Stand and stare (Photo credit: Cy Evans)
WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
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
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.
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.
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.
- Astronomy Outreach for dummies (heavenswithlamps.wordpress.com)
- Constellations: Origins and Now (heavenswithlamps.wordpress.com)
- Asterisms : What? and List (heavenswithlamps.wordpress.com)