Home > Constellations, History, Holiday > 01/18/2021 – Ephemeris – The Drinking Gourd

01/18/2021 – Ephemeris – The Drinking Gourd

January 18, 2021

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 18 minutes, setting at 5:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:13. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 11:34 this evening.

This day is set aside to honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who gave his life for the struggle for equality for blacks and other minorities and to end segregation. A struggle that continues to this day. In the decades before the Civil War runaway slaves would travel, often at night, northward from the slave states of the south to the northern free states and Canada over the metaphorical Underground Railroad following the Drinking Gourd, the Big Dipper as their compass. Over the last several millennia the Great Bear, Ursa Major has been that northward pointer. For much of that time the North Pole of the sky had been passing near the handle of the Big Dipper or bear’s tail.

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


An animation showing the Big Dipper, also known as the Drinking Gourd pointing to Polaris, the North Star which is just about due north. This is for 9 pm January 18th, about 3 1/2 hours after sunset. Created using Stellarium with additional annotations.

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