Join students Sophie, Tomás, Emma, and Marcus during Fifth Period! This STEM comic strip chronicles the exciting and often hilarious adventures of a close-knit group of four friends as they learn about science, technology, engineering, and math from their kooky, inspiring, off-the-wall science teacher, Mr. Kepler. When they're not in class, these kids love to explore the vast world of STEM on their own, launching weather balloons, programming computer games, and cataloging insects, sometimes with unpredictable and highly entertaining results!
Check back on the first and third Friday of every month for a new Fifth Period strip!
Sophie’s Starry Night
Is Tomás a little bored while on his thrilling cosmic ride? Well, with moons zipping around planets, planets zipping around suns, and suns zipping through galaxies while those zip through the universe, it’s a wonder we all aren’t a little dizzy.
Surprisingly, even with all this zipping, we earthling riders have the northern pole star (more commonly known as the North Star) to help let us know where we are here on Earth after dark. Even though we are all moving through space at amazingly fast speeds, the North Star appears stationary because it is so far away and almost directly in line (or collinear) with the Earth’s axis of rotation—the imaginary line through both the North and South Poles. All other stars, including our own Sun, appear to move in great arcs around it because of the spinning of Earth on its axis of rotation.
That means that if Sophie and Tomás journeyed to the North Pole, the North Star would be directly above them (or at zenith), all the time. And if they decided to explore Brazil—taking a moonlit canoe ride on the Amazon River—the North Star would be at the horizon all night long (and all day long, too, for that matter). But for most of the rest of us, the North Star is somewhere in between, but always just as stationary, just the same.
Hey, but wait! What about all those people below the Equator in the Southern Hemisphere—how do they know where they are? They can’t see the North Star because it will always be below the horizon, right? Well fortunately for them, they have a star constellation called the Southern Cross that works for them the way the North Star works for us, only it helps them find South. For someone at the South Pole, the Southern Cross will be directly above them, while someone near the Equator will see both the North Star and the Southern Cross on opposite horizons at the same time! How cool is that?
Try it yourself!
You can observe the rotation of the Earth at night by stargazing too. Find a constellation that you're familiar with, like the Big Dipper, and note where it is in the sky in relation to a tree line or the outline of building. You don't have to stay there all night, but come back a few hours later and see if your constellation is in the same place!