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Star Finders

Star Finder Directions and Activities

Materials: Paper star finder templates. Scissors. Fastener. Tape.

First. Make your star finder

1. Cut out the circle that is the sky map. (This map is different for different latitudes on Earth.)  

2. Cut out a frame to hold the sky map. Cut around the outside of the frame first. Then cut out the circular middle so there is a circular viewing window in the center.  

3. Fasten the star map to the frame. Put a brad through the star Polaris on the star finder and then through the back of the frame so the brad comes out where the X is marked on the back of the frame.  

4. Tape the frame together. Fold back the frame over the star map. Use tape to fasten the back of the frame to the front on right and the left sides. 

Second. Understand how the star finder works.

A star finder is like a "computer of the sky". It has a sky map showing the bright stars that includes a calendar around the edge. I t has a clock frame. You will turn the sky map so the calendar date on the sky map matches the time and date on the frame. The inside edge of the cut out part of the clock frame represents the horizon (where the sky appears to meet the Earth). There are cardinal directions on the clock frame.

The time and date indicate where the Earth is in its orbit around the Sun. The stars you see in the night sky depend upon which stars are in the opposite direction of the Sun as we look out into space from Earth.

Depending on how you use it, the star finder can be a map of the sky, a clock, a calendar or a compass.

Third. Practice using the star finder.

Set the star finder. Rotate the sky map wheel inside the frame. Look for the date on the edge of the sky map wheel. Match this date to the time on the star frame.

Hold the star finder to match the direction you are standing.

To practice, begin by facing south. Hold the star finder with your thumb over the word south. The stars on the star finder are the ones that you will see in front of you in the southern sky.

Then turn around so that you are facing north. Hold the star finder with your thumb over the word north. Now the sky map shows the stars that will be shining in your northern sky.

Face west; hold the your thumb over the word west. The sky map shows the stars in your western sky view.

Face east; hold your thumb over the word east. The sky map shows the stars in your eastern sky.

If you want to see what stars will be overhead, face any direction with your thumb over the word for that direction. Then bring the sky map up over your head to view the overhead stars. The point directly over your head is called your zenith.

Try setting the star finder for your birthday. Name several constellations you could see in the night sky on your birthday. Tell which direction to look to see these constellations.

Study the northern sky of your star finder. The two stars at the end of the bowl are pointer stars that point toward the North Pole star, Polaris. This star always appear to be in the same place in the sky, no matter how you set your star finder.

Fourth. Use your star finder to identify the stars and constellations in the night sky.

Which constellations did you find?  Look for the Big Dipper (Ursa Major or the Big Bear) in the sky. Use the pointer stars of the Big Dipper to help you find Polaris.

Observe the sky at night and in the morning.
How did the night sky change while you were asleep? Model this on your star finder.

Fifth. Plan your observing sessions for a year.

Select six constellations from this list:

Ursa Major the Big Bear (includes the Big Dipper)

    Ursa Minor the Little Bear (also Little Dipper)

    Bootes the Herdsman and Corona Borealis the Northern Crown

    Cassiopeia the Queen (looks like a W)

    Orion the Hunter

    Taurus the Bull (Face of the Bull looks like a V)

    Cygnus the Swan (or the Northern Cross)

    Lyra the Harp

    Leo the Lion (includes a backward question mark)

    Sagittarius the Archer (looks like a teapot)

    Gemini the Twins

    Scorpius the Scorpion

    Pegasus the Flying Horse (looks like a big square)

Find the months of the year to view the six constellations in the evening. Set the star finder for an evening time like 9 p.m. Find the six constellations you chose on your star finder. Notice which direction you should face to see them. List what month of the year you could see each constellation in the evening sky.

Find the months of the year to view the six constellations in the morning. Set the star finder for a morning time like 5 am. Use your star finder to find out what months of the year you could see your six constellations in the morning before sunrise? Notice which direction you should face to see them.

Make a table to plan your observations of these six constellations. List the six constellations, what months to see them in the evening or in the morning, and which direction you should be facing.

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