Posts Tagged ‘constellations’

Umbrella Star Chart

Saturday, March 12th, 2022


One super fun and relatively easy hands-on activitiy you can do with your kids when you are studying astronomy is to create this umbrella star chart. The person who originally created this activity is H. A. Ray, who wrote a groundbreaking astronomy book called The Stars. He took the complicated constellations and made simplified stick figures out of them, making the constellations more of a dot-to-dot rather than a complicated figure for each star pattern. This is a great activity to do to understand how the night sky rotates counterclockwise as the earth rotates, causing the illusion of the stars spinning around a central point, which is the north star.

The center of your umbrella (the handle) will be the north star. All the other constellations rotate around that star. So you can start with Cassiopeia, which looks like a W:

Take five silver star stickers, and place them on the umbrella in the form of a W to create the shape for the constellation Cassiopeia. Then spin the umberlla to the opposite side of the sky, and create the Big Dipper:


After placing those two constellations, spin the umberlla, and you will see how the sky rotates at night. This is why the constellations are not always seen in the same places. However, if you learn to always find Cassiopeia (the W), you will always be able to find the Big Dipper on the opposite side of the sky. Isn’t that cool?

Over the years, you can learn more and more constellations. You can add as many constellations as you want to your umbrella star chart. If you make the constellations smaller, you can fit in quite a few. We just placed some basic ones to give you the idea. The sky is the limit on what you can create on this star chart!


A great activity to do right after making this umbrella star chart is to get in your car and drive away from the city one clear night, to go looking for these constellations:

If you want to see some hands-on activities for elementary astronomy, here you go:

If you want to see our high school astronomy curriculum and some fun field trips we did, go here:

We have done so many more activites for astronomy over the years, which we have inside the Astronomy Unit Study article in the Unit Study Treasure Vault. Hope you enjoyed this activity as much as we did!


Tuesday, June 19th, 2012


Stargazing is a wonderful evening activity for your entire family. Try to go outside the city to adjust your eyes to the dark. The further away from the city lights you are, the better. Before you leave home, look up and make sure there are no clouds.

Take a sleeping bag to open up on the ground. A sleeping bag is better than a blanket because it’s waterproof on the outside, so if the ground is wet, it won’t soak through. A sleeping bag is also softer on the inside than most blankets. You will also want a flashlight with red cellophane taped over it, to look at a star chart. It takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, so turn off your headlights and don’t use any light except red light, which doesn’t affect your eyes.

Start by looking for the Big Dipper. The Big Dipper points to the North Star, and you can find all the other constellations from there. Orion is easy to pick out in the sky as well. Look for his belt first (the three lined-up stars), then his shoulders and legs. See how many constellations your kids can find.

You may want to borrow a telescope or some binoculars to see star clusters, nebulae, or planets. We have seen the moons on Jupiter and the rings on Saturn with our telescope. On nights with a full moon, we just focus on the craters of the moon, since the light of the moon makes it hard to see the stars, even if the night is clear.