•  Cernan Earth and Space Center

    Magic Sky

    Grade Level: Preschool and Kindergarten 
    Length: 35 minutes
     
    Please note: There are two versions of this program – a summer/fall version (which is presented during the months of May through November) and a winter/spring version (which is presented during the months of December through April). Both versions are identical, except for one five-minute section about the current seasonal constellations. 
     
    Magic Sky provides a basic introduction to the magic of the planetarium, the cycle of day and night and the motion of objects in the sky, including the sun, moon, stars and "constellation friends." 
     
    The program begins with the narrator welcoming the audience to the planetarium. He asks the children if they are comfortable in the planetarium's big chairs, and then describes the big, round room that surrounds them. He compares the dome screen to a great, big cereal bowl turned upside-down and also identifies the "funny looking machine" in the middle of the theater as the star projector. The narrator, with the help of the children, then begins to create the daytime sky, feature by feature. He starts by asking the children to say the word "blue" three times, after which time the familiar blue sky of daytime appears. The narrator then asks the children to make clouds appear by blowing three times at the sky. Finally, the sun is then added to the sky, and after a cautionary note about never looking at the real sun in the sky, the daytime sky is complete. 
     
    The narrator then tells a story about when he was a little boy and spent an entire day watching the changing sky from his backyard. During that special day long ago, he noticed that the sun slowly moved from east to west during the day, and this motion is re-created in the planetarium for the children to see as well. He then sings a song about the sun that explains in its lyrics that "the sun is a star that's not as far as those seen at night" and that the sun is "big and hot." After the song is completed, the narrator explains the importance of the sun's heat and light to us on Earth. The narrator, and the children in the audience, watch a beautiful sunset, followed by the appearance of evening stars. The sky glow created by large cities is described, and the children are given the opportunity to "turn off the city lights" from their seats, thereby rendering the sky much darker. The narrator sings "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" – first for the children to listen to, then as a sing-along. The narrator recalls that when he once asked his neighbor what stars were, he was told that they are "far away suns."
     
    The narrator then goes on to introduce the children to constellations, or star pictures. The Great Bear, also known as Ursa Major or the Big Dipper, is first introduced. The children are asked to count the seven stars of the Big Dipper and to trace its pattern in the sky. The second constellation friend is Cassiopeia, the Queen. The children are asked to count the five stars of the W-shaped constellation and trace their pattern in the sky. An imaginary line is drawn to connect the Big Dipper with Polaris (or the North Star) and then continues on to Cassiopeia. The remaining seasonal constellations are determined by the specific version of Magic Sky that is presented on your visit, as follows: 
     
    The winter/spring version (which is presented December through April) introduces the children to Orion the Hunter and Taurus the Bull. The stars of Orion, including his famous trio of belt stars, are outlined and identified, as are the brightest stars of Taurus. Included in the tour is the Pleiades star cluster.
    The summer/fall version (which is presented May through November) introduces the children to Cygnus the Swan and its brightest star, Deneb, along with the other two bright stars that form the famous “summer triangle.” The summer Milky Way, which stretches across the summer night sky, also is identified. 

    Both versions mention that the stars of the current season move across the sky from east to west, just as the sun does in the daytime sky. 
     
    The moon is next introduced, and children are shown the full moon and how it changes its shape, or phase, during the course of the month. And just like the sun and stars, the moon moves across the sky from east to west. The narrator explains that it is actually the spinning or rotation, of our planet Earth that causes this sky motion. The animated character Mr. Moon makes a brief appearance and tells the audience about the many craters on his surface. The program concludes with a beautiful sunrise and a slow return to daylight. A brief question-and-answer period follows the presentation.