It is a great time of the year to start astronomy and having taught it to eleven and twelve year olds, I can tell you that children love the stars.
The constellations are a wonderful way for children to learn about history, maths, astronomy as well as mythology.
One of the simplest ways to start to know the constellations is to begin with a ‘charismatic’ on and there is no constellation more charismatic and more recognisable than Orion. Just before we go on, we are starting our Forest School sessions on 5 Jan.
To help you keep your new year’s resolutions to spend more time outdoors we have reduced our Jan/Feb prices to £15 per session for each child.
If you would like to take advantage of this offer, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also book a session here.
Back to Orion! Visible in the skies from around 8 pm at night, it ‘rises’ till quite late and you can track it all the way across the skies till bedtime.
Locate Orion by looking for his ‘belt’ – which are the three stars in a straight line. Orion was such a distinctive constellation that even in the ancient past, our Babylonian astronomers – we follow the Babylonian tradition – already spotted him. And all the starts in Orion have Arabic names. The three stars are called Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. However the two biggest stars, literally are Betelgeuse and Rigel. Betelgeuse is actually orange in colour, as a star you can see that, and Rigel is blue.
GO OUTSIDE NOW – OR LATER THIS EVENING – TO LOOK AT ORION.
How can you help your child to start to map the stars?
- You can get a star chart or map – or better still download an app on it.
- Locate Orion on it. Then do the same in the night sky.
- Then get some black paper and a white colour pencil and draw Orion out in it. You could even learn the Greek alphabet using it. Each major star has its own Greek alphabet in order of precedence.
- Here is the story of Orion, the Great Hunter. You can tell the story of Orion while looking at the constellation or drawing it on paper.
- Orion was likely the son of the sea-god Poseidon and Euryale, daughter of Minos, King of Crete. Orion could walk on the waves because of his father; he walked to the island of Chios where he got drunk and attacked Merope, daughter of Oenopion, the ruler there. In vengeance, Oenopion blinded Orion and drove him away. Orion stumbled to Lemnos where Hephaestus—the smith-god—had his forge. Hephaestus told his servant, Cedalion, to guide Orion to the uttermost East where Helios, the Sun, healed him; Orion carried Cedalion around on his shoulders. Orion returned to Chios to punish Oenopion, but the king hid away underground and escaped Orion’s wrath. Orion’s next journey took him to Crete where he hunted with the goddess Artemis and her mother Leto, and in the course of the hunt, threatened to kill every beast on Earth. Mother Earth (Apollo in some versions, disapproving of his sister’s relationship with a male) objected and sent a giant scorpion to kill Orion. The creature succeeded, and after his death, the goddesses asked Zeus to place Orion among the constellations. Zeus consented and, as a memorial to the hero’s death, added the Scorpion to the heavens as well.
- Finally locate Sirius, the Dog Star. I’ll write about Sirius tomorrow!