Mia and Mommy were gazing at the night sky from their terrace.
“When we were kids, we often gathered at the terrace soon after dinner. We would sit around grandpa to listen to his stories about the stars and moon,” began Mommy.
“Wow, stories?!” exclaimed Mia.
“Yes. Let me tell you an interesting story about the North Star today,” said Mommy.
“What is a North Star, Mommy?” asked Mia.
“Before we begin, let us discuss about directions. Do you know the four directions, Mia?” questioned Mommy.
“Sun rises in the East and sets in the West,” answered Mia.
“That’s right. East and West are two of the four directions. There are two more: North and South,” explained Mommy.
(Exercise I: Make sure your child can identify right and left, before you read on. Now follow Mommy and Mia.)
“Mia, imagine you are facing the North direction. Now turn towards your right. You are facing East now, where Sun rises in the morning. Again turn towards your right. You are facing South now. Once again, turn towards your right. You are facing West now, where Sun sets in the evening. Turn for one last time towards your right. Which direction are you facing now?”
Mommy continued, “Now how do we know which is actual North?”
“What is actual North, Mommy?” asked Mia.
“In the exercise above, to begin with, we assumed you are facing North. What if you had turned to your right and then assumed it to be the North?”
“Oops! All the directions would have changed their positions then,” reasoned Mia.
“Exactly! That is why we need to find the actual North.
“How do we find the actual North, Mommy?” asked Mia.
“By simply looking at the night sky!” replied Mommy.
“That sounds interesting!” exclaimed Mia.
“It is! In earlier days, sailors read the sky for navigation.” said Mommy.
“What is Navigation, Mommy?” asked Mia.
“Navigation is identifying where one is and finding the direction towards which he has to move in order to reach his destination,” explained Mommy.
“That is what the GPS device in dad’s car did when we went to the picnic, last week, isn’t it?” asked Mia.
“You got it, Mia! The GPS device helped us to navigate to the place where we wanted to reach,” said Mommy. “Like how GPS is a tool for navigation, nature has provided us with some tools too, for navigation. Come, let’s take a look at the sky to find nature’s navigator, the North Star.”
(Exercise II for Parents and Kids who live in the Northern hemisphere: Make sure that your child is familiar with how a kite looks like. You may use a real kite or a picture of a kite to help your child get familiar. Take your child to the terrace on a clear-sky night. Now follow Mommy and Mia.)
“Mia, take a thorough look at the stars that are widely spread across the sky. Tell me when you can identify a group of stars that resemble a kite,” instructed Mommy, pointing to the sky.
Mia looked up quickly and immediately said disappointed, “No Mommy, I don’t see.”
“Well, you only focussed at one part of the sky that you are facing from where you are standing. Now look at the sky again while turning around yourself, standing at the same place. Tell me if you see a kite-like structure in the sky,” instructed Mommy.
Soon after Mia turned around, she exclaimed, “Yes, here it is, I see the kite!” pointing to the group of stars that formed the kite.
“Good job, Mia.” appreciated Mommy.
“Can you count the stars that form the kite?” asked Mommy.
Mia beagn counting, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.”
“Well done, Mia! These seven stars make a structure that resembles a kite. This structure is called as Saptarishi Mandal in Sanskrit and Big Dipper in English. As you know, a kite has a face and a tail. Look closely at the stars which make the face of the kite. Identify two of the stars that are at the farthest end from the tail. Follow this drawing I pen now. This is the Big Dipper. Can you identify these two stars in the sky?” asked Mommy, pointing to the stars she had coloured in yellow.
“Yes, Mommy,” answered Mia.
“Good. Now try to draw a line, with your vision, that connects the two stars and bring it further down. Follow what I draw now,” Mommy continued, “Do you see a bright star now?”
“Yes, Mommy!” Mia sounded excited.
“Great! This star is called Dhruv Nakshatra in Sanskrit. It is also called as North Star or Polaris in English,” explained Mommy. “The North Star indicates the direction of the North. If we were to live at Earth’s North pole, the North Star would be directly above our heads. We shall learn about Earth’s poles, another day. If you follow closely, you will find another smaller kite with its tail end at the North Star.”
“Yes, it’s too smaller though,” said Mia.
“Yes. That’s why it is called as the Little Dipper. If we were to come to the terrace after a few hours, say three hours from now, The Big Dipper and the Little Dipper would have changed their positions. However, the North Star would remain at the same place. That is because, as Earth rotates, The Big Dipper and the Little Dipper keep swinging around the North Star. The North Star is like a hog of a wheel, around which other stars seem to revolve. That is why, no matter where we are (in the Northern hemisphere) and at what time of the night, the North Star will always point the North direction,” explained Mommy.
“This is so interesting, Mommy! Shall we come to the terrace every night to see the North Star?” asked Mia.
“Of course, yes! And I shall tell you more stories from grandpa’s night sky collection,” replied Mommy.
If you could locate the North Star with your children, please leave a line here. I would love to hear your experience.
Keep a watch for the next story on the blog to read how Mia applies her knowledge of the North Star when she gets stuck in the middle of the sea, along with Grandpa.
This story was first published at Momspresso on November 1st, 2018.