Constellations and Stellar Distances
In this exercise, students are introduced to the concept of stellar parallax and its use in determining distances to nearby stars (less than 1000 light years from our solar system. Students then access the SIMBAD database used by professional astronomers and look up the parallax measurements for seven named stars in the familiar winter constellation Orion. Using these parallax measurements, students calculate the distances to these stars in parsecs and light years (Worksheet 1) and then plot these on a graph (Worksheet 2) to help visualize where these stars occur along the line of sight towards the constellation Orion. Finally, the students draw a conclusion about the relative positions of stars in named constellations.