Nature

Gaze at Stars Tonight

Did you know that, on any given night, you can spot animals among the stars? We’re talking about the constellations, the shapes formed by stars when you “connect the dots.”

The Big Dipper

The Big Dipper is the most famous group of stars and an easy one to spot. You can see it in the northern sky on almost any clear night, from anywhere in North America. It is part of a larger constellation called Ursa Major (The Great Bear).

The Great Bear is one of the oldest constellations, or “star pictures.” On many nights, the Big Dipper is the only visible part of the Great Bear—the rest of the stars either are too faint or have ducked below the horizon and out of view. It looks like this:

Constellations have a rich ancient history and reflect the contributions of many different civilizations. But common to all of them were the shapes they saw in the night sky. Many of these shapes were—and still are—animals.

Learn more about constellations in Ranger Rick.

Can you find any of these animal constellations?

  • Big Dog
  • Dove
  • Bull
  • Eagle
  • Chameleon
  • Fish
  • Crab
  • Fox
  • Crane
  • Giraffe
  • Crow
  • Goat
  • Horse
  • Jaguar
  • Lion
  • Lizard
  • Lynx
  • Peacock
  • Scorpion
  • Swan
  • Swordfish
  • Toucan
  • Whale
  • Wolf

Of course, you can still look up at the sky and find shapes and stories of your own. Native Americans in California saw a flock of seven geese. The Aztecs saw a jaguar. What do you see? Draw your Constellation and tell its story to your family.