The Winter Night Sky Activity Page
From Connections, January-April 2012
Download and print this page to complete the activities and check out the bonus activities.
Catching a Glimpse of the Constellations
There are 88 official constellations. Pictured on this page are some of those commonly seen on clear winter nights. Can you find any of them?
If you can find the Big Dipper, you can find north. With your eyes or finger, trace an imaginary line through the two stars at the end of the bowl farthest from the handle. Then continue the line you traced until it hits the first bright star. This star is Polaris, the North Star. It is the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper. If you face Polaris, you are facing true north. Navigators in the northern hemisphere, both past and present, use the Big Dipper and Polaris to find their way around the Earth. Navigation based on the positions of celestial bodies—the sun, moon, planets, and stars—is called celestial navigation, or astronavigation.
Go out when there is a full or nearly, full moon rising early in the evening. With binoculars (or a telescope if you happen to have one) take a look at the moon. Anything you can see, such as craters, bumps, dark areas, and spots, is as large as a football field in order to be visible to you.
A Starry Story
In many cultures, stargazing played an important part in religion and mythology. As people looked at the night sky, they saw patterns and pictures in the stars. They made up stories or myths to explain what they saw.
You can also be a star mythologist:
- Go to the library or search online for myths about stars. Read some that interest you.
- Draw a pattern from stars you see in the night sky, or make up your own.
- Write your own story about your star design associated with a hero or animal you admire.