Blog Archives

Global Star Party

28 April 2012


Be sure to reserve Saturday, April 28th, for GAM’s ultimate observing event: the Global Star Party.  Of course, it’s B.Y.O.T. – Bring Your Own Telescope – but encourage even those who don’t have one to come anyway. All are invited, all will be excited.  It is amazing that when we turn our gaze upward all religious, national, cultural and political barriers fade into the darkness.  April 28th is the time to come out under the stars, bridge gaps across the seas, and join your brother and sister skywatchers in proving that the world is, in fact, “One People, One Sky.”

 

Start Early and Follow Up
Not just the 28th, of course, but the whole month of April is dedicated to the science, art, and culture of astronomy, so plan to take your hobby to the streets as often as you can.  Club members need to “divide and conquer” their community on every corner. Get events scheduled and supported by your community’s science centers, planetariums, and science museums.  Spearhead new ways of outreach to convalescent hospitals, rest homes, military bases, busy sections of town, and libraries.  Be ready to accommodate handicapped visitors to your scopes, including those in wheel chairs.  Be on top of your game with lectures, presentations, exhibits, telescope demonstrations, handouts, and star charts—and be ready to dazzle them with fun facts (not boring ones) about the objects you have captured in your eyepiece.


Begin with the Sun
You can build momentum by scheduling events not just in the evening but during the day as well.  Spark interest in our number one star, the Sun, by planning an Astronomy Day at the park with picnic.  And, of course, invite all your daytime guests to your Global Star Party in the evening.  Contact your local observatory—they may be happy to work with you to have a big, all-day astronomy event on their grounds.


Publicize Your Events

But the public won’t know about your Global Star Party unless you get the word out.  Local weekly newspapers are very receptive to running news items about events like this, and if you can give them a well-written story that has a catchy news angle in it, you may get not just a small announcement but a feature article.  Also, if your city or town has a public radio station, they will likely be happy to announce your event—perhaps including an interview with you.


Use Your Creativity
Other than the set date—Saturday, April 28th local time—there is no formal agenda.  Amateur astronomers have proven to be incredibly creative when organizing events, so we encourage you to show us what you can do!  We do, however, encourage everyone to expand the time beyond the regular evening events—starting early with solar activities and continuing until late evening.
Everyone should choose the activities that fit their community and personal preference.  We are encouraging everyone to think in new directions and try new methods of outreach, but want everyone to be comfortable in their choice of events.
Be sure to register you event with AWB online and to come back afterwards and fill out your event reports and post your photos.  We all want to see what our friends around the world are doing!

Some Program Idea

  • Visit a military base, retirement hotel, or children’s hospital and give those able a chance to see the Universe up close.
  • Have a club member dress up as a famous astronomer from history.
  • Find ways to attract attention – your own version of 100HA’s Camel Cart!
  • Use our resources page to get the materials to accommodate the seeing impaired.
  • Host “How Telescopes Work” demonstrations and put your ATM guys to work with mirror grinding demos and use some of that extra glass to let the public try.
  • Hold events outside of art galleries or musical events.
  • Surround a shopping mall or city park with telescopes at every corner or entrance.
  • Hold astropoetry events, such as a public poetry reading at a library.
  • Get a local scout or school group to assist at your star party—have the youngsters ask questions, provide information, and even help run the scope.
  • Have an “artists table” set up so that younger observers can make and take their own souvenirs of the event.
  • Work with a local library to have book displays set up near the telescope so that people can learn more.
  • Work with another club in a different country and set up an internet connection so that those attending your event can connect with others doing the same thing at the same time in a different part of the world.
  • Live-stream your event on Ustream.

 

Share your Star Party experience with us:

Share your Global Star Party images with us via GAM2012 Facebook or Flickr group or Tweet using #GAM2012 hashtag (@gam_awb). Don’t forget to register your events here.

 

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The winter hexagon v/s the summer hexagon?

