Navigating the stars and identifying constellations can seem like a daunting task until you learn how to pick out a few constellations first and expand your knowledge from there. The night sky changes throughout the year, so you will want to start identifying the constellations present during the current season. Once you learn to use a star chart and recognise star patterns, the constellations will begin to jump out at you easily. Test your constellation knowledge by using online educational quizzes.
Look at a star chart for the current season of the year. Study the shape of the big dipper first, as this star pattern is visible throughout the year and easily identifiable in the night sky. The big dipper makes up most of the star constellation Ursa Major. Locate the other stars on the chart that make up Ursa Major and their relative position to the big dipper.
Use Ursa Major's location as a reference point, and begin to learn the constellations closest to it. Make note if the other constellations are located north, south, east or west of Ursa Major.
Memorise the star patterns that make up each constellation. Note where the brighter stars are located in each constellation. For example, Ursa Minor which encompasses the little dipper, contains the brightest star in the sky, Polaris or the north star, but also has four dim stars in the constellation. Memorise the constellations closest to Ursa Major first then work your way outward in each direction.
Take the star chart outside on a clear night. Try to identify the constellations in the sky without looking at the star chart. Refer to the chart as needed to check your identification skills. Once you have mastered the season you are currently in, begin working on the following season. Go outside on each clear night throughout the year to continue to test your star navigating skills.
- Use online quizzes to speed up your constellation memorisation.
- night sky image by Sergey Galushko from Fotolia.com