Thursday, July 19, 2012

Elementary Activities: Summer Star Gazing Guide

by: Deborah Pace Rowley

I love staring up at the stars on summer nights. Something about the stars makes you feel so small and yet so close to heaven at the same time. My kids love to find the Big Dipper and the North Star. I thought it might be fun to try to find some other constellations and learn about the myths behind them. 

I found this great website that gives you a free print out of the night sky as it looks where you live and the constellations that you can look for. 

Here are some pictures of a few of the constellations and the Greek myths behind them. The pictures and text come from this web site:

Latin : Leo (the Lion)
A lion whose hide was impervious to weapons which terrorized the countryside of Nemea. When Hercules was commanded to destroy it as one of his twelve labors, he throttled the beast to death with his bare hands. The lion was then placed by Hera amongst the stars as the constellation Leo. 

Latin : Orion
ORION A giant hunter who was set amongst the stars as the constellation Orion. Some say he chased Lepus, the hare, across the heavens with his dog, the constellation Canis, others that he was in pursuit of Taurus the bull. In the story of his death, Orion was either killed by Artemis or by a scorpion sent by Gaea to punish him for boasting that he would slay all the creatures of the earth. The scorpion was also placed amongst the stars and continued to plague him, for as it rose in the east, Orion fled beneath the horizon in the west. You may be able to find the three main stars of Orion’s belt. 

Latin : Scorpio (the Scorpion)
SCORPION OF ORION A scorpion sent forth by the earth-goddess Gaea to kill Orion when the giant boasted that he would slay all the animals of the earth. The pair were placed amongst the stars as the constellations Scorpio and Orion. The ancients sometimes combined a pair of constellations to create the scorpion, with Libra forming the claws. 

Latin : Ursa Major (the Great Bear)
Callisto was an Arcadian princess who was loved by the god Zeus and transformed into a bear by the wrathful goddess Hera. She was later placed amongst the stars as the constellation Ursa Major, along with her son Arcas, who became Bootes. Hera was still furious and forbade Callisto's stars ever to set in the river Oceanus. 
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