Credits : Winter hexagon - Felgari

The winter hexagon is not a constellation but simply an asterism. But when there’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere, its summer in the Southern Hemisphere. I find it really unfair for the world to call this set of stars as the winter hexagon. Why don’t call it the summer hexagon? Frankly speaking I feel like being discriminated on belonging from the Southern Hemisphere.

Winter Hexagon from the Tropics

I understand that development in the astronomy field knew its leap in the Northern Hemisphere, but still I am hereby campaigning for a change in the name of this asterism ( I know Asterisms are not even officially recognized names). But the “winter hexagon” It is a complete misnomer. When I first got to see this beautiful set of constellations in its entirety by the seaside, I was feeling hot. One as it was a breezeless night, hot and damp. Secondly for the utter pleasure of being able to identify the hexagon which covered almost ¼ the portion of the sky and being able to identify six constellations in one go.  It was awesome.

But Do you Know How to find the winter hexagon?

One could ask it’s already April and the spring is already here, so why talk about the winter hexagon? It’s just because the winter hexagon in a few months would not remain in our skies. During January at dusk I would have to raise up my head towards the zenith to see the Orion as it would highlight our north western skies, but now in April it’s already halfway between the horizon and the zenith towards the west at dusk. And to tell you Scorpion is already on its way. (Hope you know about the Scorpion – Orion saga) So to say in a few months Orion would be no more on the skies. (I would miss Orion a lot)

And as April is here, it would be a lovely time to appreciate the nature in its bloom and a have good time to observe the night sky. No more shivering and complaining about the chilly weather to have a look at the sky (for my friends of the Northern Hemisphere). As for us Mauritians, we have only two seasons per se. Our hot humid summer is already gone and we are slowly entering the winter phase.

So, if you feel being discriminated by pronouncing the Winter Hexagon, (or any other misnamed constellation or asterism) then campaign with me for this misnomer. Together, united we can change the name of this marvelous hexagon to a common name. Because as the saying goes “the sky has no borders, it is for everyone”. (Is it really a saying or I just made it up?). I suppose I got it from The Astronomers without borders. They have their motto as One people, One Sky.

Related Articles:

How to find the winter hexagon

My Top 20 Guideposts in the Sky

Number

Common
Name

Constellation

Apparent
Magnitude

Spectral
Type

Luminosity
(Sun = 1)

Distance
(Light Years)

Radial
Velocity
(km / sec)

1 Sirius Canis Major -1.46 A1 26 8.7 -8
2 Canopus Carina -0.72 F0 15,000 310 +21
3 Alpha
Centauri
Centaurus -0.04 G2 1.7 4.3 -22
4 Arcturus Boötis 0.00 K2 115 36 -5
5 Vega Lyra 0.03 A0 52 25 -14
6 Capella Auriga 0.08 G8 F0 90 70 43 +30
7 Rigel Orion 0.12 B8 60,000 910 +21
8 Procyon Canis Minor 0.38 F5 7 11.4 -3
9 Achernar Eridanus 0.46 B5 400 85 +19
10 Betelgeux Orion 0.0 – 0.9 M2 105,000 v 640 +21
11 Agena Centaurus 0.61 B1 10,000 460 -11
12 Altair Aquila 0.77 A7 10 16.6 -26
13 Acrux Crux Australis 0.83 B1 3,200 360 -11
14 Aldebaran Taurus 0.85 K5 120 68 +54
15 Antares Scorpius 0.96 M1 7,500 330 -3
16 Spica Virgo 0.98 B1 2,100 260 +1
17 Pollux Gemini 1.14 K0 60 36 +3
18 Fomalhaut Piscis Australis 1.16 A3 13 22 +7
19 Deneb Cygnus 1.25 A2 70,000 1,800 -5
20 Becrux Crux Australis 1.25 B0 8,200 425 +20

Explanation

Number

This is a list of the 20 brightest stars as seen from the Earth (not including the Sun). The stars are numbered from 1 to 20 in sequence.

Common Name

This is the name by which the star is commonly known. The names are Greek, Latin or Arabic. This web site is based in London: stars not visible from London are in red.

