Student Research Pages - Constellations

Cover-Stars

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As long as people have lived on Earth they've watched the sky. And, so that they could explain what they saw up there at night, people made maps. To do that, they divided, grouped, and named the objects they saw in the night sky.

Areas of the Sky

We call an official area of the sky a "constellation" (con-stel-AY-shun). Officially, there are 88 areas of the sky. So, officially there are 88 constellations. Since Texas lies in the Northern Hemisphere we can’t see all 88.

Canis Minor

A long time ago, people named the areas after the pictures the stars formed - or the pictures they kind of formed.

Telescope - 02

Photo by Gabrielle Conley,
Copyright 2011

Today, we still use the names from the days when things weren't so official. Why? Because we've used many of those names for more than a thousand years – why change them now?! This list shows names of a few constellations we can see in the skies above Texas:

 

Orion

Orion, the Hunter
Seen over Autumn Texas Skies

Leo

Leo
Seen over Spring Texas Skies

Scorpius

Scorpius
Seen over Summer Texas Skies

Ursa Major Chart

Big Bear (Ursa Major)
also called "Big Dipper"
Always seen over Texas' Skies

Little Dipper - Chart

Little Bear
Also called "Little Dipper"

 

 

 

 

 

Big Dipper

The Big Dipper is part of the bigger constellation, Ursa Major, which is also called Big Bear. Only part of this "big bear" is the Big Dipper. See how the bear's tail looks like the handle of a drinking ladle? His paws are also known as "The Three Leaps of the Gazelle." (Image used with permission of Randy Culp, http://www.rocketmime.com/ .)

Little Dipper - Polaris

The Little Dipper is part of the bigger constellation, Ursa Minor, which is also called Little Bear. The North Star (Polaris) is located on the very tip of its handle. Unfortunately, light pollution has made the Little Dipper tough to spot these days, but in West Texas, you'll be able to do it! (Image used with permission of Randy Culp, http://www.rocketmime.com/ .)

Big Dipper and Little Dipper

These two aren't constellations of their own, but part of two others. But they're so famous we've got to tell you about them! As star-drawings they kind of look like dippers used to sip water so that's where they got their names. Because of their locations, us lucky Texans get to stare at them year long!

 

<== Stars Over Texas  |  The Milky Way ==>


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