Recognizing the constellations in the night sky
usually requires one person pointing out the geometric configuration to
another. Few people can see all the constellations because they cannot find
some of the key stars. For example, the key star group in Orion is to locate
the three stars of Orion’s belt. The Big Dipper (an asterism or
a part of the Ursa Major
constellation), the four points of the bucket help locate it in the sky.
Students should understand that constellations are not
scientific groupings, but are a way astronomers can locate celestial objects
from Earth. Not all the points of light in constellations are stars; some
are far away galaxies.
Describe galaxies as a big bunch of stars. The Milky
Way is the galaxy that we are in and contains all the stars we can see. The
faint streak across the night sky (a purple streak on the Inflatable
Celestial Globes) is caused by looking into the center of the Milky Way.
This activity concentrates on two constellations in the night sky,
Orion and the Big Dipper. These two constellations were chosen because
they are visible in the night sky if you are doing these labs in the
later part of the school year. Note that the Big Dipper is not a
constellation, but part of the Ursa Major constellation, as shown on the
dot to dot exercise. Increasing students geometric recognition of
patterns can help them see the patterns in the night sky. However, the
night sky is not available during the day so you need to make
Constellation Tubes, which bring the night sky to the classroom.
Direct students to complete the dot to dot exercise on Orion and Ursa
Major. This will guide them to see the objects
in the constellation
The instructions below guide you in making Constellation Tubes with
CONSTELLATION STATIONARY TUBE
long cans with plastic lids (e.g., potato chip
or tennis ball cans)
matte black paint (optional)
margarine tub with lid
Cut both ends of the can, making a tube that you can look through.
Paint the tube inside and out with matte black spray paint. Cut circles
the size of the ends of the tube from the black tag board or heavy
cardboard. The plastic lid should be used to keep the cardboard in
Punch holes to create the constellations Orion and Big Dipper (Ursa
Major) as shown below.