Stars are huge celestial bodies made mostly of hydrogen and helium that produce light and heat from the churning nuclear forges inside their cores. Aside from our sun, the dots of light we see in the sky are all light-years from Earth.
All that glitters
Some stars shine more brightly than others. Their brightness is a factor of how much energy they put out–known as luminosity–and how far away from Earth they are. Color can also vary from star to star because their temperatures are not all the same. Hot stars appear white or blue, whereas cooler stars appear to have orange or red hues.
Depending on cloud cover and where you’re standing, you may see countless stars blanketing the sky above you or none at all. In cities and other densely populated areas, light pollution makes it nearly impossible to stargaze. By contrast, some parts of the world are so dark that looking up reveals the night sky in all its rich celestial glory.
Ancient cultures looked to the sky for all sorts of reasons. By identifying different configurations of stars—known as constellations—and tracking their movements, they could follow the seasons for farming as well as chart courses across the seas. There are dozens of constellations. Many are named for mythical figures, such as Cassiopeia and Orion the Hunter. Others are named for the animals they resemble, such as Ursa Minor (Little Bear) and Canus Major (Big Dog).
Beautifull painted star wall in Agios Sostis church in Mykonos island
Today astronomers use constellations as guideposts for naming newly discovered stars. Constellations also continue to serve as navigational tools. In the Southern Hemisphere, for example, the famous Southern Cross constellation is used as a point of orientation. Meanwhile, people in the north may rely on Polaris, or the North Star, for direction. Polaris is part of the well-known constellation Ursa Minor, which includes the famous star pattern known as the Little Dipper.