The Big Dipper, Polaris, Little Dipper – all visible in the quiet night skies around Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Here, you are only a step or two away from the light pollution that would obscure your view. Take those few steps into the dark and you’re ready to relax and gaze up at the night sky. When it comes to fall activities in Grand Rapids, you just can’t beat an opportunity to get outside and enjoy Minnesota’s nature.
Fall is a great time to gather your family and go star watching. Evenings in Northern Minnesota are mild and the sky is dark enough to engage in a bit of stargazing before bedtime. Pack a warm blanket, leave the welcoming lights of downtown Grand Rapids and get ready to locate the lights of the night sky.
How to Find the Best Constellations
Find the Big Dipper (or Ursa Major – its official Latin name, meaning “Larger Bear”) and you’ll have a guide for your adventure. This constellation is easy to recognize, with a three-star handle and four-star cup. Face the north sky and the ladle will come into view, even if it’s flipped in an odd way or masked by the multitude of other stars.
With the Big Dipper in sight, you can locate Polaris, the North Star. The far edge of the dipper’s cup has two stars used as pointers. The pointer stars guide your eyes up and across the sky until they meet a faint star: Polaris. The apparent distance across the sky between the top pointer star and Polaris is 30 degrees. Estimate this distance by stretching out your arm, making a fist, and stacking the fist three times. Did you find Polaris? If so, you’re on your way to seeing the Little Dipper, because Polaris is at the very tip of that smaller dipper’s handle. The Little Dipper (known to astronomers as Ursa Minor the “Smaller Bear”) appears to pour its starry contents directly into the Big Dipper.
The handle of the Big Dipper can help you find a few more stars and constellations. Look at the dipper’s handle and notice how it arcs across the sky. Follow that arc to Arcturus, the 4th brightest star in the sky. Arcturus is at the base of the kite-shaped shepherd constellation, Boötes. Continue following the arc and you’ll end up at Spica, a bright star in the constellation Virgo. The list runs on and on – most stars have names and a rich story behind them.
There is much more to learn about the night sky…but sometimes the simple pleasure of star gazing is all that you need.
More Fall Activities in Grand Rapids, MN
This is just one of the many fall activities in Grand Rapids, a delight not just for families but to anyone visiting us in Minnesota’s natures. For more great ideas, check out our Premier Annual Events or more ideas for family friendly recreation in Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids has much to offer your family as the weather begins to cool.
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