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Posts Tagged ‘Big Dipper’

09/24/2019 – Ephemeris – Cassiopeia the “W” shaped constellation

September 24, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, September 24th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 4 minutes, setting at 7:36, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:33. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:13 tomorrow morning.

The stars of the autumn skies slowly are replacing the summer stars from the east. Look in the northeastern sky by 9 p.m. and you can find the W shaped constellation of Cassiopeia the queen. Cassiopeia is so far north that it never sets for us in Michigan. It is opposite the pole star Polaris from the Big Dipper. There’s a dim star that appears above the middle star of the W which turns the W into a very crooked backed chair. Cassiopeia, in Greek mythology, represents a queen of ancient Ethiopia, the W represents the profile of her throne. She enters in to the great autumn story whose other characters are also seen in the stars as the constellations Andromeda, Pegasus, Perseus, Cetus and her husband Cepheus.

For my retelling of the Greek myth that links these autumn constellations click here.

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

Addendum

Cassiopeia finder

Cassiopeia, in the northeast is opposite Polaris from the Big Dipper. For 9 p.m. in late September. Created using Stellarium. Artistic credit: Johan Meuris.

07/30/2019 – Ephemeris – Finding the Little Dipper

July 30, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, July 30th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 44 minutes, setting at 9:11, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:27. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 5:37 tomorrow morning.

11 p.m. is the best time now to spot the Little Dipper. It is difficult to spot, being much smaller and dimmer than the Big Dipper. However it is the Big Dipper that points to it, by the two stars at the front of the bowl of the Big Dipper to point to the North Star, Polaris, the star that doesn’t appear to move. That is the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper. The handle is seen in a curve of the stars upwards and a bit to the left to a small box of stars that is its bowl. The two brighter stars at the front of the bowl are called the Guard Stars because they guard the pole. The Little Dipper is not an official constellation, but is Ursa Minor the lesser bear. To the Anishinaabe native peoples of this area it represents a loon.

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

Addendum

Little Dipper finder animation

Little Dipper finder animation. The Little Dipper is also Ursa Minor and the Loon. Polaris is the Pole Star and North Star. The Guard Stars are Kochab and Pherkad. Except for the named stars, the Little Dipper stars are quite faint and require moonless skies away from the city to spot. Chick on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

The loon image constellation art is part of the latest versions of Stellarium. Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) constellation art by Annette S Lee and William Wilson from Ojibwe Sky Star Map Constellation Guide, by A. Lee, W Wilson, C Gawboy, J. Tibbetts.  ISBN 978-0-615-98678-4.

05/27/2019 – Ephemeris – The bright star Spica

May 27, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Memorial Day, Monday, May 27th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 13 minutes, setting at 9:16, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:03. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 3:34 tomorrow morning.

Just about due south at 10:30 p.m. is the bright star Spica which can be found from all the way back overhead to the Big Dipper. Follow the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper to the bright star Arcturus high in the south-southeast. Then straighten the curve of the arc to a straight spike which points to Spica the brightest star in the zodiacal constellation of Virgo the virgin. Arcturus is much brighter than Spica and has an orange tint to Spica’s bluish hue. In fact Spica is the bluest of the 21 first magnitude stars. That means that it is hot. Actually Spica is really two blue stars orbiting each other every 4 days. Spica is 250 light years away, which is reasonably close. Spica was an important star to the ancient Greeks. One temple was built, and aligned to its setting point.

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

Addendum

Finding Spica

Spica finder animation for 10:30 p.m., May 27th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

05/20/2019 – Ephemeris – Dark evening skies again and a look at Virgo

May 20, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, May 20th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours even, setting at 9:09, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:08. The Moon, 2 days past full, will rise at 11:10 this evening.

One of the large constellations we see in the south at 11 p.m. can be found using the Big Dipper overhead, follow the arc of the handle to the bright star Arcturus, the straighten the arc to a spike to reach Spica, a bright blue-white star in the south. Spica is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the virgin. She represents the goddess of the harvest, Virgo is holding a sheaf of wheat in depictions of her, and Spica is placed at the head of the sheaf. In the space between Spica and Leo the lion to her upper right is, a great cluster just below naked eye visibility. The Virgo cluster of galaxies. Inside that cluster is galaxy M87 in whose center lies a black hole with the mass of 6.5 billion suns that was imaged last month.

