Brain Food

A refreshing take on astronomy with a unique point of view – YOU!

Learn how we all get carried around by the Earth and orient yourself to the Moon, the Sun, the solar system and the Galaxy. You have never learned astronomy like this before.

Quality reading for adults; good for kids astronomy too.

Constellations of the Zodiac in Order

Constellations of the Zodiac in Order

Learning the Zodiac constellations in order is a great way to get familiar with the ecliptic and the celestial sphere. The Zodiac is not just for astrology – astronomers use the constellations of the Zodiac to name 13 regions of the sky. Zodiac Constellations List These are the Zodiac constellations in the correct order from … Continue reading "Constellations of the Zodiac in Order" ...

Seeing The Zodiac – A Stellarium Script Tutorial

Seeing The Zodiac – A Stellarium Script Tutorial

🔭 I am a Live Planetarium Presenter – “Planetariumist” – at the Fresh Air Fund’s Gustafson Planetarium at Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, NY. We Planetariumists are learning to use Stellarium scripts. This article will teach you how to use a Stellarium script to quickly load the art images for the 13 Zodiac constellations: Aries Taurus … Continue reading "Seeing The Zodiac – A Stellarium Script Tutorial" ...

Galaxy Horizon – 4/20 at Midnight

Galaxy Horizon – 4/20 at Midnight

On April 20th (4/20) at midnight Earth’s horizon (in northern latitudes) lines up perfectly with the plane of the entire Milky Way galaxy. The galaxy “wraps around” our view of the sky and we can see into and through the plane of the galaxy. At this moment when you look out around you at the … Continue reading "Galaxy Horizon – 4/20 at Midnight" ...

Earth Map in the Sky

Earth Map in the Sky

Earth Map in the Sky – Landforms as Constellations Learn how to see the map of Earth in the starry sky. Stars help us find our way. Stars are like a giant map in the sky that tells us where we are on the surface of the Earth. Sailors use them as a “map” to … Continue reading "Earth Map in the Sky" ...

Sporades – Stars Not Part of Any Constellation

Sporades – Stars Not Part of Any Constellation

Sporades definition Webster’s 1913 Edition has this funny little entry that defines sporades: ||Spor”a*des, noun plural.  (Astron.) Stars not included in any constellation; — called also informed, or unformed, stars. Sporades – an obsolete word This word no longer means anything. This word has been removed from all dictionaries. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) agreed in 1930 … Continue reading "Sporades – Stars Not Part of Any Constellation" ...

Moon Phases Names – an easy way to remember

Moon Phases Names – an easy way to remember

The 8 Moon Phases Names Here are the “official” 8 Moon Phases in order: New – the new moon is not visible Waxing Crescent – the Moon starts growing First Quarter – the moon looks like half a circle Waxing Gibbous – still growing Full – we see the entire circle of the Moon lit … Continue reading "Moon Phases Names – an easy way to remember" ...

Zodiac Wavy Charts User Guide

Zodiac Wavy Charts User Guide

I want to share this amazing object with you. It’s a skeleton key to the sky. It’s a poster. It’s a tome. Guy Ottewell’s Zodiac Wavy chart poster. This poster is HUGE. 24 inches wide x 36 inches tall. Also, it’s glossy and beautiful and full of engrossing details. You will return to this poster … Continue reading "Zodiac Wavy Charts User Guide" ...

Your Eyeball Sun – Scale Model of the Solar System

Your Eyeball Sun – Scale Model of the Solar System

The Sun is the Size of your Eyeball You are the center of the universe. Well, at least you are for this scale model. You will be the Sun. Imagine that the Sun shrank to the size of one of your eyeballs (about 24mm diameter) and it got placed inside your head. You are now … Continue reading "Your Eyeball Sun – Scale Model of the Solar System" ...

10 ways to wear a Moon Hat

10 ways to wear a Moon Hat

Wear the Moon Hat – have fun! The Moon Hat is no ordinary hat.  The Moon Hat keeps your head warm – yes!  And, every day it gently reminds you to be curious about the Moon. It reminds you to observe what usually stays hidden. It reminds you to #doscienceeveryday. There are many ways to … Continue reading "10 ways to wear a Moon Hat" ...