Some examples of the names: Deneb is Latin for tail (because it marks the tail of The Swan – Cygnus); Antares is Greek for rival of Mars (because of its red colour); Aldebaran is Arabic for eye of the bull (because it marks the eye of The Bull – Taurus).

Constellation

A constellation is a star group (as seen from Earth) that the star is a part of. Constellations are human inventions. The stars in them appear in the same part of the sky but are, in fact, at different distances from us and not related to each other. Different cultures use different constellations. For more, read Astronomy and Astrology.

In the West, there are 88 recognised constellations; 48 of these date from Roman times and are known as the Classical Constellations. These include the 12 Zodiac constellations through which the Sun, Moon and planets always pass through. Constellations are always known by their Latin names.

Some examples: Canis Major means The Great Dog; Orion is The Hunter; Crux Australis means The Southern Cross.

Constellations are used by astronomers for convenience. We say that Sirius is in Canis Major rather than give its celestial coordinates.

Apparent Magnitude

Apparent Magnitude tells how bright the star is as seen from the Earth. The magnitude scale was devised by the Ancient Greeks. The brightest stars were called First Magnitude, the next brightest were called Second Magnitude, etc.

In modern times, the scale has been defined mathematically. A star of magnitude 1 is about 2.5 times brighter than a star of magnitude 2 which in turn is 2.5 times brighter than a star of magnitude 3. The brighter a star, the smaller its magnitude. Many stars are brighter than first magnitude. Some stars are so bright they have negative magnitudes. On this scale, Jupiter has a magnitude (at its brightest) of -2.6, Venus is at -4.4 and the Sun -27. The faintest stars visible to the naked eye are sixth magnitude. Pluto has a magnitude of +14, far too faint to be visible without a powerful telescope.

In the table it can be seen that Betelgeux varies its magnitude – some stars are variable in brightness.

The brightness of a star as seen from Earth depends on its intrinsic luminosity and its distance from Earth. A dim star may appear bright because it is close while a luminous star may appear faint because it is far away. This is why we say Apparent Magnitude.

Spectral Type

When starlight is passed through a prism, it splits into its constituent colours, like a rainbow. This is called the star’s Spectrum. Stellar spectra are crossed by dark lines. These lines give astronomers a lot of information about the star: temperature, luminosity, radius, magnetic properties, movement. Read The Electromagnetic Spectrum for more on spectra.

The Morgan-Keenan spectral classification

The Morgan-Keenan spectral classification (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stellar spectra are classified into types. These types are given letters. The spectral type series is a temperature series. Moving from the hottest stars to the coolest, the series of letters runs O, B, A, F, G, K, M.

Each spectral type is subdivided into ten numbers. For example, A0, A1, A2, up to A9. A0 is hotter than A1. The table below gives more information.

Spectral
Type

Colour

Surface
Temperature
(°C)

O

Blue >30,000

B

Blue-White 20,000

A

White 10,000

F

Yellow-White 7,000

G

Yellow 6,000

K

Orange 4,500

M

Red 3,000

Our Sun is a star of Spectral Type G2 with a surface temperature of around 6,000°C.

Luminosity

This tells us how much more energy and light the star gives off compared with the Sun. This is how bright the star really is once distance has been taken into account. There is a huge variety in the luminosity of the stars. At one extreme, the star Alpha Centauri is 1.7 times more luminous than the Sun. At the other extreme, Canopus is 15,000 times more luminous than our Sun.

Luminosity can be measured indirectly by combining the apparent brightness of a star with its distance. It can also sometimes be measured directly from the spectrum.

Distance

The distance of a star is given in Light Years. This is the distance covered by a light beam in one year. Light travels at 300,000 km per second (186,000 miles per second). In one year a beam of light will travel 9.4 million million km (5.9 million million miles). This enormous distance is a Light Year.

Many stellar distances can be measured directly by trigonometry. As the Earth moves around the Sun, the star appears to shift its position against more distant stars. This effect is called parallax. It is a tiny effect but can be measured. The amount of the parallax depends on the diameter of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun (just under 300 million km or 186 million miles) and the distance to the star. A star with a paralax of 1 second of arc (written 1″) is said to be at a distace of 1 Parsec. 1 Parsec is equal to 3.26 Light Years.

