Stars Activity Sheets

Our Space@Home Stars Activity Sheets are full of hands-on stellar activities for you to do at home…

this is where you’ll find solutions to some of the activities and some extra info explaining what’s going on.

Star Word Search

For this word search, you need to find hidden star words in the grid. The words are either star names or have something to do with stars. Many of these are ancient Arabic words so can be tricky to say out loud.

Did you know…

Betelgeuse means armpit of the giant in Arabic!

Here’s the solution

Walk Among the Stars

What’s going on?

When we look at the stars on a clear dark night, they look like little lights on a big black sphere. In fact they’re not little, they’re actually very big and some of them are absolutely huge. Some of them are huge and very, very far away, making them look tiny!

Constellations are groups of bright stars that make imaginary pictures (there are 88 constellations all together), but asterisms are shapes made by the brightest stars – not always in the same constellation.

Some stars are much further away than others. A constellation like Orion has quite a few bright stars, but they’re not all in the same location in space – the big, far-away stars look as bright as the smaller ones nearer to us, making them all look about as bright as each other. From where we are on Earth, stars make pictures or patterns that look familiar to us (Orion is a mortal hunter), but if we were on another planet (like Proxima Centauri b), the same stars would make completely different patterns!

Here we can see the stars in the constellation of Orion. You can see that the stars are not all in the same location in space.

Plot a Star Pattern

Plots are like really cool puzzles – astronomers and mathematicians do these. Make sure you follow the instructions in this activity really carefully and you should make a star pattern that looks familiar. In North America, people call the pattern The Big Dipper, but here we call it something else.

Here’s the solution

Q&As

QUESTION: What’s the name of this pattern?
ANSWER: The Plough

QUESTION: What’s the name of the constellation it’s part of?
ANSWER: Ursa Major

Make a Wave Machine

What’s going on?

When you let go of the skewer in the wave machine, you release potential energy which transfers to kinetic energy and propagates (sends a wave) through the machine. The radio part of the electromagnetic spectrum (see below) has waves that measure between 1cm and 100m. So the waves you make with your wave machine are a good representation of radio waves.

The electromagnetic spectrum

Starlight can be thought of as a wave, or a tiny thing called a particle. For this activity, we’re treating it as a wave. There are different types of light – or radiation – and each has a different wavelength.

Q&As

QUESTION: If you take half the jelly sweets off the skewers, does it make any difference to the wave?
ANSWER: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you describe how the wave changes?
ANSWER: It goes quicker where the sweets have been taken off.

QUESTION: Now take all of the jelly sweets off the skewers and send another wave through the wave machine. What’s happening to the wave now?
ANSWER: It’s quicker all the way along.

Measure the Speed of Light

What’s going on?

For this experiment, wavelength is the distance between two crests or two troughs along a wave of light. In the microwave oven, margarine melts in hotspots on the bread. These hotspots correspond to ‘antinodes’, or the sites of highest energy (the nodes have the lowest energy). When measuring between the hotspots, you only measure half the wavelength, λ. So by multiplying your measurement by 2, your result gives the measurement of the full wavelength, or wave cycle.

Here’s the solution

Equation for the speed of light

With your calculator, you will multiply your wavelength (from the margarine hotspots) with your frequency (from the microwave) to find the speed of light in a microwave oven. Your result should be a big number, something like this:

2,450,000,000 m/s

Light travels faster in space – about 3 billion metres per second (m/s) – because there’s no air to slow it down.

Nail Varnish Rainbow

What’s going on?

When you finish the activity, you should be able to see rainbows on the black paper.

This experiment shows refraction. As light travels through thicker substances (where the nail varnish is thickest), the light slows down and shows longer (redder) wavelengths. Where light travels through thinner substances (where the nail varnish is thinest), it speeds up and shows shorter (bluer) wavelengths. The change in wavelength is what changes the colour that gets reflected back to us. Since nail varnish is thicker than air, refraction occurs. The nail varnish gets thinner as it spreads across the water, so we see different wavelengths – or colours.

White light entering a prism is bent, or refracted. This separates the light into different wavelengths. Each wavelength of light has a different colour based on the angle at which it bends. The colours of white light always emerge through a prism in the same order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

Magic Arrows

What’s going on?

When you pour water into the glass, the bottom arrow flips direction. It does this because of refraction. When light changes from going through a thin substance (air) to going through a thicker one (water), the light bends and makes the image (arrow) look back-to-front. Here the water acts like a lens in a telescope… a refractor telescope flips images of space in just the same way.

Try this…

Try drawing different things, like two vertical bars in different colours or a winking smily face, and see what happens when you pour in the water.

Did you know…

Light from the Sun is refracted through Earth’s atmosphere which causes it to scatter (bend) towards the blue part of the spectrum (rainbow) creating a blue sky. At sunrise and sunset, sunlight is stretched and refracted towards the red part of the spectrum, making beautiful colours at the start and end of the day.

Some space clouds – called reflection nebulae – also scatter (or refract) starlight; usually, but not always, towards the blue part of the spectrum. Perhaps they should be called refraction nebulae!

Make a Sun Flip Book

What’s going on?

When you flip through the pages of your little book, the Sun looks like it’s turning. That’s because each photograph was taken a day apart and as you flip through the book and the pages are turning fast, it looks a bit like a movie, taken over 15 days and speeded up!

Make a Sun Flip Book activity sheet

If you want to make more Sun Flip Books, or want to share it with friends, you can download more here.

Did you know…

The pictures used in this activity were taken in January 2015 when the Sun was very active (called solar maximum). The pictures were taken with the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) – a NASA space observatory in orbit around the Earth. The SDO is part of NASA’s Living With a Star program that helps us understand the affects of the Sun on life here on Earth.

The Sun takes about 27 days to turn once on its axis – by comparison, the Earth takes only 24 hours to turn once. Sometimes the Sun has lots of dark blotches called sunspots (at solar maximum) and sometimes it has none (at solar minimum). These come and go in an 11-year cycle.