STEM@home: Crazy Constellations

Orion, Head to Toe. Rogelio Bernal Andreo, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re like most STEM@Home-rs, you’ve always wanted to learn more about astronomy but you just haven’t “star”-ted yet. Do you need special equipment, items, “or-bits”? Worried it’s too big of a “comet”-ment? Well, don’t just”plan-et,” any longer! Winter is the best time in West Michigan to geek out over the night sky. Visit the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s blog, Keeping It Curious, to find out why!

Not only does West Michigan host an incredible year-round astronomy resource, the GRPM Chaffee Planetarium, winter in Michigan is actually a great time to check out some famous constellations. The Winter Stargazing post from the museum’s blog lays out the top three benefits to constellation-hunting in the winter.

  1. Cold winter air is less humid – leading to a beautifully clear view.
  2. Stars are easier to see at night, and sunset is earlier in winter.
  3. As a planet moving through SPAAAAACE, the northern hemisphere in winter faces a part of the galaxy with very bright stars – like Orion’s Belt!

Hey, those museum folks are very persuasive! Let’s bundle up and head outside to spot some of space’s greatest hits, including the Great Orion Nebula, Sirius, and the Pleides Star Cluster.

The best and brightest of Michigan’s winter sky are known as the Winter Circle, and Greek and Roman mythology buffs are going to recognize plenty of familiar names. Some scholars believe that these groups of stars, or constellations, inspired the classic myths of heroes, warriors, and fantastic creatures. Imagine storytelling with the sky instead of a book!

Ready to start your own story? Look to the southeast after dark and find three bright stars in a row – those are called Orion’s Belt. Spot a blurry patch underneath Orion’s Belt? Don’t clean your glasses – you’re spotting a star nursery, or nebula, over 1,500 miles away! Head to the Keeping It Curious blog for more directions on following the Winter Circle around and finding many more stars, constellations, and wonders of the night sky.

Love exploring the universe? Do we have a summer camp for you! Hope Summer Science Camps has over 20 years of experience giving kids the hands-on science explorations of your dreams. Check out the Science Camps page on our website for safety updates, camp schedule, and registration links. We are excited to see you this summer!

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