Constellation

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Have you ever wondered how many stars are in the sky? Too many to count!

Stars are fun to look at and sometimes you can even find certain stars that make a picture in the sky or a neat pattern when grouped together.  People all throughout history noticed these patterns of stars in the sky and gave them names, told stories about them, and even used them to help tell what season it was by which stars could be seen.  These groups of stars are called constellations.

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The Big Dipper (right) is one of the easiest constellations to spot.

The Arapahoe and Cheyenne Indians, two American Indian tribes who lived in Colorado before Denver was even a city, told one story in particular about how all of the stars got to be in the sky.  (Some of you may have heard this story on your 4th grade SPREE excursion and found a special star stick from the Cottonwood tree!)  The story goes a little something like this…

The Arapaho and the Cheyenne believed that everything came from the earth- The plants, animals, and even the stars in the sky. The stars would travel around underneath the ground, searching for the roots of the magical Cottonwood tree. Once the stars found the magical Cottonwood tree, they would travel up inside the tree's roots, into the trunk, and out into the branches where they would hide.

One night, the spirit of the night sky looked around and thought, "I don't have enough stars. I want more stars!" So the spirit of the night sky called down to the spirit of the wind and asked for more stars. The spirit of the wind knew that the stars were hiding in the branches of the Cottonwood tree, so the spirit of the wind started to blow, and blew harder and harder until the wind blew so hard that the branches of the Cottonwood tree broke off right where the stars were hiding. The stars came flying out of the branches and filled the night sky.  If you find a stick underneath a Cottonwood tree and break it right where the rings are, you will find the shadow of a five pointed star right where the stars where hiding!  So whenever you want to set free your very own stars into the night sky, you can break the branches of a Cottonwood tree.

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This is just one story that the Arapahoe and Cheyenne told about how the stars got into the night sky.  Do you have your own story to explain the stars?

Someone who studies the stars, planets, and outer space is called an Astronomer.  So let’s be Astronomers and explore the night sky!

 

This month’s craft is to make up your very own constellation, give it a name, write a story about it, and draw a star map.

What You Need

  • An outdoor space where there is little or no light (This could be your backyard, a park, your schoolwhatyouneed.jpg yard, or a spot by the South Platte River!)
  • A special star stick from a Cottonwood tree
  • Black or blue construction paper
  • Markers, colored pencils, crayons
  • Ruler
  • A pin, sharpened pencil or other object for poking small holes in paper

What You Do

 1.     Look at a real star map!

  • Click on the link below  to see real star maps of the night sky.  You can use this for stargazing to help you see all of the different constellations.

http://observe.phy.sfasu.edu/SFAStarCharts/SFAStarChartsAll.pdf

  • There is a different chart for each season, because different stars are visible at different times of the year.
  • These star maps are a little tricky to read and used by real astronomers, so don’t worry if they confuse you a little bit.  Just look all of the amazing different shapes and sizes constellations come in!

 2.     Discover a new constellation!

  • Ask an adult to go outside with you in your backyard or a nearby park.  It should be an area where there aren’t a lot of lights from houses or street lamps so the stars show up nice and bright!
  • Spend 5 minutes or more quietly star gazing.   How many stars can you see?  Do you notice any neat patterns?
  • Pick out a group of stars that you like.  Maybe you see a group of stars that looks like an animal, a car, or a person…the possibilities are endless!  This will be your very own constellation.
  • Give your new constellation a name.
  • Think of a story about your constellation.  How did it appear in the sky?

 

3.     Draw your own star map!
 
  • Draw a dot where each of the stars are in your constellation.
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  • Take a pin or sharp pencil to poke a hole at each of the dots.
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  • Use a ruler to draw a line connecting the dots.
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  • Write down the name of your constellation. Also, write down what month it is, so you know the best time to find your constellation. (Since you can see different stars at different times during the year!)
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  • Write a story about how your constellation got to be in the sky.
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  • Hold your star map up to a window or light to see your constellation twinkle and shine bright!
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Other Super Space Facts

  • A galaxy is a collection of stars, planets, gas and dust in space that is bigger than you can ever imagine!
  • Our sun is in the Milky Way Galaxy.

It’s a spiral galaxy that looks like this:

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  • The Romans called the Milky Way “Via Galactica” which means “road of milk” because it looks like a trail of spilled milk across the sky.

Here’s the part of the Milky Way that we can sometimes see from our backyard:

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The night sky is a wonderful place to use your imagination.  What questions does it make you ask?

Scientists have learned many amazing things about our universe, but there are still tons of questions we still don’t know the answer to, and are waiting to be discovered by YOU!

Resources:

http://unplugyourkids.com/2008/07/06/constellation-star-charts-weekly-unplugged-project/

Big Dipper picture

Milky Way picture 1

Milky Way picture 2

Cottonwood tree and Star stick pictures: J.J. Clark

 

 


mary-01.jpgCrusher's Crafts are created by SPREE staffer Mary Palumbo.  Each month Mary comes up with a new craft that can be made from household items and found objects from just outside your front door.

 

Look on the left column for a complete list of all the crafts!