Finding constellations is remarkably easy with a little help. We’ve written an entire series of entries about how to find constellations and summer is the perfect time to get started. With our easy guides, you can find over a dozen constellations. We’ve picked five constellations that every child can find on their own with a little practice. To get full details on each constellation, click on the link. (Note: Some constellations are seasonal as we’ve noted.)
Big & Little Dipper
The great thing about the Big and Little Dipper (also called Ursa Major and Ursa Minor) is that they can be seen year-round in the northern hemisphere. Further, they are highly recognizable and in close proximity to one another. As a bonus, if you find these two constellations, you’ve also found Polaris, the North Star.
Orion is primarily a winter constellation, but it can be seen in the early morning hours on some summer nights. The great thing about Orion is that it is very obvious and difficult to mistake for anything. There are three equally spaced, equally bright stars that make up Orion’s belt, so anyone can find it. The bonus on this constellation is that the stars come with great names: Rigel, Betelgeuse, and Bellatrix. There is also a nice cluster that is actually many times larger than our galaxy that represents Orion’s sword.
My favorite constellation is Scorpius because it looks exactly like a scorpion. The good news is that it’s easy to find. The bad news is that it is only visible in mid summer because it is so far south. Scorpius is very beautiful, though, and at the heart of the Scorpion is a bright red star called Antares.
Not very many people can find Cygnus the Swan, but it is an important constellation. For one thing it is very large. It also flies directly along the Milky Way, so if you can find it, you can also see the Milky Way if you’re away from city lights. Cygnus is also visible year round and generally soars directly overhead here in Utah. The bonus on this constellation is that after you find Cygnus, you’ll see a whole new constellation, Lyra under the Swan’s wing.
This one is actually called an open cluster, not a constellation, but it is well known and easy to recognize. The best place to see the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, is on the Subaru logo. But if you’d like to see it in the sky, the best time is winter. You’ll see the Pleiades begin chased by Orion across the sky. If you’re able to find this asterism, you can easily find Taurus the Bull, as well.
Most Beautiful Constellation
If you’d like to find a little more difficult constellation, but one that I think is the most beautiful, look for Delphinus. This tiny constellation looks exactly like a Dolphin cresting through the sky.
Helps for Constellations
One thing that might help you as you point these stars out to your children is a laser pointer. I take my green laser pointer anytime I’ll be looking at the stars, and people are amazed at how well it points out individual stars. You can check out a star pointer on Amazon.
We also use the SkyGuide App. It costs $3, but it is well worth it for the amount of information it provides. You can hold your phone to the sky and it will tell you what any object is, as well as specific info about that star or planet. You can also receive notifications of fun night events like the ISS passing over, or meteor showers.
We have a few different constellation books that our children like to look at. Some of them have stories, other glow in the dark, but it helps them enjoy the night sky when we aren’t outside. I used these books for the pictures above.