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Stories in the Stars

Clear summer nights in the Biosphere are perfect times to go stargazing! If you’ve been stargazing before, you know how amazing it is to lie back, look up, and see a sky full of wonders. If you’ve never gotten the chance before, here’s a helpful guide!

Our summer skies are spectacular, but have you ever noticed that the stars change throughout the seasons? Constellations and planets easily visible during the winter or fall are nowhere to be seen during the summer – why is that? Let’s look into it!

Circling the Sun

The changing constellations have everything to do with the Earth’s movement around the sun. Did you know that you can actually see winter constellations during the summer? They’re in the sky during the daytime, so the sun’s light is blocking them! As the Earth moves around the sun throughout the year, the constellations seem to move from east to west – eventually, the constellations you see during the day shift to being the ones you see at night!

You can see here that as the earth travels around the sun throughout the year, constellations seem to ‘rise’ and then ‘set’, just like the sun!

North and South

The constellations you see also have to do with where you’re living on the earth. The Biosphere is in the Northern Hemisphere, or the top half of the Earth, and we see constellations at different times from the Southern Hemisphere. However, there are some constellations that can ONLY be seen up here in the Northern Hemisphere! That’s because even though all stars are very very far away, these special stars are close to the north pole and never ‘set’. They are called circumpolar stars – the Big and Little Dipper are both circumpolar, meaning you can see them all throughout the year!

On the next clear night, go out and see some stars!

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