Introduction: Constellation Flashlight
The night sky is filled with thousands of stars that make up many different constellations, but during the day you can only see one star, the Sun. Of course, waiting for the Sun to set and watching the stars come out at night is the best way to view the constellations, but what if you could view the constellations during the day? Now you can by making your own constellation flashlight!
Constellations are a group of stars that form an imaginary outline or pattern typically representing animals, inanimate objects or characters from mythology. Constellations have been used by humans for thousands of years as tools to guide travelers on land and sea, to help farmers know when to plant and harvest their crops and as representations of gods and goddesses worshiped by people throughout history. There are 88 official constellations so you have plenty to choose from! In this activity, you can choose as many constellations as you want and see them light up with your flashlight!
● A sheet of paper (Preferably blue or black construction paper, but any paper will do!)
● White-colored pencil (Or a black sharpie or white crayon)
● Tape (Or a glue stick)
● Nail (Or a push pin, awl, needle or something pointy)
● Access to constellation patterns
Step 1: Trace a Constellation Circle
Place the flashlight upside down on the paper and trace the circle around the flashlight. If your flashlight is not completely circular like mine, it may take a little trial and error to get the right-sized circle.
Step 2: Cut Out Constellation Circle
Cut out your constellation circle. Make sure it fits in the lighted portion of the flashlight snuggly with little room for light around the sides. You will use it as a template for all the other constellation circles.
Step 3: Trace More Constellation Circles From Template
Use your circle to trace out as many circles as you want. Remember there are 88 constellations to choose from!
Step 4: Cut Out All Constellation Circles
Cut out all of the circles you traced. I made three, but you can always make more!
Step 5: Draw Constellations
Choose which constellations you want to draw. Some constellations like Triangulum, Cassiopeia and Cygnus are easier to draw, while Orion, Hercules and Virgo are more complex constellations. Draw these with your white pencil to make it easier to see. Don’t forget to name your constellations too!
In addition to just constellations, there are asterisms that you can use as well. Asterisms are a group or pattern of stars that just aren’t officially recognized as a constellation. Some asterisms are part of larger constellations like the Big and Little Dippers. The dippers belong to official constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. Other asterisms are made of stars from different constellations like the Summer Triangle. The Summer Triangle is comprised of the star Vega (found in Lyra), Deneb (found in Cygnus) and Altair (found in Aquila).
Step 6: Poke Out Stars in Constellation Drawings (Parent Help Needed for This Step)
With your parent’s help, carefully poke out the stars in your constellations. Any stars near the edge of the paper are more likely to rip so be extra careful when poking those stars out. Poke out all the stars in all of your constellation circles.
Every constellation has a story associated with it, see what stories your constellations are a part of!
Step 7: Tape Constellation Circles to Flashlight
Tape your constellation circle to your flashlight. Because of the ridges on my flashlight, I found it easier to roll a piece of tape and stick it on the back of the circle. But you can also attach the circle using pieces on the sides. Just make sure the tape isn’t blocking any stars!
Some constellations are a part of the same mythological story! Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Andromeda, Perseus, Pegasus and Cetus are all characters and beings in a very famous Greek story!
Step 8: Test Constellation Flashlight
Take the flashlight into a dark room, turn it on and see your constellations light up like in the real night sky!
Some constellations can be seen in the Northern hemisphere, while others are only visible in the Southern Hemisphere. See what new constellations you can learn!