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Paper Plate Education
"Serving the Universe on a Paper Plate"

Activity: Constellation Projector

Drinking Gourd, clear plate 1.jpg (346542 bytes)

Make an inexpensive device to project outlines of constellations onto a portable dome.

All_Sky_metal_can_held.jpg (8338 bytes) Conveniently, some metal cans such as those for gourmet popcorn are nearly identical in size to a Starlab® cylinder.  Cut a circle and a notch out of the can’s bottom so it will fit over the Starlab® projector’s central stalk and over the aligning device for cylinders.  
All_Sky_metal_can_on_projector.jpg (49672 bytes) The popcorn can will lock securely on the magnets.   When the lamp is turned on it will act as a circular overhead projector in the Starlab®. 
Big Dip atop Starlab- backwards.jpg (431164 bytes) On the back side of a clear plate, draw the seven stars of the Big Dipper.  Place the plate on top of the can so it projects the image onto the dome properly.  Note that when looking down on the projector the Dipper will appear inverted, but when projected it is corrected.
Drinking Gourd, clear plate 2.jpg (465071 bytes) Make another plate with the seven stars plus the outline of a drinking gourd (or some other interpretation of the star pattern).  Have students draw their own figures around given stars on a plate.
Conste1.gif (121288 bytes) When the plate is atop the can, the device projects the outline of the drinking gourd onto the dome.  Have students tell stories that accompany their respective drawings.

(Caveat: The historical credibility of The Drinking Gourd folklore is challenged at http://www.followthedrinkinggourd.org/index.htm.)

See the All-Sky Projectors for Portable Planetariums for related projection techniques.

Contributed by Chuck Bueter.


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