Constellations Workbook

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1 Name Score Constellations Workbook THE STARS OF AUTUMN (Kings, Queens, Dragons, Princesses, and Heroes) Copyright 1997 by Bob Martino - All rights reserved

2 Constellations (from Microsoft Encarta Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved) In ancient times when people looked at the starry night sky, they thought they saw shapes in groups of stars. These are called constellations. Constellations were named after heroes and beasts from stories and after everyday objects. You probably know some constellations. The Big Dipper looks like a giant pot with a long handle. Orion is named after a hunter in Greek mythology. You can see his belt, marked by three bright stars, and his sword, which hangs from his belt. The stars that form constellations are not really near each other. Some of the stars in a constellation are much farther from us than others. The stars just happen to form patterns as we view them from the Earth. Which Constellation is Which? When you look up at the sky, you see shapes much like those which the ancient stargazers named after characters from magical tales. You can use a star chart, a map that shows where stars appear in the sky. As the night passes, these shapes seem to move through the sky. But it s actually Earth that s moving, not the Sun and stars. You can only see the brightest stars with the naked eye. Try looking at the sky through binoculars or a telescope. Thousands of fainter stars come into view. You can no longer see the shapes of constellations. Do Constellations Always Look the Same? Because Earth tilts as it circles the Sun, you see different constellations at different times of year. The Big Dipper, for example, is easiest to find during summer. Orion is most visible during winter. People in the Southern Hemisphere see completely different constellations than people in Canada or the United States. One of the most famous southern constellations is Crux, the Southern Cross. The shapes of constellations slowly change over very long periods of time. The familiar forms will look quite different many thousands of years from now.

3 Changes in the Big Dipper over 100,000 years How Do Astronomers Use Constellations? Astronomers divide the sky into 88 constellations. Even though the constellations do not represent real groupings of stars, astronomers still find them useful for naming stars and mapping the sky. Astronomers use letters of the Greek alphabet to name stars. They also use a form of the name of the constellation the star is in. The brightest star in a constellation has alpha in its name, because it s the first letter of the Greek alphabet. The brightest star in the constellation Perseus is called Alpha Persei. The second brightest is Beta Persei. (Beta is the second letter in the Greek alphabet.) The star closest to the Sun is Alpha Centauri. This is the brightest star in the southern constellation of Centaurus. Some objects that are not stars are also named after the constellations in which they appear. These include the Andromeda galaxy and the Orion nebula. At certain times of the year, the Earth passes through showers of meteors (shooting stars). Even these meteor showers are named after the constellations from which they seem to fall. (The Perseids and the Geminids are two examples.) What Are the Constellations of the Zodiac? The ancient Babylonians noticed that the Sun s position in the sky changes through the year. They divided the stars along the Sun s path into twelve constellations. We call these twelve the constellations of the zodiac. They consist of Aries, the Ram; Taurus, the Bull; Gemini, the Twins; Cancer, the Crab; Leo, the Lion; Virgo, the Young Woman; Libra, the Scales; Scorpio, the Scorpion; Sagittarius, the Archer; Capricorn, the Water Goat; Aquarius, the Water Bearer; and Pisces, the Fish.

4 The Zodiac is important because you will find planets in the constellations of the Zodiac. Look at the three pictures of Leo. Did you notice something about a star in the constellation of Leo? You should have seen a star move. Look at the pictures again:

5 The star that moved wasn t a star. What you see is a planet in Leo. When you see a planet, you will a couple of things. First, it will be brighter than the stars around it. And, it will not twinkle like the stars around it. The constellations of the zodiac: A Tense Gray Cat Lay Very Low Sneaking Slowly Contemplating A Pounce. A Aries; T Taurus; G Gemini; C Cancer; L Leo; V Virgo; L Libra; S Scorpio; S Sagittarius; C Capricorn; A Aquarius; P Pisces Examples of Constellations The Constellation Taurus In ancient times people thought these stars looked like the front half of a bull, so they named this constellation Taurus (Latin for bull ). (This is how the constellation would look in the nighttime sky.) Photo Researchers, Inc/John Sanford and David Parker/Science Photo Library Microsoft Encarta Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

6 The Big Dipper The Big Dipper is a group of seven stars arranged in a pattern that looks like a water ladle. It is also known by the names Ursa Major (the Great Bear), the Plow, Charles s Wain (a farm cart), and the Wagon. Photo Researchers, Inc./Jerry Schad Microsoft Encarta Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Didja Know? (from Sky Tellers, The Big Dipper is not a constellation! It is part of Ursa Major, the Greater Bear. The Big Dipper is an asterism. This is a recognized, but not official, grouping of stars. Some asterisms fall within a single constellation, others cross constellations.

