Star gazing has always been strongly connected to the imagination. From the epic myths associated with certain constellations, to simple games of 'connect the dots', to dreams of space exploration, looking at the night sky has always been a time of calm reflection and imagining... a perfect place to be right before drifting off to sleep!
Although it would be wonderful to go out on a star walk every night, light pollution from cities and time constraints make this a less than likely scenario. But, that doesn't mean you can't look up at the stars with your family any time you would like... the stars on you ceiling!
The 'star light flashlight' project below uses materials most everyone has lying around on any given day. It's a great rainy day activity, and can be repeated as many times as you would like. It can also be a wonderful opportunity to learn about the stars and the planets, or to imagine 'new' constellations and make up myths to go with them. And best of all, nothing makes bedtime stories better than telling themunder the stars!
Start with a normal sized tin can and cut both the top and bottom off with a can opener. Then, trace the outside of the can on a piece of cardboard.
For this project you will need a flashlight that you can remove the lens and reflector from. This is typically possible with flashlights that allow you to replace the bulb. Take the lens and reflector off of the flashlight (they interfere with the projection!), then place the flashlight upside down and in the middle of the circle you just drew, and trace this.
Add small tabs in four equally spaced locations to the drawing and cut out the shape.
Place this on top of one side of the can and fold the tabs down.
Wrap one piece of 2" masking tape around the can securing the tabs down and leaving 1" of tape sticking up. Cut this part of the tape into vertical strips and fold down and around the lip of the cardboard one by one.
This opening is where you will 'screw' the flashlight in. The tape adds just enough material to catch the threads left open from removing the lens.
Cover the other open end with a piece of tinfoil and secure it with one piece of tape wrapped around the outside of the can. Poke holes in the star pattern you would like to project. Remember, if you are projecting a real constellation, you will have to make the reverse pattern in the tinfoil for it to project correctly. A combination of small holes and larger ones will give the projection more 'depth'.
If you like, you can attach labels to the outsides of the cans simply by wrapping paper around the can and taping the seam on the back. Repeat this process for as many constellations as you would like to make!