Watching the Big Dipper

If you’ve been playing with your computer planetarium and looking at the stars at night, you should be starting to know some constellations and stars. Since it’s the weekend and you may be able to stay up a little later, this will be a good time to take a closer look at Ursa Major, the Great Sky Bear.

UrsaMajorAs soon as it gets good and dark (around 7:30 pm), head on outside and look for Ursa Major, the Big Dipper. (Check it out on your computer first to remind you what to look for) You should be facing North. Can you find 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? Make a sketch of the Big Dipper. You should include North marked on your sketch.  Draw in any objects you see in the foreground like houses, trees, etc. and leave lots of room for the sky.  Now add  the Big Dipper  and the time of your observation right next to it. Be very accurate, you’re going to need a good sketch to compare to later. Now look for your other constellations and stars or you can go back in or do what ever else you had planned for the evening.

In a about 3 hours head back on outside (this is why a weekend night is a good one to do this, if this week doesn’t work out you can try again next Friday). Where’s the Big Dipper now? Does it look any different? Why? Add it to your sketch and label the time. That takes care of req. 4c.

Good observing.


Stars Science Theater