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Spaceship Earth Unit
Why do the stars change with the seasons?
Mystery 4 image
Why do the stars change with the seasons?
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DISCUSS:
Take about 30 seconds to find the constellation in this starry sky. Then discuss: What season was this picture taken in?

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AND THE ANSWER IS...
...Scorpius the Scorpion--it's SUMMER!

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DISCUSS:
Take about 30 seconds to find the constellation in this starry sky. Then discuss: What season was this picture taken in?

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AND THE ANSWER IS...
...Cygnus the Swan--it's AUTUMN!

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DISCUSS:

Why do we see different constellations each season? Do you have any ideas that might explain it?

My friend Anthony thought it was because the Earth spins. Do you agree with this idea? Why or why not?

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DISCUSS:

Do you have any more ideas about WHY we might be seeing different constellations each season?

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You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading, and extension activity in the extensions.

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Extensions

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & exploration which you just completed.
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Activity: ELA & Geography Activities

  • Sky Heroes — Students work in groups to identify a hero and to create a constellation to honor that person. Activity created by PBS is here and sky maps are here.

  • Finding Your Way to Mars, Pennsylvania — Students search the atlas for towns and natural landmarks with astronomical names.

  • Adopt a Constellation — Students research and write about their favorite constellation — which could be a familiar star pattern or a constellation from another culture.

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Activity: Adopt a Constellation

Have each student adopt a constellation and write about it.

The NASA Starchild website tells four stories from different cultures inspired by constellations.

You can find Native American myths related to stars on the Native Languages of the Americas website. A list of books that tell a Native American and African star myths is here.

A list of constellations that the ancient Greeks saw can be found here. You can search these constellations alphabetically or by season for more information.

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Online Resource: Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)

Each day, APOD features a different photograph of the universe, along with a short explanation by an astronomer. There's also a searchable APOD Archive.

Here are a few photos to get you started:

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Vocabulary Tip: Rotate vs. Revolve

Two words you will sometimes see to describe the Earth’s two movements are “rotate” and “revolve.” “Rotate” is the word used to describe Earth’s spin around its axis, which it completes once each day. “Revolve” is the word used to describe the Earth’s movement in its orbit around the sun, which takes one year to complete.

ROTATE = SPIN
REVOLVE = ORBIT

Both of these words start with the letter “r” and come from Latin, so at first it might be easy to mix them up. But here’s a helpful mnemonic device for keeping them straight:

“Rotate has an ‘a’ like ‘axis’.”

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Exploration
astronaut by NASA / Moved elements
kid looking out window by Unsplash / Heavily modified
foreground by Gino , used under CC BY / Heavily modified
fire by suman76 / merged with other imagery
stars by Stellarium / Some used with overlays, some heavily modified
winter ground by Denali National Park and Preserve , used under CC BY / Heavily modified
Orion Nebula by Rawastrodata , used under CC BY-SA / cropped, adjusted color, merged with other images
Pleiades star cluster by The United States Naval Observatory / cropped
spring ground by Carole a , used under CC BY-SA / Heavily modified
lion part 1 by 123 Free Vectors / Heavily modified
lion part 2 by Kaz / Heavily modified
Copernicus by Marcello Bacciarelli / significant modifications
Galileo by Félix Parra / cropped, adjusted contrast
star timelapse by John Fowler , used under CC BY / changed speed and color
sun by cheifyc / Heavily modified
pencil by JohannPoufPouf / Heavily modified
man by ClkerFreeVectorImages / Heavily modified
looking through binoculars by Halfblue , used under CC BY-SA / Heavily modified
Overview
Grade 5th
Topic Sun, Moon, Stars, & Planets
Focus Seasonal Patterns & Earth's Orbit
Print Prep
Activity Prep

In this Mystery, students will be introduced to the Earth’s orbital movement around the Sun, as a means of seeing why the constellations change. In the activity, Universe-in-a-Box, students make a paper model that helps them visualize the Earth’s yearly orbit around the Sun. They use this model to understand why some constellations are only visible during part of the year. Formerly Mystery 3 in this unit. Moved to Mystery 4 on 12/31/18.

Preview activity

Number of students:
Constellation Guide & Universe-in-a-Box (Northern Hemisphere) worksheet
Alternatively, you can print our Southern Hemisphere version.
Print 30 copies
Universe-in-a-Box Answer Key worksheet Print 1 copy
Universe-in-a-Box Teacher Tips worksheet Print 1 copy
Rulers
30 rulers
Scissors
30 pairs
Paper Fasteners
30 fasteners
Prep Instructions

No prep required.

Overview
Grade 5th
Topic Sun, Moon, Stars, & Planets
Focus Seasonal Patterns & Earth's Orbit
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