Summer in Michigan may be known for days spent at the beach and fun road trips to our favorite destinations, but it’s also a great time to view the stars, and constellations, in the night sky. Four notable constellations can be viewed from your own backyard on a clear night in the summer, and even better at one of Michigan’s dark sky preserves such as the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City and parts of Port Crescent State Park in Port Austin. If you’re looking for a fun (and free!) activity to do with your family this summer, check out the four constellations to keep an eye out for below.
- Boötes (The herdsman)
The constellation Boötes, the herdsman, is visible in the northern hemisphere from spring through the summer and is one of the largest constellations in the sky. The constellation’s name comes from the Greek word Βοώτης, Boōtēs, which means ox driver, plowman, or herdsman. It can be seen at latitudes between 90 degrees and -50 degrees and includes five different stars.
- Libra (The scales)
The constellation Libra, the scales, is one of the thirteen constellations of the zodiac. The association with scales and balance began with the ancient Babylonians, with the scales representing the balance between the seasons as well as day and night. Libra is visible at latitudes between 65 degrees and -90 degrees and is only constellation of the zodiac that represents an object instead of an animal or a person from mythology.
- Lupus (The wolf)
The constellation Lupus, the wolf, is best seen in the northern hemisphere in June and is completely visible at latitudes between 35 degrees and -90 degrees. Lupus was first catalogued by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century. Even though it is an old constellation, Lupus is not associated with any myths.
- Ursa Minor (The little bear/little dipper)
The constellation Ursa Minor, the little bear (or little dipper to most of us), is visible in the northern hemisphere all year long. It is a circumpolar constellation, which means it is visible all night as it rotates around the north celestial pole. This iconic constellation is represented by its larger neighbor Ursa Major, the Big Dipper. Ursa Minor was first catalogued by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy and is also notable for marking the location of the north celestial pole, as it is home to Polaris, the North Star, which is located at the end of the dipper’s handle. Polaris is an important star for navigation, allowing mariners to easily identify their latitude. The little dipper can be seen at latitudes between +90d egrees and -10 degrees
Be sure to check out our other Empowered Youth blogs for more great ideas on trips and activities to do with kids.
Facts, information and images courtesy of ConstellationGuide.com.