Other stars can have their luminosity measured by their spectra or by other properties. When this is compared to their apparent brightness, a distance can be calculated.

For more on astronomical distances look at The Scale Of The Universe.

Radial Velocity

This the velocity of the star relative to the Sun. Negative velocities denote a star moving towards the Solar System. Positive velocities are for stars moving away from us.

Radial velocity is easily measured by looking at the star’s spectrum. The lines on the spectrum are shifted to the blue end if the star is moving towards us (the so-called blue shift) and to the red end if the star is moving away from us (red shift). The amount of this shift depends on the relative velocity between us and the star.

Credits: http://www.krysstal.com/brightest.html

(heavenswithlamps.wordpress.com)

What is Starhopping?

The night sky is replete with so many wonders. These wonders need just our eyes to be seen. One way to become familiar with the beautiful night sky is by Star-hopping.

In this digital age we are so engrossed with our daily lives that we don’t get to feed our souls. The best way to find a perspective in our meaningless lives is to have a look at the great wonders of the night sky.

But…..if you are not familiar with the sky, your first experience would be just like gazing to a thousands of dots on a big, very big black roof. So to solve this we are going to learn star-hopping.

Star-hopping is a great technique to identify where stars are.

First of all you have to identify your guideposts, (stars which are bright enough to indicate where less brighter stars are)and then once you have found them, you start star hopping.

It’s the same as you jump, jump and jump.

Yeah, you jump with your feet but here you do it with your eyes. That’s why I call it “eye jump”

Benefits of Star hopping

Star-hopping really is awesome. Believe me finding even one constellation out of the 88 constellations or an asterism is purely fascinating. This allows you not only to recognize the patterns of constellations, but in the process….let it be even a life-time…..you’re also learning about star distances, star colours, ages and names.

“You’ll find that the whole of the night sky is an amazing mixture of space, time, history, science and world cultures. It’ll lead you off on all sorts of paths and you’ll learn things that will amaze others. Not to mention the basic reason – you’ll know what you’re looking at.”

 Credits: September 2008 issue of Sky at Night Magazine

Orion the hunter

(credit: NASA).

Orion, the Hunter

In our summer skies (Southern Hemisphere –Mauritius, in the Northern Hemiphere it is Winter), just have a look towards the west, you would find the three stars aligned – these three are the Orion’s belt. This is the easiest to find.

The two stars north of this are Orion’s shoulders. One of these is Betelgeuse (“BEETLE-juice”), which is a giant red star. The two brighter stars to the south are Orion, the hunter’s legs. The bright blue star is Rigel.

Ancient people used Orion to predict the seasons: If it appeared at midnight, the grapes were ready to harvest. If it appeared in the morning, summer was beginning. If it appeared in the evening, winter had arrived.
In the photo below, as we can see, we have already identified seven bright stars. Now taking them as guide-posts, we can find your way to other stars and constellations too. You just have to find your way to them by imagining your straight lines and gradually hopping from one star to another. Quite easy, you see.

seven bright stars in orion

Is it necessary to star hop to understand the sky?

We are living in the digital age of electronic star charts, easy planetarium softwares on our laptops, star apps on Ipads and stars in our palms or GO TO telescopes where with only a push of a button one can travel from the Lunar neighborhood to the far reaches of deep space in just a few seconds.

Orion-SkyQuest-Computerized-Dobsonian-Telescope

Despite all of this easily available technology, many star gazers and amateur astronomers prefer doing their night observing without the use of GO TO telescopes, and truely speaking star hopping is the best way to have a complete grip on the night sky.

So  go star-hopping, the night sky is waiting to be seen.

Global Astronomy Month 2012 : Programme Schedule

AWB is planning a rich schedule of programs and events for Global Astronomy Month 2012 (GAM2012), all designed to inform and inspire the public throughout the world. Below is a sampling of some major events listed by date but there is much more to come soon. For more information on each program, click on the highlighted links.

