Constellations consist of images outlined by a group of stars. It takes a trained eye and often a bit of imagination to actually see the illustration that each constellation represents. For a school project, students only need to harness glow-in-the-dark materials and some mathematical knowledge to create a constellation model.
Choosing the Constellation
The first thing that students should do for a project is to decide on what specific constellation they would like to replicate. There are about 88 constellations in the sky recognized by astronomers, with most of them named after mythological creatures. Students can also decide on what type of constellation to pick, depending on their location and the time of year -- as different constellations appear based on these criteria. Once chosen, they need to get the actual distances and sizes of the stars so that they can scale it down when creating their project.
Simple Constellation Project
For a quick and simple constellation model, purchase black poster paper, different colors of glow in the dark pens, and a ruler. Get a copy of the constellation of your choice, including the distance and size of each star. Once you have the details, replicate the constellation using the white ink and the black poster paper. Be sure that the distances of each star are scaled down to proper distances for accuracy. Once done, you can trace the constellation’s design using another glow in the dark pen with a different color. Present this poster in the dark.
The Dark Box
For a “dark box,” you need a fairly large box, different sizes of glow in the dark stars, a Styrofoam board, a set of rulers, and some glue. First, close the bottom end of the box by taping its outer flaps. Take the Styrofoam board and cut out a size that will fit inside the box. Once done, take it out and paint the Styrofoam board with black poster color. Trace out the constellation on the board using rulers and put the glow-in-the-dark stars in their required positions. Next, put the Styrofoam board with the stars back inside the box. You can present this replica two ways -- by turning out the lights in the room, or by closing the whole box and carving out two small holes for a person to peek into the box.
Classroom Ceiling Project
For a more ambitious class project, you can turn your whole classroom’s ceiling into a sky map containing several constellations. Assign groups of students to each constellation. You can use the same materials given on the projects, but always make sure that the distances and sizes of the stars are scaled down properly for an accurate representation. Using glow-in-the-dark stars is always ideal, as all you need to do to see the constellations is turn off the lights.
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