WX 101: Basic Constellations

Weather 101: Middle
In this Weather 101 we’ll talk about a few constellations that are fairly easy to locate.  The stars that make up these constellations are typically some of the brightest in the sky.  We’ll break down the sky in two parts, the northern sky, and the southern sky.  The Northern sky doesn’t really change too much for us in the northern hemisphere, but it does rotate around the north star.  The southern sky is different depending on the season and we’ll be focusing on the winter part of the sky. 

Note:  We’re describing the sky for January 1st at midnight.  The sky will rotate through the night and the year as well.  Be sure to use a constellation wheel which you can download, print and make with this link. 

Northern Sky
Big Dipper – If you can find the Big Dipper, you can find pretty much any other constellation in the northern sky.  The big dipper is actually a smaller part of a larger constellation known as Ursa major, or “the big bear.”  The big dipper looks like a pan, or a scoop as you can see in the image above (use the image slideshow above to view images).  On January 1st, it will be nearly vertical just a few degrees east of north. 

Little Dipper – From the Big Dipper you can find the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) pretty easy.  If you draw a line through the first two stars of the Big Dipper, that line will point to the north start, which, is due north.  That is the end of the handle of Little Dipper and at midnight on January 1st, it hangs from there. 

Cepheus – If you keep that line going, you’ll end up with at the crown of Cepheus, the king of the sky.  For the time we’re talking about, From his crown, you can see his other pieces of jewelry.  He has two rings, and two tow rings.  He looks like a square with a triangle on top. 

Cassiopeia – Cassiopeia is the queen of the sky and she’s sitting on his right hand side (your left).  She is made of 5 starts and should look like she’s sitting down, looking at her husband.  Once again, look at the pictures above to see what she looks like on January 1st. 

Draco – Draco, the dragon, winds through the other northern constellations.  He starts with a line that starts between The Big and Little Dipper, curves around the little dipper and then turns towards the horizon.  (See picture above). 

Southern Sky
Orion – Orion is one of the most popular constellations, especially in the winter month and is the hunter of the sky.  At midnight on January 1st, he is located nearly directly south about 45 degrees above the horizon.  Start by finding the three stars that are bright.  This makes his belt.  His shoulders and knees are also marked by stars.  His right hand is raised and he has a bow in his left hand.  See the picture above. 

Canis Major – The “big dog” of the sky is made up of many stars, just below and to the left of Orion.  Sirius is one of the brightest objects in the sky and makes up the nose of the dog.  From there, the ears, legs, body and tail are all represented with different stars. 

Canis Minor – The “small dog” is just two stars.  This dog is located just to the left of Orion’s elbow in his raised arm. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.