People have been looking at the night sky for tens of thousands of years, and making constellations out of the patterns they see in the stars. The most well-known constellations are from the Ancient Greeks, but many cultures have their own as well. For example, Australian Aboriginal Astronomy uses the spaces between the stars as the constellations, instead of connecting the stars to make a picture, as is common in Western Culture. There are currently 88 constellations that are recognized by the International Astronomical Union, which you can look up if you are curious.
People have been using the stars as storytelling devices, navigational aids, and seasonal markers since we have been able to observe the sky. In this activity, you will learn about some new constellations, and create a projector to show them off.
To make the constellation viewer:
You should see the pattern that you poked out with the thumbtack or sharp pencil appear on the surface. If you want, you can try looking through the tube at a lightbulb or out a window (don’t look at the sun, you can hurt your eyes!). If you try looking through the tube, your constellation will be backwards!
Be sure to clean up when you are done. Throw away or recycle any trash or paper scraps, and put your tools back where you found them.
Try looking up other constellations and making projectors for those as well. Could you make something that projects the whole night sky? Can you look at a star map and create your own constellation? The sky’s the limit!
This experiment was selected for Science at Home because it teaches NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas, which have broad importance within or across multiple science or engineering disciplines.
Learn more about how this experiment is based in NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas.