Build Uncle Al's Star Finder!
Build "Uncle Al's Star Wheel" from the Lawrence Hall of Science. Cut out each of the two wheels and the star wheel holder. In the holder, cut out the center oval and fold up and tape together the bottom fourth of the page to make a 'slot' that will hold the star wheel behind the oval opening and show you the stars for the night you dial on the star wheel. Here is a link to download the star wheel patterns.
To Use the Sky Wheels
Slip the star wheel inside the holder.
Turn the star wheel so that the month and date along the edge matches the time of day on the star wheel holder.
The oval opening of the star wheel holder is meant to represent the horizon (where the sky seems to meet the land). The horizon is labeled with directions, such as northern, western, southern, eastern.
Hold the star finder with your thumb on the direction you are facing. The constellations above the horizon line are the ones you will see in the sky when you face that direction.
If you look straight up you will see the constellations in the center of the chart.
Uncle Al's Sky Wheels were created by the LHS Hands-On Universe project.
Ideas for learning the sky:
- After you build your star wheel, study the constellations that you will look for in the sky. Once you have found a constellation, use a marker or colored pencil to outline its shape on the star wheel. This way you can keep track of the constellations you are learning.
- Another fun project is to plot the postions of the planets on your star wheel. The planet positions change month to month and year to year, as Earth and the other planets orbit the Sun. You can find out the positions of the planets in the sky on many websites; you will need to put in your city name or your zip code to make the charts accurate for you time and location.
Webpages that show the positions of the planets:
- Sky and Telescope Interactive Sky Chart
- Astronomy Magazine's Star Dome
- Heavens Above
Click the link for Planet Summary Data and then the link to the constellation for each of the planets.
- Yerkes Clear Sky Clock Then click on link to Star Map.
- Or use a free software program to show the night sky such as:
Yerkes Astrophysics Academy for Young Scientists (YAAYS) National Science Foundation Award #0639690 is an out of school time program for 3rd through 8th grade students from registered schools.