Constellation Project

For this project, you will need a star chart and a constellation log.  Star charts can be downloaded at SkyMaps.com - look for the chart for the current month in the Northern Hemisphere (unless you are headed south over vacation).  Constellation logs can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.

On your star chart, you will begin by highlighting, in blue, your reference constellations (constellations that you are already able to spot, without the use of the star chart).  This will be different for different people.  Good reference objects may include Orion and the Big Dipper.  Do not use the moon, as its position will be constantly changing relative to the constellations.  You will then choose two or three constellations that you would like to search for.  These will be your target constellations.  These will be highlighted in yellow.  You should begin by selecting target constellations that are relatively close to your reference constellations, and which contain at least one or two bright stars.  This should give you easier targets to begin with.


For each night that you go out and observe, you’ll need to fill in some specific information on your checklist:

1. Under “Attempted Obs.”, fill in the dot for that night only if you went out to look for constellations.

2. Under “Weather” write “c” for cloudy, “pc” for partly cloudy, or a “ü” for clear.

3.  For each constellation that you find, fill in the dot under that day.  If you find a certain constellation more than once, fill in its dot for each day that you find it.

4. The far left column of dots is your “Total Found” list.  Fill in the dot next to each constellation that you’ve found over the course of the project.

 


Notice that some of the dots are not filled in.  If you didn’t see a constellation that night, then you shouldn’t fill in its dot.  Sometimes you will find a certain constellation one night, but not the next.  That is fine – just be accurate in what you record.


As you find each target constellation, highlight it in blue on your Star Chart.  Since you've already highlighted it in yellow, this will make it look green.  Thus, your star chart will be color coded as follows: blue for initial reference constellations (which represents the knowledge you already had), green for target constellations that you've found (representing knowledge that you've gained), and yellow for target constellations you have yet to find (representing knowledge that you hope to gain).

 

This project will be due on Wednesday, January 18, 2017.  This gives you 36 days in which to make your observations.  Obviously, the more effort you put into this project, the better your grade will be.  To earn a passing grade, you must complete a minimum of 10 nights of observations.  To earn an A, you must complete at least 24.  Either way, you will also need to turn in a completed star chart.  (An observation only counts if your journal is completely filled out for that night – cloudy nights will not earn full credit.) 

In the event that there are too many cloudy nights, this project may be extended.  If that is the case, the extended deadline will be ....

 

Here are some tips for stargazing:

  • Avoid places with a lot of background light, as it will make stars harder to see.  If you need to use a flashlight, use one with a red filter (or make one by cutting a red balloon and stretching it over the flashlight.
  • Go over your star chart just before going outside.  Look for easy to identify shapes in each constellation – this will make them easier to spot.
  • Give your eyes several minutes to adjust to the dark.  It takes 20 minutes for your eyes to full dark-adapt, but only an instant of bright light to cause them to reset!
  • If it’s cloudy or the moon is in your way, try again in an hour or so – the moon will have moved and the clouds may clear up.
  • If you need another star chart, or for more tips, log on to www.SkyMaps.com.
There is a nice online Constellation Guide that you can check out, especially the List of Constellations.

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Brent Baker,
Dec 15, 2016, 11:08 AM
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Brent Baker,
Jan 9, 2015, 7:36 AM
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