The best advantages to summer are that the days are long and the nights are warm. Sleeping under the stars is a treat, whether you are out camping or just hanging in a hammock in your backyard.
Looking up into a clear night sky is breathtaking and, beyond our own galaxy, remains quite a mystery. But in those endless lights above, what are you looking at? Even if you are new to stargazing, you can easily learn how to navigate the sky at night.
It may have been awhile since elementary school, so let’s first brush up on the basics. The Earth rotates once a day, and its rotation is what we consider a day. The sun moves across the sky from east to west, showing how the Earth turns throughout the day.
Next, remember that it takes the Earth one year to complete its rotation around the sun. As we spin on our axis, we go through our various seasons throughout a year.
Since you now get the basics of day, now let’s take a look at the night sky. The moon moves in phases throughout each month. It begins with a crescent shape and hangs low in the western sky. As the month moves on, more of the moon will be visible and it will look like it is rising higher in the sky until it reaches a full moon and then turns back into a crescent shape in the eastern sky.
What is In the Sky
Looking up at the array of lights in the night sky, it can be difficult to know what exactly you are looking at. Some of the things we call “stars” are actually distant stars, while others are planets, meteors, and other galaxies. We will not always see the same things in the sky as the Earth orbits the sun, but some things, like the moon, are pretty consistent.
The planets closest to us are the easiest to see without the use of a telescope. Mars and Venus, being the closest, appear as the brightest “stars” in the sky. When you can see them, they are close to the sun right after sunset or before sunrise.
The other planets in our galaxy move around more in the sky since they are further away from us. All of them pass through the zodiac constellations.
While the night sky seems overwhelming, there are some basic constellations out there that everyone should know about.
The Big Dipper
The Big Dipper is not a constellation by itself, but it is part of the constellation Ursa Major. In the Northern Hemisphere, it is the easiest grouping of stars to find.
The Little Dipper
The Little Dipper is part of the constellation Ursa Minor. It is another big spoon in the sky, making it easy to point out. What is pretty cool about this constellation is that the North Star, formally called “Polaris” is the last star of the Little Dipper’s handle.
The Hunter constellation is also one of the easier constellations to see in the sky on account of Orion’s belt. Look for three bright stars in a line that make up the belt and you will be able to make out the great hunter holding his bow.
Once you have found Orion, you will be able to find the Gemini constellation. This is situated above Orion’s arm. It looks like two stick figure people touching arms.
Just like Gemini, Orion will make it easy to spot Taurus. Taurus is usually noticed because of the bright red star in its constellation. Aldebaran is near the bull’s horn. The constellation sits right above Orion.
There is a lot of science to learn and explore when it comes to the night sky, but it can be fun just to explore what you can already see when you look up at the stars.
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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.
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