Stargazing with Your Space Obsessed Kids – Start with North Star
Are you excited to start your quality time with your kids and your loved ones? Stargazing with them is one of the most memorable times that you could spend with them because you’re not just enjoying, but you are also educating them on basic astronomy principles at the same time leaving a mark on their mind and hearts for eternity. It is also one way of telling them immortal stories that they could commemorate every time they gaze above on a night.
Not all stars are visible in the night sky, especially in the cities. It helps that all the constellations (a group of visible stars that form patterns) you are looking for can be easily be found in a place away from the contrasting lights of the city. It’s best to look at a hiking field, camping field, over the night beach skies, or maybe right at your backyards.
There are 88 different constellations, 40 are ancient, and 48 are newly added or discovered. You cannot see all constellations in one place. The sky maps divide up into northern hemispheres and southern hemispheres. Seasons of the year could also affect the visibility of stars from your placement on earth.
Finding North Star
Polaris or North Star is a very significant navigational tool even from the ancient world. The ancient Vikings and Egyptians use this star as an indicator of the North Sky and find their way on the open seas or for their travels. It means that when you are gazing at the North Star or Polaris, you are precisely almost facing the North. This star is almost exactly in line with the earth’s rotational axis. So, how do we find this guide star?
Step 1: Find the Big Dipper (Ursa Major)
The first step is to find the Big Dipper, also known as the Ursa Major. It is the most recognizable constellation in the sky. I remember as a kid that it was the first constellation that I happily traced. You can find this as Spoon shaped constellation with seven bright stars (Four bright stars forming the head and three bright stars forming the tail or the spoon handle).
Did you find it? Great!
Step 2: Trace and draw a line to the North Star
Okay, the next step is to find the Big Dipper’s two front (head) stars. Then, imagine a line connecting it with the adjacent bright star at the Dipper’s upper right. Yes! That bright star is the Polaris, the North Star! Great!
Congratulations on finding the Big Dipper or the Ursa Major. Do you know that right in front of the Big Dipper is the Little Dipper? And do you know that the Polaris (North Star) is a significant part of the Little Dipper itself! Yes!
First, the little Dipper floats right in front of its big brother, the big Dipper. It looks like pouring water into the bigger spoon, like this.
Now, you have two constellations already in mind when you gaze at the 14 brightest stars in the night sky. It helps that at the end tail of the little Dipper is the North Star, itself. Now you can test your skills, finding other sky constellations. Are you excited? What else are we going to find out? I am excited for you too. For you to maximize the visual and stargazing experience, it helps that some apps are there for you to be your visual guide. You can use the software Stellarium helpful applications such as Sky guide, or Skymap to help you navigate through your night skies.