Feel the Earth spin

Feel the Earth spin

Many people ask “Why can’t I feel the Earth spinning?” Or “Why don’t we feel the rotation of the Earth?”  The answer is that the Earth is so large and we are so small in comparison that we just get carried along for the ride.  We humans are tiny so we don’t notice that everything … Continue reading "Feel the Earth spin" ...

How can I see Venus?

How can I see Venus?

You can see Venus in the sky at two times and locations: in the early evening, shortly after sunset in the west or the early morning, shortly before sunrise in the east.  Venus orbits the Sun and moves from evening sky to morning sky and back again over the course of about 18 months. Venus … Continue reading "How can I see Venus?" ...

How many stars are in the sky? A Quiz

How many stars are in the sky? A Quiz

Have you ever looked up and wondered how many stars are in the sky? It’s a simple question with a surprising answer! This question has layers of answers – the most common answer is “it depends” – it depends on where you are, what part of the year it is, what time it is, and … Continue reading "How many stars are in the sky? A Quiz" ...

Track the Sun

Track the Sun

So you want to track the Sun? You don’t need to build your own Stonehenge. You can track the Sun’s position in the sky and learn how to do astronomy during the day! Let’s get started with the basics of sun tracking. Here is everything you need to know to begin: The Sun does not … Continue reading "Track the Sun" ...

8 Ways to Find the North Star

8 Ways to Find the North Star

Find the North Star You can use these 8 ways to find the North Star (Polaris). These are all fun ways to find the North Star. 8 ways to find the North Star Look north and guess – you can find the North Star in a relatively dark region of the sky and there are … Continue reading "8 Ways to Find the North Star" ...

Where is the Sun?

Where is the Sun?

Where is the Sun right now? Can’t see the Sun? Maybe there is something blocking it. Here is a list of 10 surprising things that can block the Sun. Where is the Sun during the day? On a clear day, this is a very simple question. The Sun is “up there” in the sky – … Continue reading "Where is the Sun?" ...

Lights All Askew in the Heavens … But Nobody Need Worry

Lights All Askew in the Heavens … But Nobody Need Worry

Lights all askew in the heavens… This hilariously-headlined New York Times article describes the results of the observational experiment performed during the 1919 eclipse. It highlights that the expedition proved Einstein’s prediction. But the writer claims that only 12 men on Earth can really understand the result: that light’s path is curved by space time. … Continue reading "Lights All Askew in the Heavens … But Nobody Need Worry" ...

Animal constellations in the night sky. How many are there?

Animal constellations in the night sky. How many are there?

There are 42 animal constellations in the night sky. That is almost half of the official 88 constellations! Here are the other types of constellations you will find in the celestial sphere. This is a fun activity for kids astronomy! There are 42 animal constellations, 28 objects, 14 humans, 2 chimeras (a mix of human … Continue reading "Animal constellations in the night sky. How many are there?" ...

Japanese robot will land on the asteroid Ryugu

Japanese robot will land on the asteroid Ryugu

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft visits the Ryugu asteroid Update! June 24, 2018 – Haybusa2 has reached Ryuga. See this EarthSky.org article for more information. I just received this wonderful message from a group of students in Japan (thanks to Patricia McGahan for providing the connection!) who are learning and teaching about the Japanese Hayabusa2 mission to … Continue reading "Japanese robot will land on the asteroid Ryugu" ...

GPS uses Quasars

GPS uses Quasars

GPS uses Quasars to work The Global Positioning System (GPS) is precise. That precision originates in a mind-blowing place! GPS signals tell billions of people where they are each day. GPS helps pilots land planes and captains steer ships. GPS signals stamp locations onto millions of photos. GPS gives you driving directions. But, where does … Continue reading "GPS uses Quasars" ...

Blue Moon, Dark Moon, Nose Moon, Tail Moon

Blue Moon, Dark Moon, Nose Moon, Tail Moon

What is a Blue Moon? The year 2018 is a Blue Moon bonanza! There was one in January and one on March 31st. The next one won’t arrive until October 2020. But, don’t worry… we’ve got 3 other types of moons lined up for you. The Basics A Blue Moon happens when there is a … Continue reading "Blue Moon, Dark Moon, Nose Moon, Tail Moon" ...

Astronomy Koan

Astronomy Koan

Astronomy Koan – Definition An astronomy koan is a short, easy-to-memorize phrase that distills a key teaching about astronomy (especially physical astronomy). The words are simple enough for a child to learn, but they carry complex insights about scientific observations. The astronomy koan is a mnemonic that has layers of meaning or presents an ambiguous … Continue reading "Astronomy Koan" ...

