Did you know that, on any given night, you can spot animals among the stars? We’re talking about constellations, the shapes formed by stars when you “connect the dots”.
Let’s Get Started
The Big Dipper is the most famous group of stars, and an easy one to spot. You can see it in the northern sky on almost any clear night, from anywhere in North America. It is part of a larger constellation called Ursa Major (The Great Bear). The Great Bear is one of the oldest constellations, or “star pictures.” On many nights, the Big Dipper is the only visible part of the Great Bear — the rest of the stars either are too faint, or have ducked below the horizon and out of view.
Constellations have a rich ancient history and reflect the contributions of many different civilizations. But common to all of them were the shapes they saw in the night sky. Many of these shapes were — and still are — animals.
• Native Americans in California saw a flock of seven geese.
• The Aztecs saw a jaguar.
What do you see? Can you find any of these animal constellations listed below?
Document Your Discoveries
- Describe how the sky looks in your Nature Notebook.
- Draw a “real” constellation or one that you invented.
- Bonus: Learn more about constellations and their stories in Ranger Rick. Then, write or tell a story to your family about your animal constellation.