Teacher Site Map
6th Grade Core
USOE Science Home Page
What is a constellation?

Have you ever sat outside and watched the clouds go by? It’s fun to look for cloud shapes that remind you of things that you recognize. People like the ancient Greeks, Romans, and other early cultures watched the night sky. They played the same game with celestial bodies (remember, they didn’t have television or video games). They looked for patterns of stars called constellations. They compared the patterns to mythological characters, animals, and other familiar objects.

When you look at a constellation from Earth it looks like spots of light arranged in a particular shape against the dark night sky. If you were to travel to each of these stars, you would see that none of these stars are near each other in space. Astronomers currently divide the sky into 88 constellations.

Depending on where you live on Earth, you can only see certain constellations during certain seasons of the year. For instance, in the Northern Hemisphere you would be able to see Polaris (the North Star-the North Pole points to Polaris) all the time. But, in the Southern Hemisphere you wouldn’t ever be able to see Polaris. The constellation Orion is visible in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months, but while you’re camping in the summer, you won’t be able to see it.


The following are a few of the most common constellations for you to look at. Can you tell how each constellation got its name? Use these constellations for the activity.

Seven Sisters

The Big Dipper



The Little Dipper




Extension Activity:

For more fun: go to http://www.funbrain.com/constellation/index.html

This is a game called Space Hopper that identifies constellations and their myths.



solar_system_image size_motion_distance_image microorganism_image Heat_light_and_sound_image

Get the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader , and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 6th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

Science Home Page | Curriculum Home Page | 6th Science Core | USOE Home Page

Copyright Utah State Office of Education.