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Handheld Constellations

8/17/18

Handheld Constellations

By Anna Goolsby, Marketing Assistant

Have you ever looked up at the night sky and saw shapes in the stars? You’re not alone! Since the beginning, humans have used these shapes, called constellations, to schedule their crops, track the seasons and tell stories to each generation. This activity lets you and your little astronomer explore these constellations as you create some of your own!

Materials

  • Star Chart (Get a free printout here!)
  • Flashlight
  • Muffin/Cupcake Baking Liner
  • Toothpick
  • Rubber Band

Activity

Using your star chart, pick out a constellation to create. Take your toothpick and poke holes in your baking liner to match the stars in your constellation. Then, use your rubber band to secure your baking liner to the lamp side of your flash light. Wait until night time or go to a dark room and shine your flashlight on the wall to see your beautiful pattern of stars!

The Science

A constellation is like a “celestial connect-the-dots.” Since before we had written language, we told stories with these bright clusters of stars, creating imaginary patterns based on our culture, our homes and even each other. Although you can see the same stars from different parts of the world, constellations carry different names based on each culture. For example, the Big Dipper (not an official constellation) is also called Ursa Major (Latin/Greek), the Great Bear (Lakota Tribe – Native Americans), the Plough (Ireland/England), Saptarishi (Hindu) and so many other names! As our planet spins on its axis, different constellations become visible as the seasons change, making them excellent time markers for our ancestors.

Further Exploration

  • Can you come up with your own constellation using the stars on your star chart? Try to make up a story to go along with it!
  • BLAST OFF with stellar science all August at the science center! ????
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