Date / Time Program
23 March to 27 April IASC Asteroid Search Campaign
1 April SunDay
1 April Online Messier Marathon (remote observing event)
1 to 7 April Lunar Week
1 to 22 April International Earth and Sky Photo Contest
7 to 8 April In the Interstices of Life (astroart video presentation)
8 April Bats & Radio Astronomy (live presentation)
11 to 20 April Globe at Night
12 April Yuri’s Night
14 to 15 April Spiral Galaxy (video presentation)
14 to 20 April International Dark Skies Week
15 April Saturn Watch (Beauty without Borders)
15 April Around the Ringed Planet (remote observing event)
19 April Cosmic Depths (remote observing event)
20 April World Night in Defence of the Starlight
21 April (deadline) Celebrate Starlight
21 to 22 April Lyrids Watch (Meteors without Borders)
21 to 22 April Neurostar (astroart video presentation)
27 April Walking on the Moon (remote observing event)
28 April Global Star Party
28 April Stars for All (remote observing event)
28 April Opticks (live moonbounce event)
29 April Cosmic Concert (live musical concert)
30 April Write Your Name in The Sky (remote observing event)
Throughout April One Star at a Time – Fight Light Pollution
Throughout April Astropoetry Contest for GAM2012
Throughout April Programs for Planetariums
Throughout April Programs for People with Disabilities
Throughout April 30 Nights of Star Peace
Throughout April MicroObservatory Astrophotography Contest
Throughout April Olympicosmopoetriada for GAM2012
Throughout April The Sky in Your Hands

Constellations: Official List

The Constellations Table :A complete table with information about all the 88 Constellations as defined by the I.A.U. ( International Astronomical Union ). Abbreviations, Genitive and Latin Names, English Names and more.FIELD LIST

ABBREV : IAU abbreviation
CONSTELLATION : latin name
GENITIVE : latin genitive ( possessive )
ENGLISH NAME : english translation
AREA : constellation size or area, in square degrees
HEM : position in the celestial sphere :
NH – northern celestial hemisphere – declination between 0° and +90°
SH – southern celestial hemisphere – declination between 0° and – 90°
ALPHA STAR : proper name of the alpha star.

ALPHABETICAL ORDER

Cosmobrain’s Constellation Table

No. Abbrev. Constellation Genitive English Name

Area

Hem.

Alpha Star

1

And

Andromeda Andromedae Andromeda

722

NH

Alpheratz

2

Ant

Antlia Antliae Air Pump

239

SH

3

Aps

Apus Apodis Bird of Paradise

206

SH

4

Aqr

Aquarius Aquarii Water Carrier

980

SH

Sadalmelik

5

Aql

Aquila Aquilae Eagle

652

NH-SH

Altair

6

Ara

Ara Arae Altar

237

SH

7

Ari

Aries Arietis Ram

441

NH

Hamal

8

Aur

Auriga Aurigae Charioteer

657

NH

Capella

9

Boo

Bootes Bootis Herdsman

907

NH

Arcturus

10

Cae

Caelum Caeli Chisel

125

SH

11

Cam

Camelopardalis Camelopardalis Giraffe

757

NH

12

Cnc

Cancer Cancri Crab

506

NH

Acubens

13

CVn

Canes Venatici Canun Venaticorum Hunting Dogs

465

NH

Cor Caroli

14

CMa

Canis Major Canis Majoris Big Dog

380

SH

Sirius

15

CMi

Canis Minor Canis Minoris Little Dog

183

NH

Procyon

16

Cap

Capricornus Capricorni Goat ( Capricorn )

