Following a Star
I’ve taking my inspiration for a science based Christmas post from the nativity story. It is focused on one my favourite areas of science, astronomy.
I have always enjoyed looking to the sky and spotting the different stars and the constellations they make. It is great to begin to teach the children about the constellations during the winter as they there are a number of constellations and stars that the children can easily spot themselves without the use of a telescope during the dark evenings. Once they have a few constellations they can spot they are also able to observe over time how their positions in the night sky change throughout the year. This will link well into their learning during the Year 5 unit Earth and Space but can be introduced with any year group. I am going to highlight my 3 favourite constellations that I first share with pupils (because they are easy to spot!). Two of the constellations I am sharing link to Greek mythology, though you can find different constellations stories for other world cultures.
My favourite constellation is Orion, the hunter as there are lots of points of interest within one group. It is also the brightest and most prominent winter constellation. Orion can be easily spotted by the 3 stars in a diagonal row, known as Orion’s belt. South of this belt is the Orion Nebula, which is one of the brightest nebulae and is visible to the naked eye at night. It has two supergiant stars; Rigel a blue supergiant and Betelgeuse a red supergiant. Oiron is hunting another well known constellation, Taurus. The constellation also has links to Harry Potter with a star named Bellatrix within the constellation. Orion the hunter is accompanied by two dogs the constellations Canis Minor and Major, Canis Major contains the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius. Many other Harry Potter characters share their names with stars.
Another easy to spot constellation is the Plough (also known as the big dipper or pan). This is a particularly important constellation as it also leads us to the Polaris, The Pole Star. The plough rotates anti-clockwise round this navigational star.
The final constellation I shall highlight to you is Cassiopeia, an easy to spot constellation due to its ‘w’ like shape. Cassiopeia is named after a vain Greek mythological queen. Cassiopeia shines on the opposite side of Polaris and the plough can be used to locate this constellation.
So why not have a new years resolution on introducing yourself and your classes to the wonders of star gazing!