Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Look at Lights and Constellations - Countdown to Christmas - Day 20

Today's activity that the girls talked about all day was going on an evening drive to look at Christmas lights...in pajamas.  This is a pretty big deal for them because when we leave the house and get in the car, we never are wearing pajamas - not even pajama pants like we've seen people wear to the store.

Almost ready to head out
to look at Christmas lights.

So after dinner, the girls put on their coats and boots over their pajamas, and we walked outside. It was a very clear evening and Olivia said, "There's Cassiopeia."


She pointed Sophia in the right direction so she could see it, and then told me to stand right behind Sophia and look up. "See the 'W'?" she asked. And there it was...right overhead. "I've seen it about three times now," Olivia said.

The Cassiopeia constellation is one we just learned about for homeschooling (we're doing a year-long constellation study). The constellation was named after Cassiopeia, the vain and boastful queen in Greek mythology.

The Greek astronomer Ptolemy first catalogued this constellation in the second century. It is easily recognizable in the sky because of its distinctive W shape.

As we drove onto the road in front of our home, there in front of us was the constellation Orion, low on the horizon. Orion is a character is Greek mythology who was known as a giant and hunter.


The four stars marking his body (e.g., Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel) as well as the three stars in a straight row that mark his belt were very clear.

According to Donna Young's website (a homeschool mother who has a wonderful array of information and forms to help with homeschooling), "In Orion's shoulder is Betelgeuse (BET el jooze or sometimes called BEETLE juice), one of the rare supergiants and is close to 600 million miles across (1,000 million km). It is a superb red color and contrasts with Rigel, the blue star in Orion's foot."

She continues, "Rigel is a blue supergiant. Barely one-tenth the size of Betelgeuse, it is still almost 100 times the size of our Sun."

We drove around to enjoy the lights and displays in several neighborhoods. One of the homes that we all liked was beautiful in its simplicity. It was different than any of the other homes that were lit with Christmas lights and decorations.

We liked the front porch and
the simplicity of the swag, wreath, and poinsettia.

We stopped by Gammelgarden which had all the candles in the windows. We've never been by Gammelgarden at night, so it was nice to see it decorated for the holiday season.

Gammelgarden at night.

In a few days, on Christmas Eve, we'll go out again and look at more lights in different neighborhoods. We do this each year after the girls sing at the family service at church. It's become a tradition, and one that we look forward to doing each year.

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