414

SH

Algedi

17

Car

Carina Carinae Keel

494

SH

Canopus

18

Cas

Cassiopeia Cassiopeiae Cassiopeia

598

NH

Schedar

19

Cen

Centaurus Centauri Centaur

1060

SH

Rigil Kentaurus

20

Cep

Cepheus Cephei Cepheus

588

SH

Alderamin

21

Cet

Cetus Ceti Whale

1231

SH

Menkar

22

Cha

Chamaleon Chamaleontis Chameleon

132

SH

23

Cir

Circinus Circini Compasses

93

SH

24

Col

Columba Columbae Dove

270

SH

Phact

25

Com

Coma Berenices Comae Berenices Berenice’s Hair

386

NH

Diadem

26

CrA

Corona Australis Coronae Australis Southern Crown

128

SH

27

CrB

Corona Borealis Coronae Borealis Northern Crown

179

NH

Alphecca

28

Crv

Corvus Corvi Crow

184

SH

Alchiba

29

Crt

Crater Crateris Cup

282

SH

Alkes

30

Cru

Crux Crucis Southern Cross

68

SH

Acrux

31

Cyg

Cygnus Cygni Swan

804

NH

Deneb

32

Del

Delphinus Delphini Dolphin

189

NH

Sualocin

33

Dor

Dorado Doradus Goldfish

179

SH

34

Dra

Draco Draconis Dragon

1083

NH

Thuban

35

Equ

Equuleus Equulei Little Horse

72

NH

Kitalpha

36

Eri

Eridanus Eridani River

1138

SH

Achernar

37

For

Fornax Fornacis Furnace

398

SH

38

Gem

Gemini Geminorum Twins

514

NH

Castor

39

Gru

Grus Gruis Crane

366

SH

Al Na’ir

40

Her

Hercules Herculis Hercules

1225

NH

Rasalgethi

41

Hor

Horologium Horologii Clock

249

SH

42

Hya

Hydra Hydrae Hydra ( Sea Serpent )

1303

SH

Alphard

43

Hyi

Hydrus Hydri Water Serpen ( male )