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

Addendum

Virgo finder

Virgo finder animation for 11 p.m. May 20, 2019. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Brighter members of the Virgo Cluster. Created using Stellarium.

Brighter members of the Virgo Cluster. Created using Stellarium. Open circles are galaxies, circles with crosses are globular star clusters, outlying members of our Milky Way galaxy.  M87 is just above center in that knot of galaxies.  Created using Stellarium.

Virgo Cluster

A closer look at some of the galaxies in the heart of the Virgo Cluster. M87 is near the center. Created with Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

 

04/29/2019 – Ephemeris – Follow the arc to Arcturus

April 29, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, April 29th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 8 minutes, setting at 8:45, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:34. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 5:06 tomorrow morning.

The Big Dipper, now nearing the zenith at 10 p.m. points to several stars and constellations. It’s handle points to two bright stars. First we follow the arc of the handle to the bright orange star Arcturus, the 4th brightest night-time star. The reason I say night-time is that the sun is a star also but by definition is not out at night. The arc to Arcturus is a how to find Arcturus and a clue to its name. Arcturus, midway up the sky in the east, lies at the base point of the kite shaped constellation of Boötes the herdsman. From Arcturus, straighten out the arc to a spike and one soon arrives at Spica a blue-white star in Virgo the virgin, now low in the southeast. Spica is also sometimes pronounced ‘Speeka’.

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

Addendum

Finding Arcturus and Spica

How to find the stars Arcturus and Spica from the Big Dipper in late April. Created using my LookingUp program.

 

04/26/2019 – Ephemeris – The story of Ursa Major and Boötes

April 26, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Arbor Day, Friday, April 26th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours even, setting at 8:41, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:39. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 3:39 tomorrow morning.

Seen in the east at 10 p.m. tonight is the kite shaped constellation of Boötes the herdsman. The bright star Arcturus is at the bottom of the kite to the right. It is pointed to by the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper, higher in the east. Boötes represents a young hunter named Arcas, son of Callisto, a beautiful young lady who had the misfortune of being loved by Zeus the chief of the Greek gods. Zeus’ wife Hera, found out about it, and since she couldn’t punish Zeus, turned the poor woman into a bear. Arcas, many years later, unaware of the events surrounding his mother’s disappearance was about to kill the bear when Zeus intervened and placed them both in the sky to save her, as Arcas still pursues her across the sky nightly.

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

Addendum

Arcas and Callisto

Bootes and Ursa Major aka Arcas chasing Callisto around the pole of the sky. Created using Stellarium.

Arcas and Callisto woodcut

Arcas about to slay the bear by the 17th century artist Baur. Source: University of Virginia Electronic Text Center

03/28/2019 – Ephemeris – The Big Dipper as seen by some other countries

March 28, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, March 28th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 33 minutes, setting at 8:05, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:29. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 4:21 tomorrow morning.

The Big Dipper is climbing up the northeastern sky at 9:30 in the evening, it’s seven stars shining brightly. The Big Dipper is not an actual constellation, recognized internationally. It’s part, the hind part, of Ursa Major, the great bear. The Big Dipper is an asterism or informal constellation. It is a distinctly North American constellation. For fugitive slaves, fleeing the southern states in the days before the Civil War, the Drinking Gourd, as they called it, showed the direction north to freedom. In England the dipper stars become the Plough, or Charles’ Wain (Charlemagne’s Wagon). In France, known for culinary delights it was the saucepan, or the cleaver. Many cultures saw what was familiar to them in these seven bright stars.

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

Addendum

Big Dipper as seen by different cultures

Cultural views of the Big Dipper as an Animation: Big Dipper/Sauce Pan, Plough (plow), Charle’s Wain (Charlemagne’s wagon), Cleaver.