Activity Time: As long as you wish!
Recommended Grades: K - 12
Objective: In this activity, you'll step outside and find constellations and planets in the night sky.
The key factor determining which stars we can see on a certain night is our latitude. Latitude is how far we are north or south of the equator. Northern New Jersey, where Liberty Science Center is located, is 40 degrees north of the equator. Thanks to the time zones, anyone at 40 degrees north—from Columbus, Ohio to Beijing, China—would see the same stars that we do in Jersey City, at the same time of night.
As Earth orbits the sun, the stars rise and set four minutes earlier each night. So a map that reflects the stars’ position at 8:00 pm on the first day of the month will reflect their position at 6:00 pm at the end of that month.
This star map shows the New Jersey sky around 8:00 pm on December 1, and 6:00 pm on December 31. That said, the changes of latitude are small enough that the map would also be helpful to stargazers anywhere in the continental US.