243

SH

44

Ind

Indus Indi Indian

294

SH

45

Lac

Lacerta Lacertae Lizard

201

NH

46

Leo

Leo Leonis Lion

947

NH

Regulus

47

LMi

Leo Minor Leonis Minoris Smaller Lion

232

NH

48

Lep

Lepus Leporis Hare

290

SH

Arneb

49

Lib

Libra Librae Balance

538

SH

Zubenelgenubi

50

Lup

Lupus Lupi Wolf

334

SH

Men

51

Lyn

Lynx Lyncis Lynx

545

NH

52

Lyr

Lyra Lyrae Lyre

286

NH

Vega

53

Men

Mensa Mensae Table

153

SH

54

Mic

Microscopium Microscopii Microscope

210

SH

55

Mon

Monoceros Monocerotis Unicorn

482

SH

56

Mus

Musca Muscae Fly

138

SH

57

Nor

Norma Normae Square

165

SH

58

Oct

Octans Octantis Octant

291

SH

59

Oph

Ophiucus Ophiuchi Serpent Holder

948

NH-SH

Rasalhague

60

Ori

Orion Orionis Orion

594

NH-SH

Betelgeuse

61

Pav

Pavo Pavonis Peacock

378

SH

Peacock

62

Peg

Pegasus Pegasi Winged Horse

1121

NH

Markab

63

Per

Perseus Persei Perseus

615

NH

Mirfak

64

Phe

Phoenix Phoenicis Phoenix

469

SH

Ankaa

65

Pic

Pictor Pictoris Easel

247

SH

66

Psc

Pisces Piscium Fishes

889

NH

Alrischa

67

PsA

Pisces Austrinus Pisces Austrini Southern Fish

245

SH

Fomalhaut

68

Pup

Puppis Puppis Stern

673

SH

69

Pyx

Pyxis Pyxidis Compass

221

SH

70

Ret

Reticulum Reticuli Reticle

114

SH

71

Sge

Sagitta Sagittae Arrow

80

NH

72

Sgr

Sagittarius Sagittarii Archer

867

SH

Rukbat

73

Sco

Scorpius Scorpii Scorpion

497

SH

Antares

74

Scl

Sculptor Sculptoris Sculptor

475

SH

75

Sct

Scutum Scuti Shield

109

SH

76

Ser

Serpens Serpentis Serpent

637

NH-SH

Unuck al Hai

77

Sex

Sextans Sextantis Sextant

314

SH

78

Tau

Taurus Tauri Bull

797

NH

Aldebaran

79

Tel

Telescopium Telescopii Telescope

252

SH

80

Tri

Triangulum Trianguli Triangle

132

NH

Ras al Mothallah

81

TrA

Triangulum Australe Trianguli Australis Southern Triangle

110

SH

Atria

82

Tuc

Tucana Tucanae Toucan

295

SH

83

UMa

Ursa Major Ursae Majoris Great Bear

1280

NH

Dubhe

84

UMi

Ursa Minor Ursae Minoris Little Bear

256

NH

Polaris

85

Vel

Vela Velorum Sails

500

SH

86

Vir

Virgo Virginis Virgin

1294

NH-SH

Spica

87

Vol

Volans Volantis Flying Fish

141

SH

88

Vul

Vulpecula Vulpeculae Fox

268

NH

BY EDUARDO SOARES

©Cosmobrain.com 2001 – All Rights Reserved.

Credits : http://www.cosmobrain.com/cosmobrain/res/constellations.html

Constellations: Origins and Now

The sky is like a grid with lots of scattered dots.  Joined together they may take many a lot of forms, depending on the whims of the sky gazer. But with these groupings known as Constellations they have helped us a lot to discover the sky.

Before the advent of the T.V, internet or the recent social medias there was a time where people used to distract themselves by observing the sky.

The sky used to marvel their souls as it was a not a stagnant beauty but the moving of the stars on the celestial plane would be their night show. After having gone through a day of accomplishment like “yeah, I conquered Rome to-day”, looking to the sky, with all its wonders would humble their beings.

We should be full of chagrin that today we are not able to appreciate and contemplate on the night sky in our urban settings. Artificial lights, though beautifying our space have barred our view of the beautiful night sky. Urbanization has given us a great wonder of man-made lighting everywhere, making our nights to become days where never ending work (24/7) has become our norm.

But……there was a time, when people had “time” to look and observe the sky. So, they grouped the stars into constellations.

Where did these constellations originate?

“Constellations are groupings of stars that, to ancient peoples, were heavenly manifestations of known or imagined objects, creatures and beings. Constellations appeared at certain times of the year, returning to those same positions annually. The ancient stargazers ascribed significance to these observations. Though identifying constellations predates the Greeks and Romans, the 48 “classical” constellation names familiar to us come from those societies.” Courtesy http://www.ehow.com/

The Greeks were creative. In fact, the constellations even today are named after the mythical beings, shapes or creatures they honored or resembled in their minds. For example, the Orion constellation takes the form of a man wielding a club and wearing a belt and a sheath.  Taurus resembles a bull’s head. And Scorpio is the Scorpion which is going to harm the man in the Orion’s constellation.  We will back  with the creative stories of the Greeks in the constellations category.

The constellations were helpful for remembering the stars, but at that time where people having loads of time in their hands would attribute the sky to several other purposes. It is common story in astronomy that farmers of the past would know about the movement of the stars and constellations in order when to sow their crops and when to harvest.  Story tellers among the Greeks would use these constellations to relate about the exploits of their Gods. And strange enough, the Egyptians had aligned their pyramids in Giza to the Orion’s belt.  The three stars in the belt as Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka.

Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka

The Arabs were the ones who preserved the astronomical science and augmented in the science so that the generations to come may take benefit from this extraordinary science. It is so interesting to know that the constellations were given Arabic names and even loads of stars got their names too. For example, In the Orion’s constellation Betelgeuse was previously yad-al-jawzaa, which later in my opinion became bad-al-jawzaa to Betelgeuse. Whereas Saiph the star, the bright star adjacent to Rigel, means The Sword. And Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka are Arabic too which are still called the same. Alnitak means ‘the girdle’ Alnilam, means ‘the string of pearls and Mintaka means ‘the belt’.

Then In the early twentienth century the constellations were put to an order and to the previously classical constellations other constellations were added up by  the International astronomical Union up to 88 constellations which is still in use to date. Thus the sky is now divided in these constellations, to help humanity in observing them.

