Gazing at the stars on a warm summers day- a quick constellation guide
Have you ever looked up at the stars and felt that sense of wonder? The sense that millions of people right now are looking up at the same stars as you? That in the past your ancesters saw the saw the same stars as you?
This week we went to an inflatable planetarium at a local library. We climbed inside in small groups and watched a light show on the top of the tent. It was really interesting and the lady was very good at linking it back to the kids and thing they might already know about.
We started with the winter constellations.
The lady taught us how to look for Orion. Orion is the hunter with the bow and one of the only constellations that I already knew how to find! She showed us how to find Orion's belt and from there Orion's two hunting dogs – Canis Major which includes the Sirius (the Dog Star) and Canis Minor. The Sirius star is the brightest sat in the winter night sky and is found left of Orion's belt. Once you find that star you can make out the shape of the dog.
Next we learned about Lepus. A tiny hare constellation. The lady told us a story about Orion hunting and the hare hiding right at his feet so that it could not be found. What a clever little hare!
The lady showed us the North Star, Polaris, which is part of the constellation Ursa Minor, also known as the Little Bear or the little dipper. Next to it was the greater bear, or big dipper. I found it interesting hearing the different names that different cultures had given the stars. She told us that the North Star doesn't change position, from our perspective in the Northern Hemisphere, but that the other stars would move depending on the season.
Then she rotated the sky into Spring!
If you look at Ursa Major and the stars that make up its bowl then look down at the horizon you reach Leo the Lion, which the kids all loved! From Ursa Major if you follow the lines of the handle you reach Bootes the kite.
We rotated into Summer, with a quick look back at Polaris, The North Star.
The lady showed us Scorpious the Scorpion. Fun fact. In Hawaii they don't see the whole scorpion over the horizon, only the tail. In Hawaii the scorpions tail is knows as Maui's hook which is featured heavily in the movie Moana.
Then we looked for Hercules, which was a name the kids were familiar with. She told a brief and PG story about Hercules the hero and we moved on to Lyra! Lyra is above Hercules and to the left. Lyra is a constellation that is a lyre. The lady told that a lyre is a stringed instrument a bit like a harp. Below Lyra was Delphinus the dolphin.
Our last stop was the Autumn or Fall sky
The lady had us look for a square in the sky and then showed us how that made up Pegasus. Pegasus is a winged horse and the lady talked about how they appear in stories and then in movies such as My Little Pony and Hercules.
Above Pegasus and to the left is Andromeda, a princess. The Autumn sky really appealed to all the little girls!
We saw Pisces the fish below Pegasus and then our show drew to a close. The lady turned on her lantern to show us that you can't see the stars with light pollution and talked about where locally you can go to see the stars away from light pollution.
This map is a free image which shows some of the constellations we learned about, but if you look online there are more, clearer maps out there divided by seasons. I am going to buy a book for us to look at further at home. I found it really interesting and so did M (O just enjoyed looking at the stars and then zoned out for a small nap!!)
I am sharing some things I knew along with the information shared at the event. I am not an astronomer and am still learning. I would love to learn more about the constellations, so if you know more fun facts or if you call them different names in your country please share your knowledge with me!