for the best of Austin.”

The book is well-researched, but what’s most impressive is the practical nature of all of the advise and reviews. Much of the research involved taking her kids to all of these locations, allowing the reader to get both a parent and kid’s perspective.

Guidebooks that are this comprehensive and helpful are also difficult to find. It’s one of the reasons why Annette wrote the book.

“…I went to the bookstore to find a guidebook that would consolidate the many kid-friendly things to do in Austin and lead us to places beyond our regular haunts. But I couldn’t find one. Maybe I’m the only nut who would want a guidebook to the town she lives in, I thought, but surely there are others who would benefit as well.”

Her first book signing is tomorrow (Sunday) at the Bob Bullock Museum. She’ll be there from noon to 3 p.m. and admission is free. (It’s the Bullock’s Free First Sunday event.) Then from 4-6 p.m. she’ll be at Hill’s Cafe on South Congress for the official launch party.

If you can’t make it out to either of those, she’ll be signing books at two events at the end of this month. On Friday, March 28, she’ll be at Toybrary for the Teddy Bear Picnic from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. – Annette will be signing copies of the book and leading the little ones on a beat hunt. And on Sunday, March 30, she’ll be at Westcave Preserve’s Open House from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

[Book signing schedule and details.]