UH Institute for Astromomy

Educational Outreach


Hawaiian Names

Twinkling Stars

Constellations

Paper Stars

What is a Star?

Each of the thousands of hoku or stars you can see is a brightly glowing ball of hot, burning gas, a lot like our Sun -- only much further away. The Sun, in Hawaii, was linked to represent the mythical god of procreation and was called Kane-onohi-o-ka-la, the "Great Eyeball of Kane". The Sun is the most familar star and the closest to the Earth, close enough that it lights up our planet with daylight, while other stars -- even if they are a million time larger -- appear to be pinpoints. Some stars may be the same size as our Earth, these are called dwarf stars, while others are larger than a million of our Suns put together, these are called supergiants.

Twinkling Stars

Stars are so far away that the light they make looks like only a tiny little pinpoint in the dark sky (imagine a flashlight very far down the beach on a dark night). When this pinpoint of starlight passes through the Earth's atmosphere, it gets scattered and bounced around by dust, vapor, and temperature changes. This rough trip through our atmosphere makes starlight seem to get breighter and dimmer, or "twinkle". The larger planets do not seem to twinkle because their light source is larger than the stars and the moon is so much larger, the atmosphere does not seem to affect our view of it as much as a pinpoint of starlight.


Also see "Galaxies"
Constellations

What is a constellation? A good way to remember the location of important stars is to connect them to neighbor stars by drawing imaginarry lines that make some familar shape or form. Humans have done this for thousands of years, the combinations of stars in the night sky are called constellations. A constellation is a group of stars that forming a pattern in the sky that looks like a familar object, such as a pot (Ursa Minor--also known as the Little Dipper), a dog, even a scorpion or fishhook.



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Educational Outreach
The University of Hawaii at Manoa is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Institution. Copyright © 1996 Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii. All Rights Reserved. Revised by Wendy Nakano, February 1999.