: To discover and examine the characteristics of a star; to take a close-up look at our star, the Sun, and its impact on the nine planets.
Observation and prediction, size discrimination, number sequence review (expanding numbers from 1 to 20) visual discrimination (difference/similarity), spatial concept recognition (near-far, larger-smaller) and directionality (left-right, front-back . . . ), and measurement through estimated, non-standard units of measure; develop and enhance language arts through journal writing, poetry and role play; discerning information-based and fiction literature.
A star is an enormous ball of glowing gas. Despite their small appearance in the night sky, stars are extremely large. Also referred to as points-of-light, they look like tiny dots because they are far away from us. From Earth, stars twinkle because starlight comes to us through moving layers of air that surround our planet. Stars shine brightly during the day and night, but we can only see them when the sky is dark and clear. (The Sun’s light is so bright during the daytime that it keeps us from seeing other stars).
Stars appear to move across the night sky. Even our star, the Sun, seems to rise in the east and set in the west. This movement comes from the rotation of the Earth, not the stars. Stars do move, but because they are so far from the Earth, their motion often goes unnoticed.
No one knows exactly how many stars there are. On a clear night, a person on Earth can see as many as 3,000 stars at a time. Most of these are the brightest stars. There are others that cannot be seen without a telescope, but they are there. The color of a star tells you its temperature. Have you ever watched the flames on a stove while your parents were cooking. You may notice that when the flames first flicker, they are orange in color, but as the burner is turned higher and stays on the longer, the flames turn blue. That color change indicates that the flame is getting hotter—but not as hot as the stars! Stars vary in temperature. The temperatures that follow provide base point figures, but give you idea of how powerful a star’s energy really is: Red stars are the coolest temperature (5,000 degrees F); yellow stars are hotter (our Sun is about 10,000 degrees F on its outer surface); and blue stars are the hottest (50,000 degrees F).
What is our Sun?
The Sun we see daily is actually one of billions of stars. It is luminescent, that is, it gives off its own powerful bright light and radiates energy. Although it appears very large to us, when compared to other stars in the galaxy (a family of stars), it is mid-sized. Like other stars, our Sun is an extremely hot ball of gas made mostly of hydrogen and helium, plus a smattering of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and neon. The temperature at its core is extremely hot (30,000,000 degrees). Our Sun is so hot that if we were to put a van near its surface that van wouldn’t melt: It would vaporize—poof, disappear just like that!
Our Sun is the major source of heat and light for each of the nine planets in our Solar System. In fact, our Solar System is called just that because our Sun is the center point of the nine planets. On our planet, the Sun helps living things like plants and animals to grow. It gives us warmth and light. Without the Sun, life on Earth would not exist.
PRECAUTION: Because the Sun gives off such powerful light and heat energy, never look directly into the Sun with the naked eye or through a lens, telescope or binoculars. An individual can permanently damage his/her eyes—even become permanently blinded by looking directly into the Sun.
How can we begin to recognize the thousands of stars in the sky?
People from differing cultures throughout the world, for endless years, have asked this question. Long ago, they made recognizing the stars easier by using their imagination and creating a connect-the-dot game in the sky. They used a pattern of stars to form a picture of something familiar—like animals, people or objects. The pictures they created are known as the constellations.
Stars that help form the constellations are usually very bright. One of the most easily recognizable constellations is the Big Dipper. It has seven stars. If you can imagine each of those stars being part of a connect-the-dot pattern, you will be able to see a ladle—a giant spoon with a curved handle—in the sky. Cassiopeia, an African (Ethiopian) queen; Orion, the hunter; and Aquila, the eagle are but a few of endless numbers of constellations found during different times of the year.
Note that if you live in large cities, where streets and buildings are ablaze with electric lights, it’s difficult to see the myriad of stars in the night sky. Bright city lights pollute our night sky, interfering with our ability to see the galactic display. It’s best to see constellations, other stars and planets in a place where it is dark enough for viewing. On a countryside away from large cities, or on a clear moonless night in a place where there is minimal electric lighting are great locales.
Also note that it takes practice to become familiar with constellations. A star chart (planisphere) can be used to help find constellations.
Shared Reading Resource: The Heavenly Zoo by Alison Lurie
“Oh Mr. Sun, Oh Mr. Moon”, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” (Song tape available in Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute: See Teacher Reference)