Santa's Favorite Stars

How does Santa Claus find you? By the stars, of course! The stars help people navigate at night, and you can discover the constellations that assure Santa finds his way to your home and back to the North Pole. Print out the two pages (stardisk and text-time), then combine them to make the 2-part dial shown below.

Click small images to enlarge and print.

Left (text-time): All through the night the stars appear to move slowly around the North Star. It is also called Polaris ("pole star") because it is above earth's north pole. The North Star is steady while the others move. For Santa, going back home is easy--just head toward Polaris, the North Star!

Right (stardisk): When you face north at night, the stars appear to rotate slowly around Polaris, the North Star. To find the North Star, trace out the Big Dipper and keep going in the direction water would pour out. Notice that Polaris is not the brightest star in the night sky--but it may be most important.

DIRECTIONS:

Click the small images to enlarge and print. Cut out the circle with months and stars ("stardisk"). Center it over the plain circle that has time across the top ("text-time"). Push a paper fastener through Polaris, the center of both circles. Move the star wheel so the date matches up with the time of night. That's how the stars will appear at that time. Notice how Polaris (hidden below the paper fastener) does not move.

Santa's View

From the North Pole, Santa would see the guide star Polaris high overhead. But as he travels south (from the North Pole, every direction is south) the starry sky would shift slowly with new southern stars coming into view.

All through Christmas Eve (and every night) the stars rise and set, too, but the North Star is steady and assures Santa of his path. Going back home is the easy part--head toward Polaris, the North Star.

Tracking Santa

Though Santa Claus uses the traditional methods of celestial navigation to guide the flight of his reindeer, you can use modern technology to confirm the route Santa is flying. NORAD tracks Santa and his star-guided travels every year December 24-25.

[Adapted from Nightwise Nov. 8, 2012]

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