7 How Did We Get the Constellations? (source: What Are Constellations? We know constellations are helpful for remembering the stars. Why would people want to remember the stars (besides astronomers, that is)? It s believed that farmers invented constellations. Why did they do that? Was it for some religious purpose? Yes and no. Farmers know that, for most crops, you plant in the spring and harvest in the fall. But in some regions, there is not much difference between the seasons. Since different constellations are visible at different times of the year, you can use them to tell what month it is. For example, Scorpius is only visible in the northern hemisphere's evening sky in the summer. If you know when a constellation appears, you know the season. When farmers saw certain constellations, they would know it was time to begin the planting or the reaping. This dependence on the sky became a strong part of many cultures. Perhaps there is something about the mystery of the night sky that makes people want to tell stories about the constellations. Constellations have changed over time. Today, every star in the sky is in exactly one constellation. In 1929, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) adopted official constellation boundaries that defined the 88 official constellations that exist today. Constellation Reading Questions And you thought you d get away without answering questions about what you read! You should know me better than that! Answer these questions: 1. What do we call shapes in groups of stars? 2. What does the Big Dipper look like? 3. True/False You ALWAYS see the same constellations during the year. 4. As you watch the stars at night, they appear to move through the sky. Why does this happen?

8 5. Why do you see different constellations during the year? 6. When is Orion visible? 7. True/False People in the Southern Hemisphere see different constellations than the people in Utah. 8. What is the most famous Southern constellation? 9. How many constellations are there? 10. What letters are used to name stars? 11. What is the brightest star in Perseus called? 12. Who first divided the stars along the Sun s path into 12 constellations? 13. List the 12 constellations of the Zodiac (use both Latin and English names). a. b. c. d. e. f. g.

9 h. i. j. k. l. 14. The Big Dipper is known by four different names. List them. a. b. c. d. 15. The Big Dipper is not really a constellation. What is it?

10 Read this next story to help you as you do your next assignment. It was on a dark and starry night of New Year s Day, Giuseppe Piazzi, an Italian monk, was at work in his observatory on Sicily. He was a member of the Celestial Police. This was a group of astronomers looking for a missing planet between Jupiter and Mars. That night he was confirming and cataloging stars in Taurus. While checking other astronomers work, he saw a tiny point of light. At first, he thought it was just a dim star no one had cataloged. He checked for it the next night, but it had moved! He watched it move on January 3 and 4. What he was observing was not a star! He wrote to Johan Bode and told him what he had found, Bode was certain he had found the missing planet. And the Plot Thickens... Cloudy weather set in. Piazzi was so sick that he couldn t observe the skies on some January nights. By January 24, he realized what he had discovered. He wrote a friend: I have announced the star as a comet. But the fact that the star is not accompanied by any nebulosity [clouds of dust and gas] and that its movement is very slow and rather uniform has caused me many times to seriously consider that perhaps it might be something better than a comet. I would be very careful, however, about making this conjecture [this idea] public. He wrote to Bode the next day. He did not receive the letter until March 20. When the letter reached Bode, he studied his star maps. He convinced Piazzi that he had found

11 the missing planet. Piazzi named the object Ceres. Piazzi s friend, Baron von Zach announced the discovery in his Monthly Correspondence summer of Piazzi tried to predict Ceres orbit. This was needed so other astronomers could find it. He observed Ceres for six weeks. He didn t have enough information to determine Ceres orbit. After that, others searched for Ceres in vain. Several astronomers tried to work out Ceres orbit from his data. They each came up with different results. Ceres appeared to be lost. No one could verify Piazzi s observations. Questions 1. When and where did Giuseppe Piazzi live and work? 2. What was different about the point of light that he discovered on New Year s Night, 1801? 3. What did Johann Bode think that Piazzi had discovered? 4. Who finally announced that Piazzi had discovered the missing planet? Why Do We See Different Constellations During the Year? If observed through the year, the constellations shift gradually to the west. This is caused by Earth s orbit around our Sun. In the summer, viewers are looking in a different direction in space at night than they are during the winter. Complete the worksheet.

12 Constellation Think Questions (from Constellations for Every Kid by Janice VanCleave) 1. Look at the picture. In what constellation would you see the Sun? 2. Look at the picture. In what constellation would you see the Sun? 3. Look carefully at the picture. a. In what constellation would you see the sun if it were in Position D? b. In what constellation would you see the sun if it were in Position A? c. In what constellation would you see the sun if it were in Position B? d. In what constellation would you see the sun if it were in Position C?

13 In the picture for question #3, when Earth is at position A, it is Winter. When Earth is at position B, it is Spring. When Earth is at position C, it is Summer. When Earth is at position D, it is Autumn. Use your Star Finder. List four constellations that can be seen during a season. (Use this link to make Star Finders Longitude 41 o No Latitude 112 o West.) Winter a. b. c. d. Spring a. b. c. d. Summer a. b. c. d. Autumn

14 a. b. c. d.

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