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'Starry, Starry Night'
Star gazing is fun!
The night sky is interesting wherever you live
Wherever you live in the world you can easily develop a keen interest in astronomy and gaze up at the stars in awe. The word astronomy comes from the Greek word astron meaning ‘star’. It is an exciting hobby for anyone to have and need not cost you anything other than the price of a few books and star charts.
If you live in a large city, the glare from the city lights can often stop you viewing the stars at their best; those who live in rural areas will thus be at an advantage.
Stars are vast cosmic bodies that are just like nuclear reactors. Our nearest star is the sun which is 93 million miles away from Earth. Life on Earth would not be possible if it were not for the sun. Every living thing on our planet needs warmth from the sun and plants must have its light to grow.
There are many stars just like our sun in the known universe and others are so vast and so far away that astronomers are only just beginning to learn about them with the very powerful telescopes they now have based on Earth and in space. Stars that lived and died many billions of years ago produced the carbon that is within our bodies which is vital to our existence. We would not be here without these stars that shone so brightly long ago and we are in sense children of the stars.
Can you see if you can find out some of the different types of stars there are and make a list? Then maybe you could try to pick out some of the stars in the night sky and find out their names. Sometimes this can be easier than you think as stars are usually a part of groups of stars known as constellations so you will easily be able to locate some of these groups if you consult your star charts. Constellations are just like patterns in the night sky that have been named by the ancients. They are usually in the shapes of humans and animals and mythological beasts.
Get an adult to help you if you cannot recognise any of the constellations on your own. Some of the easiest to find are Orion the Hunter, The Great Bear (Ursa Major) and The Little Bear (Ursa Minor) and Cassiopeia. If you can find Orion then it will be easy for you to locate the brightest star in the sky which is called Sirius.
The constellation of Orion looks just like a big dress. Sirius can be found by tracing your way down from the last star on the left bottom edge of Orion’s ‘Tunic’. The star is so bright you will not miss it.
A telescope or even a pair of binoculars is useful for stargazing as well as looking at the surface of the moon and planets in our own solar system but don’t be deterred if you don’t have access to any equipment such as this. Many interesting stars and planets can be seen with the naked eye. Even our neighbouring galaxy – The Andromeda Galaxy can be seen without the aid of a telescope in the constellation of Cassiopeia as a faint fuzzy patch. The light from this galaxy takes two and a half million years to reach us and it is in fact the most distant object you can see without the aid of a telescope.
Join a local astronomy club in your locality or maybe your school may run one. If not, ask a parent to help you search for information on-line. Here are a few ideas to get you going:
As your knowledge of the universe increases you will be able to familiarise yourself with many of the different objects in the known universe. More and more fascinating astronomical facts are being discovered on an almost daily basis so there is no chance that your chosen hobby will ever become boring!
© 2015 Stella Kaye