Let’s hope we get a clear night. Before 7:30 pm Mars should be visible in the West, if you don’t have trees in the way. If you can’t see it, try to find a place to look at the sky that has a clear view of the horizon. You may also be able to see Mercury and Venus very low on the horizon if there aren’t trees in the way. If you haven’t looked for it planets yet, get out there on our next clear night.
As soon as it gets good and dark look for Ursa Major, the Big Dipper. You should be looking into the North. Look for the four stars that make up the bowl of the dipper? Can you see the three or four stars that make up the dipper’s handle? The two stars at the front of the dipper are Dubhe (on your left) and Merak (on your right).
Now that you’ve found Ursa Major you can look for the other circum polar constellations. To find Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper) use the pointer stars Dubhe and Merak, draw an imaginary line between them and continue it 5 times further towards the North. See a star there? That’s Polaris, the North Star. It’s right at the end of the Little Dipper’s handle or the little bear’s tail. Can you see the handle and the four stars that make up the bowl?
Keep your line going West about the same distance as the line from Ursa Major to Ursa Minor. Find the big W? That’s Cassiopia’s throne. If you find Cassiopia the Queen, King Cephus must be close by. Imagine the Queen sitting on her throne looking at the nearby stars to the right and you’ll see the four stars for Cephus’s head and the hat that looks like a clown hat.
Want to try another? Look right below Ursa Minor and see if you can find the head of Draco the dragon. It should be right on the horizon, so trees may make it impossible to find where you are. Do you see the dragon’s body? Good luck.
If you can find all five constellations, you’re half way to the number of constellations you need to learn.Every night when you go out, you should try to re-find these constellations and stars, so it becomes second nature.
Stars Science Theater