Astronomy is the study of celestial bodies, including asteroids, moons, planets, stars, and suns.
Constellation is a common name for a group of stars that if linked by an imaginary line form a pattern. Ursa Major or what is commonly called the Big Bear is a constellation with stars forming the shape of bear. The seven brightest stars of Big Bear form the shape of a dipper with a curved handle. The Big Dipper is called an asterism, which is a pattern of stars within Ursa Major. Stars in a constellation appear to move together.
Astronomy Project Ideas
Exploratory Question: Do stars in a constellation ever move apart?
- Measure the distance between stars in a constellation or asterism, such as the Big Dipper at different times.
- One way to measure distances between celestial bodies is by using your hands. For more information about this see the diagrams at the end of this page.
Problem: Determine if a constellation changes position in the sky during the night? From one night to the next.
- Measure the distance from the horizon (line where the sky meets the Earth’s surface) to a star in a constellation. Repeat this over a period of time.
How to Measure Sky Distances
You can use your hands to measure distances in the sky in a unit called degrees. Hold your hand at arms length. Close one eye and hold up your little finger. Sighting down your arm look at the tip of this extended finger. Its width is equal to a distance of 1 degree.