Students learn about constellations by finding patterns in the stars. They begin by finding shapes in a simple pattern of stars. Then, they learn about Orion, one of the most famous real constellations. Although different cultures have seen many different shapes in Orion, all have seen the same seven stars, which have different brightnesses and distances from Earth.
Once students understand how ancient peoples made constellations out of stars, they are ready to make their own constellations from the stars and galaxies they find on SkyServer. They can also write stories about their constellations. When students finish, they can submit their constellations to be displayed on the project web site.
- Constellations are familiar shapes made from arbitrary groups of stars
- Different cultures saw different shapes in the same groups of stars
- Stars in the same constellation can have very different properties (such as brightness and distance)
- Scientists collect a variety of data about stars and other objects in the sky
- Even though constellations are not “real” groupings of stars, they are still a part of human cultural history, and can be appreciated for their beauty and lore
Students from grades 3 through 8. Younger students may have difficulty reading the text of the project. For these students, you may want to print out and explain some of the activities, instead of having them read the screen.
The project can be done in two 45-minute class sessions. In the first session, students study the simple made-up constellation and design their own. In the second session, students search for their constellations using the Navigation tool.
Real World Relevance
This project helps students gain an appreciation for the beauty of the night sky, and for how different cultures have interpreted it throughout history. When students send in their constellations to display on the web site, their work is authenticated, and this authentication encourages them to put forth more effort.