“Originally the constellations were defined informally by the shapes made by their star patterns, but, as the pace of celestial discoveries quickened in the early 20th century, astronomers decided it would be helpful to have an official set of constellation boundaries. One reason was to aid in the naming of new variable stars, which brighten and fade rather than shine steadily. Such stars are named for the constellation in which they reside, so it is important to agree where one constellation ends and the next begins.”  Courtesy http://www.iau.org/public/constellations/

Obviously, these stars do not have boundaries or lines to join them when we look at them in the sky, but with the game of joining the dots, we are able to make up the lines and identify the constellations.

Further division was given to the constellations by forming patterns known as Asterisms. Well-known “constellations” such as the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, the Teapot, the Northern Cross, and the Summer Triangle are not among the official list. Some, like the Dippers and the Teapot, are actually parts of other constellations (the Big Dipper, or the great bear is part of Ursa Major, the Little Dipper is part of Ursa Minor, and the Teapot is part of Sagittarius). Others, like the Summer Triangle and Winter Hexagon, include stars from several neighboring constellations. These asterisms help us to identify the brighter stars in the constellations. If you enjoy stargazing, you may even have a few of your own personal asterisms, like I did on my entry to stargazing.

So now I have to learn 88 constellations to understand this Astronomy?

Ahhh…..Kinda yes. If you want to be familiar with the sky then you have to know the stars and the constellations. But it is a marvelous, jaw- dropping adventure which you will never regret. And learning along is the great thing.

Yeah, but still I have to learn 88 constellations?

Rome was not conquered in one day. Learning the sky can be done step by step. You learn it by loving it. No rush for a certificate, no rush for schooling, just you and the stars. Finding Betelgeuse in Orion would be pretty easy. But also knowing that it is classified as a red supergiant, Betelgeuse is one of the largest and most luminous stars known. In terms of mass, Betelgeuse is thought to be about 15 times the mass of the sun, but 600 times wider and more than 200 million times its volume! Though it looks tiny but it is not what you are thinking……. Isn’t the study of stars cool?

Found our star, the sun?

Stay tuned, there is more to come.

 

 

 

 

 

Download Stellarium free

What is Stellarium?

Stellarium is a Planetarium on your desktop . That is what it is.

You see the sky ?

Have your laptop with you?

Stellarium is installed?

If you said yes to the above ?

Start Stellarium

And Behold!! The sky wherever you are is on your screen.

Now just look up and down, up and down, up and down.

You will be able to surf around the sky in a few minutes.

Short but sweet

Stellarium, it helps you to learn the sky a lot.

  1. Learning the constellations: Names of the 88 constellations.
  2. Know about the boundaries of the constellations: Constellation Lines
  3. Astro Art of the constellations.
  4. Know about the major and minor stars in the constellations: You know their minutest details, like how far is the star, e.g:  Rigel: 772.88 years light years, the RA/DE, the parallax, the star magnitude and a lot of other details.
  5. Knowing about the planets
  6. Knowing about the asteroids
  7. Individual Stars
  8. Binary Stars
  9. Nebulae
  10. Deep sky Objects
  11. Zooming facility
  12. Indication of the Cardinal Points
  13. One great feature is Rewind, Fast-forward, Pause and Play……. Time. You can obviously predict which star will be where and when. Or just see how the moon orbits around the earth.
  14. Wherever you are in the world you can observe the sky with Stellarium. You can obviously observe How constellations form in Paris, Germany, or even in Australia or Mauritius. Have fun while learning at the same time.

Actually it is a fun way to learn the Universe in a more visual way. I recommend it to every newbie interested in knowing about our amazing universe.

One more thing, if you just want the universe for yourselves than so be it, but if you want to share, than it is good to know that Stellarium is good for presentations too. If you want the professional touch then you have Stellarium Console. Or, you can even have Stellarium on your Mobiles. The universe on your palms.

You can have a rough introductory guide here and more about functionalities here.

For more informational and detailed features on Stellarium I would  rather recommend the reviews here and here.

There are many other cool features, you just have to try it. And if you’re kind enough, then let me know too…… through your comments below.

So what are you waiting for? Download Stellarium free now.

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