Merry-Go-Round Earth shows Seasonal Constellations

Merry-Go-Round Earth shows Seasonal Constellations

The Earth is like a Merry-Go-Round The Earth is like a merry-go-round showing us seasonal constellations That iconic childhood ride. Round and round each day we go, round and round each year we go, where we stop nobody knows! When we look out from the edge of the ride we can see the space beyond. … Continue reading "Merry-Go-Round Earth shows Seasonal Constellations" ...

Stellarium –  Find the Humanity Star

Stellarium – Find the Humanity Star

A new satellite called the Humanity Star looks like a disco ball Update Apr. 1, 2018. The Humanity Star is no longer an active satellite – it has fallen out of the sky: https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/22/17144208/rocket-lab-humanity-star-satellite-new-zealand-astronomy However, even though the Humanity Star is now gone, this article still teaches you how to load satellites into Stellarium. So, read … Continue reading "Stellarium – Find the Humanity Star" ...

Quiz – Can we see the Sun at midnight? Where is the Sun?

Quiz – Can we see the Sun at midnight? Where is the Sun?

Can we see the Sun at midnight? Yes. We can see the Sun at midnight. But, only if we are at one of the polar regions during the Summer season. A quiz – seeing the Sun at midnight – don’t scroll til you try to answer! When you see the Sun “rising” in the morning … Continue reading "Quiz – Can we see the Sun at midnight? Where is the Sun?" ...

“Star In a Star” Translated into 90 languages

“Star In a Star” Translated into 90 languages

Translation of Star In A Star Physical Astronomy articles Would you like to learn how to say the word “star” in languages that are not your own? All of the articles about Physical Astronomy here at Star In A Star can be automatically translated. This amazing Google Translate widget lets you choose any language. Try … Continue reading "“Star In a Star” Translated into 90 languages" ...

Physical Astronomy – Definition of a New Way of Teaching

Physical Astronomy – Definition of a New Way of Teaching

Definition of Physical Astronomy Physical Astronomy is a new way of teaching astronomy that emphasizes the human body and its relationship to other moving objects in space. The goal is to bring geometric and scientific awareness to a child’s everyday sky observations. Kids learn easily visible sky motions at a “kid’s eye level.” The Sun does … Continue reading "Physical Astronomy – Definition of a New Way of Teaching" ...

Moon Phase Emojis – A Review

Moon Phase Emojis – A Review

Moon Emojis – and other space emojis Emoji designers created a nice range of moon emoji, astronomy emojis and space emojis.  My favorite emojis are the Moon Phase Emojis. Space emojis to copy and paste (these look different on each browser) Here are the moon emojis, astronomy emojis and space emojis as real emojis that … Continue reading "Moon Phase Emojis – A Review" ...

See Mercury and Venus orbits during the day

See Mercury and Venus orbits during the day

Your hands and arms help you see the orbits of Mercury and Venus and the shape of solar system Question: If you could see the orbit of Venus would it fill the whole sky? The answer might surprise you! You can use your hands and arms to see the size of the orbits of the … Continue reading "See Mercury and Venus orbits during the day" ...

Shapes with Shadows – astrosketching Moon features with Alex Massey

Shapes with Shadows – astrosketching Moon features with Alex Massey

Shapes with Shadows – what they can tell us This the first of two special guest posts by Australian astrosketch artist Alexander Massey  Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus, and Arzachel… the names of three massive, interlocking craters on the Moon. These three craters tell the story of the ancient Moon’s creation and evolution. It’s a story of violent … Continue reading "Shapes with Shadows – astrosketching Moon features with Alex Massey" ...

Galaxy Rise

Galaxy Rise

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings The Sun rises. The Moon rises. Stars rise. The Galaxy rises – twice. Each day the Earth rotates and sky objects (seem to) rise in the Eastern sky. The Sun, the Moon, the Stars, and the Galaxy rise at various times. The Sun “rises” once-a-day at the start of the day. The … Continue reading "Galaxy Rise" ...

Super Moon December 3rd, 2017

Super Moon December 3rd, 2017

Super Moon The closest approach that the moon will make on its monthly orbit around the Earth coupled with a Full Moon. The December 3rd Super Moon is here! Here is an image showing how the arrangement of the Moon’s “Perigee” with the Full Moon results in the Super Moon. The Full Moon + Orbit … Continue reading "Super Moon December 3rd, 2017" ...

