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Locating the Circumpolar Constellations
By Shannon Jackson
1 When you look up at the night sky, what do you see? People from many cultures have looked up at night and used the star groups, or constellations as they are called, to tell stories. Simple shepherds more than 5,000 years ago had many stories about the stars and constellations, even though they couldn't read or write. Some of the names sound strange because we still use the names given long ago. Do you want some tips about how to find some of these pictures in the sky?
2 For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, five constellations are always in our northern sky. Other groupings appear seasonally and then disappear as they fall below the horizon. There are five constellations, however, which seem to circle Polaris (po-LAIR-us), also known as the North Star. The North Star always stays put while the other stars and constellations move around it. Polaris marks the North Pole for you. Of eighty-eight constellations, five are circling the North Pole, so we say they are circumpolar (circling the pole). And because they are always in our night sky in the northern hemisphere, these five circumpolar constellations are a good starting point in learning the constellations.
3 Choose a cloudless night. Begin your star connection with the most famous of all star pictures - Ursa Major, the Great Bear. Within this constellation is the Big Dipper. Some people think the Big Dipper is a constellation by itself. It is not. It is a part of the constellation Ursa Major.
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