A constellation is a group of stars that form a pattern. There are 88 recognized constellations. The constellations that are visible differ throughout the year based on the revolution of the Earth around the sun. So why do people make patterns in the stars? This is something people have done for thousands of years. Constellations were used for navigating through deserts or across oceans, knowing when to plant or harvest, and as a reminder about ancient stories and myths. The Big Dipper is a very well known pattern of stars but is not a constellation in itself. It is a part of the constellation Ursa Major, also known as the Great Bear. The two stars of the Big Dipper that makes the end of the ladle point to the North Star, also called Polaris. Polaris is directly above the North Pole and is a valuable star to use for finding north. Polaris is also the last star on the handle of Ursa Minor, which we also call the Little Dipper.
Summer is on the horizon, and with it comes many warm, clear evenings. This would be a perfect time for stargazing. Some constellations you should expect to see this summer include Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, Draco, Cygnus, Hercules, Scorpius and many others. Grab your telescope and explore outer space!