Stellarium – See the Analemma

See the Analemma Stellarium can help you see sky patterns and practice Physical Astronomy. Video of the Analemma in Stellarium: By following this article you will be able to see the analemma moving – a figure 8 shaped path that the Sun follows yearly. ...

Walk to Mintaka

Walk to Mintaka

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings In this post we will learn how to use one bright star of Orion’s belt to visualize the Earth’s equator. Mintaka is a Star in Orion’s Belt When you look up at the winter sky in the northern hemisphere, Orion and his famous belt are impossible to miss. The belt … Continue reading "Walk to Mintaka" ...

Quiz – When is the best time to see Venus?

See Venus Here is a quiz – what time of night is the best time to see the planet Venus? Is it sunset, midnight, sunrise? None of these? All of the above? Think about it for a few minutes before you click to show the answer. ...

Tilt Head to Tilt Earth – Seasons are caused by a tilted Earth

Tilt Head to Tilt Earth – Seasons are caused by a tilted Earth

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings Seasons are caused by a tilted Earth Use this technique to understand how seasons happen on the Earth. The Earth is tilted. When the northern part (your forehead and eyes) tilts away from the Sun the season is winter. When the northern part tilts toward the Sun the season is … Continue reading "Tilt Head to Tilt Earth – Seasons are caused by a tilted Earth" ...

The Moon is Upside Down

The Moon is Upside Down

The Moon is Upside Down When you are in the southern hemisphere, the moon looks upside down. When I came back to the US from living in Australia for 4 years, I published a poster with a picture of the moon on in and I placed it “upside down” – someone pointed it out and … Continue reading "The Moon is Upside Down" ...

Train Your Brain – The Sky Below Us

Train Your Brain – The Sky Below Us

The Sky Below Us Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings In this exercise called “The Sky Below Us” you will learn to see the Earth as a giant ball and understand that the Earth is floating in space. This will allow you to see the sky below us. ...

Train Your Brain – The Speed of Day

Train Your Brain – The Speed of Day

Physical Astronomy By Daniel Cummings The Speed of Day The “speed of day” is the speed of Earth’s rotation: 1600 kilometers per hour (kph) which is about 1000 mph. 1600 kph is fast. Most people have never experienced anything moving at this speed. Commercial jet airplanes fly at 1000 kph (600 mph). ...

Arms around the ecliptic

Arms around the ecliptic

Learn to see the ecliptic Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings The sun follows the same path through the sky every day. Sun up. Noon. Sun down. The sun starts the day in the east in the morning, rises high in the sky at noon, and settles down again in the west for a nap at … Continue reading "Arms around the ecliptic" ...

Quiz – Do you Moon Phase?

Quiz – Do you Moon Phase?

Moon Phase Quiz Examine this image of Moon phases made from emojis. Reading left to right, which row shows the correct sequence of Moon phases? Did you guess yet? The answer is below. ...

Train your Brain – See the shape of the solar system

Train your Brain – See the shape of the solar system

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings. See the solar system from Earth Most people, when they look up at the night sky can easily see stars and identify some familiar groups of stars (asterisms and constellations). Some people can even find and name some planets – Venus, Jupiter, and Mars are all bright and easy to … Continue reading "Train your Brain – See the shape of the solar system" ...

Night is…

“‘Night’ is not what time it is… it is where you are.” – Daniel Cummings ...

Stellarium – Control Time

Stellarium – Control Time

Stellarium lets you control time. Stellarium for Physical Astronomy Learning to do Physical Astronomy? Stellarium is the perfect tool for you. It helps you learn to see patterns in the sky. In this article you will learn how to use the Time Control features of Stellarium. ...

Stars like ours – 9 bright “Life Stars”

Stars like ours – 9 bright “Life Stars”

Life Stars – Visible Exoplanets Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings A “Life Star” is a visible star that could host life. This is a name I came up with in February 2017 (around the time of the TRAPPIST announcement) to describe visible stars with confirmed planets orbiting in the habitable zone. “Life Star” is easier to say … Continue reading "Stars like ours – 9 bright “Life Stars”" ...

The Moon teaches you to see Earth’s Orbit

The Moon teaches you to see Earth’s Orbit

See the Earth’s Orbit in the Moon Physical AstronoMy by Daniel Cummings You can use the moon to “see” the Earth’s orbit in the sky and the space beyond. ...

