Education and
Public Engagement
at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
Sky Tellers - The Myths, the Magic, and the Mysteries of the Universe

Activity: Star Gazing

Who?
Ages 5 and up

How Long?
30 minutes or longer

What's Needed?

Observe!

Children ages 5 and older and their families explore the night sky to find star groups and constellations.

Our closest star - besides our Sun - is Proxima Centauri,4.2 light years away.

The Activity

Invite children and their families to go outside and view the sky on a clear night every hour for three or four hours.

Recommend that they obtain a sky chart for their local area; this will display a view, as observed with the naked eye, of the night sky. Sky and Telescope offers an interactive Sky Chart that can be generated and printed easily using a local zip code.

Can the children find Polaris? Draco the dragon? Lyra, the lyre? Pegasus, the winged horse? Orion, the great hunter? What about other constellations? Have the children return to the same location and viewing position each time.

Next, invite the children and their families to view the night sky once every 10 days over the course of a month. During each viewing, make sure to stand in the same place and direction, and to observe at the same time each night. Ask the children to note the locations of familiar constellations like The Big or Little Dipper or Orion, by drawing and dating them on a piece of paper.

Extensions

Have the children to do a little exploring on line or at the library to find out how different constellations were named.

Connections to the National Science Standard(s)

Standard A, B & D (grades K–4): Observe the night sky and identify star locations and groupings. The position of objects in the sky can be described by locating them relative to another object or the background.Understand that objects in the sky, such as stars, have patterns of predictable movement.

Standard A & D (grades 5–8): Develop the ability to make systematic observations, using evidence from those observations to generate explanations about the apparent movement of stars in the night sky, and understand that most objects in the solar system are in regular and predictable motion, which explains this phenomenon.