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Size, Motion, Distance - Connecting the Dots!

Journal Entry - Take out your science journal and answer the following question(s) (use drawings as appropriate):

What is a constellation?

Have you ever sat outside and watched the clouds go by?  It’s fun to look for cloud shapes that remind you of things that you recognize.  People like the ancient Greeks, Romans, and other early cultures watched the night sky.  They played the same game with celestial bodies (remember, they didn’t have television or video games).  They looked for patterns of stars called constellations. They compared the patterns to mythological characters, animals, and other familiar objects.

When you look at a constellation from Earth it looks like spots of light arranged in a particular shape against the dark night sky.  If you were to travel to each of these stars, you would see that none of these stars are not near each in other space.  Astronomers currently divide the sky into 88 constellations.   

Depending on where you live on Earth, you can only see certain constellations during certain seasons of the year.  For instance, in the Northern Hemisphere you would be able to see Polaris (the North Star-the North Pole points to Polaris) all the time.  But, in the Southern Hemisphere you wouldn’t ever be able to see Polaris.  The constellation Orion is visible in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months, but while you’re camping in the summer, you won’t be able to see it.

Materials:

  • Patterns of constellations (make sure these are ones in the sky at the time you do this activity)
  • 1/2 sheet of black construction paper for each constellation
  • Pins or tacks
  • Star Wheel --if you don’t have one, contact a planetarium

The following are the constellations you are to use for the activity.

Seven Sisters

The Big Dipper

Cassiopeia

Leo

The Little Dipper

Orion

Scorpius

Taurus

Procedure:

  1. Place pattern on top of black paper.
  2. Using pin or tack, punch hole through each star making sure it goes through black construction paper. (Either put newspaper underneath or use the floor)
  3. Hold constellation up to light to see the pattern.
  4. Trade with five other students and identify their constellations.
  5. Construct star wheel.
  6. The star wheel needs to be held above their heads while using it.
  7. Within one week, use the star wheel at home and list which constellations you are able to find at night.

Extension:
For more fun: go to http://www.funbrain.com/constellation/index.html

This is a game called Space Hopper that identifies constellations and their myths.

utah state board of education This Sci-ber Text was developed by the Utah State Board of Education and Utah educators.