Train your Brain – Day and Night

Train your Brain – Day and Night

Train Your Brain – a series of physical astronomy exercises by Daniel Cummings. Practice the fundamental skills of observation. Learn to see the giant geometries of space. ...

We are Star Sand

We are Star Sand

Star Sand Just how tiny ARE we? The answer of course depends on the question: “Compared to what?” Compared to the size of the universe we are very, very tiny. Take a quick trip with me and you will begin to understand. ...

Stars in Your Eyes

Stars in Your Eyes

The light of a star… …no matter how long it has been traveling through space, ends its journey in your eye. The light hits your retina and is transformed into thought. As long as you let that star light stream into your view, the star itself lands in you and settles its motion. When I … Continue reading "Stars in Your Eyes" ...

Groundhog Day Shadow Tracker

Groundhog Day Shadow Tracker

Physical Astronomy Tool by Daniel Cummings It’s Groundhog Day! What better way to celebrate Groundhog Day than to Build your own Groundhog Day Shadow Tracker  Let’s do some Physical Astronomy. The experience will help you to understand the movement of the earth and sun through the seasons. You will build a scientific instrument that is … Continue reading "Groundhog Day Shadow Tracker" ...

A new star will appear in the sky in 2022

A new star will appear in the sky in 2022

An amazing thing is about to happen! A Star in a Star will be born. You  can witness the birth of a new star in the night sky.  The new Star already has a birthday: 2022! According to scientists, the new star will form when two stars that are orbiting each other grow so close that … Continue reading "A new star will appear in the sky in 2022" ...

Sidereal time is weird

When does a cycle complete? It all depends on your frame of reference. ...

The Moon Dance – Learn Moon Phases

The Moon Dance – Learn Moon Phases

PHYSICAL ASTRONOMY BY DANIEL CUMMINGS Learn the Moon phases by doing an easy dance. At sunset. Face the sun. Point your right hand toward the Sun. Now point your left hand toward the Sun. Both hands should be pointing at the sun. Now, turn a little bit to the left, keeping both hands pointing at … Continue reading "The Moon Dance – Learn Moon Phases" ...

Stellarium – a Gift to Humanity

Stellarium – a Gift to Humanity

Hello! Find out more about Stellarium in this tutorial that introduces several of the cool and clever things this astronomy software can do. Stellarium – a glorious gift to Humanity in software form – gives you super powers. And best of all … It’s FREE! Superpowers! Always wanted to know the names of the stars … Continue reading "Stellarium – a Gift to Humanity" ...

What Looks Like Sunset

What Looks Like Sunset

Is what looks like sunset really the sun – “setting”? What is that thing that happens every day that makes it look like sunset? Can you change your mind easily? Are you flexible enough to understand that the same set of observations and facts can lead two different people to two different conclusions? For a … Continue reading "What Looks Like Sunset" ...

A Mouse in Moonlight – Illustrations in Goodnight Moon

A Mouse in Moonlight – Illustrations in Goodnight Moon

A Child’s Book As a dad, I treasure a well-crafted, uplifting gem of a book like Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Pictures by Clement Hurd. It’s the kind of children’s book that just feels good to read out loud to your kids. Plus, the illustrations in Goodnight Moon offer a secret puzzle for the attentive … Continue reading "A Mouse in Moonlight – Illustrations in Goodnight Moon" ...

The Moon Moves Toward the Dawn – a Mnemonic

The Moon Moves Toward the Dawn – a Mnemonic

Memorize this mnemonic: The moon moves toward the dawn. This phrase describes the day-by-day movement of the moon. With this simple phrase, you can understand the phases of the moon. You will actually begin to see the moon’s beautiful orbit traced out in the sky. Repeat. The moon moves toward the dawn. The moon moves toward the dawn.  The moon … Continue reading "The Moon Moves Toward the Dawn – a Mnemonic" ...

Hello world! Welcome to Physical Astronomy.

Hello world! Welcome to Physical Astronomy.

Welcome to Star in a Star! There are many ways to learn about Astronomy and the sky. Some people learn best by reading books or websites. Some learn best by debate and discussion. Some learn by doing. I like to learn about Astronomy by interacting with people, places, and things. I like to listen to … Continue reading "Hello world! Welcome to Physical Astronomy." ...