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On the first Friday of every month we post educational skywatching notes for the homeschool month ahead. Here’s the monthly northern hemisphere review for February 2019, courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope’s website. It features, naturally enough during this final month of Orion Term, the Great Hunter himself and his companion the Big Dog (Canis Major):
For serious homeschool skywatchers, the weekly updates from Sky & Telescope magazine provide a wealth of additional detail. Here’s the latest one:
The best stargazing nights in February will be toward the beginning of the month — the moon will be new (and the sky darkest) on the 4th. As always, you can track the moon’s phases at the excellent timeanddate.com website.
If you want a simple astronomy project for your homeschool that will only take a few minutes, why not make it a point each month to learn the name of one star. All the brightest stars have individual names, many of them Arabic in origin, and learning those names opens up a world of discovery. You can start this month (the last month of Orion Term) by learning Betelgeuse, the bright red star that marks Orion’s left shoulder. Betelgeuse is a red giant, vastly larger than our sun; in fact, if Betelgeuse were in the position of our sun, it would engulf much of the solar system, all the way out to Jupiter. If your students can recognize Orion in the winter sky, and learn the name of Betelgeuse, they’ll have a friend for life.
What celestial observations have you made in your homeschool lately? 😊
❡ Watchers of the skies: Teaching your students to recognize the constellations is one of the simplest and most enduring gifts you can give them. The planisphere on the front of your River Houses star atlas (riverhouses.org/books) will let you dial up the northern hemisphere sky for any night of the year, and the descriptions and maps of each constellation will point out the highlights. Find a dark-sky spot near you this month and spend some quality homeschool time beneath the starry vault. 🌠 🔭 🌌