I love astronomy and stargazing. It is one of the activities that is free and very satisfying. Among the skies are constellations named by the ancient Greeks and other ancient civilizations who also wove countless stories about the figures in the night sky. Now it’s summer here in the Philippines and the skies are clear! Go Stargazing!
I originally wrote this guide for my cousin’s students describing the four easiest constellations to see in the Philippines without a telescope. I’m happy to say a whole generation of kids loved my stories and took comfort in seeing their favourite constellation Orion march across the sky with Canis Major (the dog) trotting faithfully behind him.
There’s a lot more practical stuff to stargazing like determining which way is North and what time is it but I kept it simple for the kids. So, without further ado, here is The Bacolod Food Hunter’s guide to stargazing for kids!
(Originally written for my cousin’s students.)
I’d like to share with you something that’s really neat.
Do you guys know what constellations are? Constellations are patterns or pictures formed by stars in the sky. For hundreds of years, people have looked at these “star pictures”, named them and even made stories about them.
Right now, the conditions are right for you guys to be able to see a fantastic “painting” of the constellations in the night time sky.
1. Get your parents to help you look for the stars.
2. Wait until it is night time.
3. Make sure there are no clouds.
4. Be prepared to stay WAY up past your bedtime!
The first constellation we will look for is the ORION constellation. It is one of the easiest constellations to find at night in the Philippines.
In Greek mythology, Orion was a legendary HUNTER. The Greeks believed that their god Zeus placed ORION among the stars when he died.
Orion had a big shiny BELT, A CLUB and a short SWORD.
In the night sky, find the THREE STARS that make up his belt. Then look carefully.
Can you see the stars in his Club? Can you see Orion’s shoulders? You might only be able to see an Hour glass shape like in the picture below.
CONGRATULATIONS! YOU’VE SEEN YOUR FIRST CONSTELLATION!
One you’ve found the THREE STARS that make up Orion’s belt, we’re going to find our next constellation.
What pops into your head when you hear the phrase “Man’s best friend?” You think of a DOG.
Naturally, since ORION is a very good huntsman, he always has his faithful dog with him.
Our next constellation is CANIS MAJOR or as I prefer to name it; SIRIUS the dog.
WITH YOUR IMAGINATION DRAW AN IMAGINARY LINE FROM ORION’S BELT IN THE DIRECTION OF THE RED ARROW UNTIL IT HITS A BRIGHT SHINY STAR. The name of the star is SIRIUS.
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve found your second constellation CANIS MAJOR or Sirius the dog! It’s the brightest star in the sky!
Sirius also looks like a backwards picture of a chair or a bed.
Sirius the faithful dog follows his master Orion as he hunts across the night sky.
BUT WHAT IS ORION HUNTING??? I’ll give you guys a clue. Look at the group of stars to the “right” of Orion. What animal does it look like?
START AT ORION’S BELT ONCE AGAIN AND FOLLOW THE YELLOW ARROW UP UNTIL YOU SEE A STAR. The star is called ALDEBARAN.
Congratulations! You’ve found your third constellation TAURUS! (The BULL)
Can you see the stars that make up the bull’s horns? Taurus is attacking ORION! ORION bravely stands his ground. Orion is protecting two people from the deadly horns of Taurus.
Do you want to know who these two people are?
DRAW AN IMAGINARY LINE FROM THE TIP OF ORION’S SHOULDER (FOLLOWING THE YELLOW ARROW). YOU will see two bright stars…
CONGRATULATIONS! YOU’VE FOUND THE TWINS Castor and Pollux! (Gemini)
REFERENCE CHART! Use this picture to check if you’ve correctly found the constellations and to determine their relative places from one another!
Cover image by ESO/Luis Calçada/Herbert Zodet – http://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1613a/, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47840645