How “Sirius” Are You About Astronomy?

Have you taken a look at our beautiful winter sky lately? There is so much to see, and January is a great time to see stars! So what are you waiting for? Grab your coat, your binoculars (and your parents!) and get outside to look at the sky!

I think looking at the night sky is like a big “Where’s Waldo?” kind of game, but instead of only finding Waldo, you get to find much, much more! Try picking one planet, star, or constellation (a group of stars that scientists have named) that are visible during the time you’re outside and try to find as many as you can! I always start with the moon because that’s the easiest to find in the sky. The moon is really cool because the moon’s shape doesn’t look exactly the same all the time; it cycles throughout each month. My favorite shape is the crescent moon when the moon looks like a thin letter “C”, I like to think it looks like a thumbnail!

The beautiful crescent moon sitting above the Earth's horizon.

The beautiful crescent moon sitting above the Earth’s horizon. I told you it looks like a thumbnail!

 

One of the easiest star groups to find is the Big Dipper. It looks like a big ladle or drinking gourd stretched across the sky!

Can you connect the dots to see the "drinking gourd" shape of the Big Dipper?

Can you connect the dots to see the “drinking gourd” shape of the Big Dipper?

You can then use the Big Dipper to find the North Star, one of the most important stars in the sky. The two stars on the end of the bowl of the Big Dipper are called “pointers”, because they point right to the North Star. Even though this star is not very bright, don’t be fooled! The North Star is the most important star in the sky besides the sun! That’s because it’s the only star that doesn’t appear to move. All other stars look like they are traveling in a circle around the North Star, isn’t that neat?

 

After you find the Big Dipper, turn around to face the south and try to find the mythological hunter, Orion.  In January, Orion is really bright! You can easily find Orion’s belt within the constellation; there are three stars that are very close to one another. Orion has a blurry “sword” hanging from his belt, a dim curve of stars that make up his “shield” (made of lion skin), and a raised arm with a “club” in his hand. Also, see if you can find Sirius, the brightest star in the sky! Look below and to the left of Orion’s left foot. Sirius is known as the “dog star”, because it’s part of the constellation Canis Major (the Big Dog). It looks like a dog trying to leap up at Orion’s leg!

Can you find Orion’s belt and Sirius in this picture?

 

Right now, the bright planet Jupiter is located right above the reddish star Aldebaran, which is part of the constellation Taurus.  In the upper right corner of the photo below is another part of Taurus: the pretty star cluster Pleiades, also known as the “Seven Sisters”.

Do you see...?

Do you see Aldebaran? This picture is a great map of the winter night sky! Can you find the other constellations I mentioned in this picture?

 

Join the Delaware Nature Society at Buena Vista this Friday, January 18th from 7:30 – 9:30pm to check out what is in the January skies. We will have telescopes and binoculars available for use as we look at Orion, Jupiter, and other brilliant constellations of winter. We will finish the evening with a warm cup of cider and some delicious gingersnaps!

If you’re interested in attending this program, please email dnsinfo@delawarenaturesociety.org or call (302) 239-2334 and provide your name, phone number, and number of people attending.

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