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Uploaded:2015-04-30
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For a long time, people have seen pictures among the stars -- just like connect the dots! Learn all about constellations, including someone of the easiest ones to spot, and what some people thought they looked like.
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SOURCES:

http://earthsky.org/favorite-star-patterns/big-and-little-dippers-highlight-northern-sky
http://www.space.com/27758-big-dipper.html
http://stardate.org/nightsky/constellations/orion
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/28/opinion/sunday/stargazing-is-better-in-the-southern-hemisphere.html?_r=0
(Intro Music)

Jessi: Oh hey guys! It's just gotten dark here, so we're spending a little time before bed looking at the night sky. And sometimes, we like to look up at the stars and make up funny stories about the things that we see. Have you ever looked up at the clouds during the day and thought about what they looked like? A duck, an alligator, a shark, or even a bear? Well, people do the same thing with the stars, and they've done so for thousands of years.

I'm sure you've noticed on a nice clear night how there are so many stars in the sky. More than you can probably count. Some stars look brighter to us than others, and the darker it is where you live (like if you're really far from the lights of a city) the more stars you can see. And for a long time people have seen pictures among certain groups of stars, just like connect the dots. 

These groups of stars are sometimes called constellations. And scientists still use the names of these constellations to describe different parts of the night sky. Probably the most famous group of stars that's easiest to find is the Big Dipper. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you can spot it pretty easily in the northern part of the sky. It's made of seven bright stars, and if you connect the dots of those stars, you'll see a big squarish bowl with a really long handle sticking out of it. In the United States, some people thought the stars looked like a big ladle or spoon, so they called it the Big Dipper.

But just like the fluffy clouds we were talking about, groups of stars can look different to different people. In Great Britain for example, the same seven stars are called The Plough because they were thought to look like a farmer's plough. And people in Germany thought it looked like a wagon. And those same stars also reminded lots of ancient people of a giant bear. 

Scientists today consider the Big Dipper to be part of a bigger constellation that they call "Ursa Major" for "Great Bear." The Big Dipper is easiest to find in the summer when it's higher in the sky. 

But in the winter you should look for another famous constellation, Orion. The first part that you'll probably see are the three bright stars in a row. In Ancient Greece, stargazers thought that they looked like the belt of a great hunter. The thought the two bright stars above it would be where his shoulders were. And the two stars below it? His legs. The more people looked, the more other things they saw. And if you use your imagination and follow the stars from one of his shoulders, you can see another group of stars like he's holding on to something like a shield. And what are those fuzzy lights hanging from his belt? Kind of looks like a sword!

There's a lot more to Orion than just a few stars. That's why when astronomers talk about constellations, they don't just mean the few stars that might look like something. They also mean all of the other stuff in that part of the night sky. So part of what gives Orion's sword it's fuzzy brightness is a distant cloud of gas and dust called the Orion Nebula. That's part of the Orion constellation too. 

So what if you live in the Southern Hemisphere? Then keep your eyes open for the Crux, the smallest of the constellations. It's still pretty easy to find (especially in the winter) because of the four bright stars that make a cross, which is what its name means. 

The Southern Hemisphere is also a great to find Sagittarius, a constellation that reminded Ancient Greeks of a creature that was part man, part horse shooting an arrow. For most people, the easiest way to find it is to look for the eight stars that make this shape. To me it looks more like a teapot, but that's why it's fun to make up stories. 

So the next time that you're outside and it's dark, look up and see if you can find any of these constellations or other groups of stars. Or you could just make up your own. Okay Squeaks, let's find something that looks like a rat. See you next time on SciShow Kids!


(Outro Music)