People have always looked to the night sky to mark time, navigate and contemplate the immensity of the universe. Along with camping, stargazing is one of my favorite activities in the summer. It’s a great way to spend time with friends and family away from a screen, and it encourages creative storytelling. Did you know the sky is full of heroes rescuing princesses, musicians playing enchanting melodies and creatures roaming the sky? How exciting! Constellations are patterns of stars that people long ago identified as certain mythological creatures, gods and goddesses. We are most familiar with the Greek and Roman myths, but many cultures have their own variation of the constellations.
See if you can find these constellations, then share their story with your family. Kids will have fun finding their own patterns and creating new stories to share!
Perseus rescued Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus. Her parents, King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia, threw a feast because they were so happy she was safe. You can find Perseus close to Andromeda, her parents and the sea monster.
These constellations can be best viewed during certain seasons:
Andromeda and Perseus– fall and winter
Cassiopeia– all year
Cepheus– late fall
Cetus– fall and winter
Arion was a famous singer who was travelling around the world singing at different events. Wicked men wanted to steal all of his money and trophies. To escape, Arion sang a song and the sea creatures came up to listen. He jumped on the back of a dolphin and they swam to safety. You can view Delphinus in the late summer.
Ursa Major and Ursa Minor
There are many myths associated with Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. In several myths, Callisto, a nymph, is turned into a bear by an enemy. Her son went hunting one day and, not knowing the bear was his mother, lifted his spear. Zeus, the king of the gods, tried to prevent the disaster by turning her son into a bear and placing them both in the sky for safety.
Ursa major can be seen all year round, but it is most visible in the spring. You will probably recognize the Big Dipper, which makes up seven of the stars in Ursa Major. Ursa Minor, otherwise known as the Little Dipper, can also be seen year round but is best viewed in the summer.
If you need some help locating the stars, or if you want to learn even more stories, check out some of these books that are available at DBRL.
- “Dot-to-Dot in the Sky” by Joan Marie Galat
- “Once Upon a Starry Sky” by Jacqueline Mitton
- “Zoo in the Sky” by Jacqueline Mitton
- “The Constellation Orion” by Arnold Ringstad
For more night sky fun, join us this summer for “Party With the Stars!” Everyone who participates in June and July will be given a free lunar map in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. This program takes place at the Columbia Public Library on June 21, July 26, and August 23.