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Posts Tagged ‘Big Dipper’

09/02/2021 – Ephemeris – Finding the Little Dipper

September 2, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, September 2nd. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 10 minutes, setting at 8:17, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:07. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 2:55 tomorrow morning.

10 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 which point to the North Star, Polaris, the star that doesn’t appear to move. That star is the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper. The handle is seen as a curve of stars upward and 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 in the past they were thought to be guardians of 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 Maang the loon.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hr). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Little Dipper finder animation

Little Dipper finder animation. The Little Dipper is also Ursa Major 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. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

08/30/2021 – Ephemeris – “W”

August 30, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, August 30th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 8:22, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:04. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 12:26 tomorrow morning.

Rising higher each evening in the northeastern sky is a group of stars that make the pattern of the letter W. It is the constellation of Cassiopeia the queen. It is one of the more recognizable star patterns. From our latitude here in Northern Michigan, it is circumpolar, meaning that it never sets. Though, the best time to see it is in the autumn and winter, when it’s highest in the sky. It is opposite the Big Dipper from Polaris, the north star. In fact, a line drawn from any of the handle stars of the Big Dipper through Polaris will reach Cassiopeia. So as the Big Dipper descends in the northwestern sky now, Cassiopeia ascends in the northeast. They change places in winter and spring as the Big Dipper ascends in the northeast.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hr). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Big Dipper-Cassiopeia animation

Animation showing the juxtaposition of Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper from Polaris, the North Star. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

06/07/2021 – Ephemeris – The Little Dipper, aka Ursa Minor

June 7, 2021 Comments off

 This is Ephemeris for Monday, June 7th.  Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 28 minutes, setting at 9:26, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:57.  The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 4:54 tomorrow morning.

One of the constellations I don’t talk about much, except in passing is Ursa Minor, the Little Bear, better known as the Little Dipper. As a dipper goes, its handle is bent the wrong way. Anyway, this time of year in the evening, it’s standing on the tip of it’s handle the North Star Polaris. Polaris is pointed to by the front two stars of the Big Dipper. As dippers go they pour their contents into each other. The second and third-brightest stars of the Little Dipper are at the front of the bowl, and are Kochab and Pherkad, the Guard Stars, that is Guardians of the Pole. To the Anishinaabe native peoples of our area the Little Dipper is Maang, the Loon.

The astronomical event 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 with bonus frame with Draco the dragon. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium. Animation and star names added with GIMP.

05/11/2021 – Ephemeris – The Big Dipper as seen by many peoples

May 11, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, May 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 41 minutes, setting at 9 pm, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:17 am. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

The Big Dipper is overhead, actually north of overhead this evening when it gets dark for us in Michigan, 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 (plow), 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 astronomical event 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), and Cleaver.

05/10/2021 – Ephemeris – The story of the constellations Boötes and Ursa Major

May 10, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, May 10th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 38 minutes, setting at 8:58, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:18. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 6:25 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 astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Arcas and Callisto as Boötes and Ursa Major
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

05/03/2021 – Ephemeris – The constellation of Virgo

May 3, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, May 3rd. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 21 minutes, setting at 8:50, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:28. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 3:52 tomorrow morning.

Tonight in the sky: to the southeast is the bright star Spica. Another way to find the star is to find the Big Dipper high overhead and follow the arc of the handle to the bright star Arcturus, and straighten the arc to a spike to meet Spica. It is in the constellation and member of the zodiac: Virgo the virgin. Virgo is a large constellation of a reclining woman holding a stalk of wheat. The bright star in the center of the constellation, Spica, is the head of that spike of wheat; and as such it ruled over the harvest in two of Virgo’s guises as the goddesses Persephone and Ceres. Ceres is now a dwarf planet and the root of the word cereal. Virgo is also identified as Astraea the goddess of justice. The constellation of Libra, the scales of justice, lies at her feet.

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

Addendum

Finding Virgo
Star hop from the Big Dipper through Arcturus to Spica and Virgo. Orientation for 10:30 pm. Created using Stellarium.

04/09/2021 – Ephemeris – Follow the arc to Arcturus

April 9, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, April 9th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 12 minutes, setting at 8:20, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:06. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:57 tomorrow morning.

The fourth or fifth brightest night-time star, depending on whose list you see, is now up in the east in the evening. It is Arcturus, a bright star with an orange hue. It can be found otherwise by finding the Big Dipper and tracing out and extending the curve of the handle and “Follow the arc of the handle to Arcturus”, to remember the name of the star and how to find it. Arcturus is about 37 light years from us and is moving quite rapidly across the sky, compared to most stars, though one would not notice it to the naked eye in one’s lifetime. Arcturus is slightly more massive than our Sun, and about 7 billion years old, and is entering its red giant stage of life after using all the hydrogen fuel in its core. Our Sun, being slightly less massive will survive on hydrogen a bit longer.

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

Addendum

How to find Arcturus
How to find Arcturus. In the early spring Arcturus is low in the east in the evening. The Big Dipper is high in the northeast standing on its handle. To find and remember the name of this star simply follow the arc of the handle to Arcturus. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

I’ll be talking more about Arcturus and the constellation it’s in Boötes the herdsman, a kite shaped constellation that’s currently laying on its side. He’s not herding, but chasing the Great Bear. But that’s another story.

04/08/2021 – Ephemeris – Ursa Major, the Great Bear

April 8, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, April 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 9 minutes, setting at 8:19, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:08. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:37 tomorrow morning. | The constellation of Ursa Major, or great bear was well-known to the ancient Greeks and Native Americans. Today, however, many of us can recognize only part of it as the Big Dipper. The whole bear can be easily seen only in a dark sky. At 10 pm it’s high in the northeast with feet to the south. The stars in front of the bowl are the front part of his body and head. The bowl of the Big Dipper is his rump, and the handle his long tail. The Native Americans, saw those three stars as three hunters following the bear. The Anishinaabe tribes of the Great Lakes region saw it as the Fisher or Ojiig, who brought summer to the Earth. These stars here do make a convincing bear, except for the tail, when seen on a dark night. However, the weasel-like Fisher fits the stars completely.

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

Addendum

Ursa Major andOjiig animation
An animation to visualize the Great Bear, Ursa Major and the Fisher, Ojiig, from the stars of and around the Big Dipper. Created using Stellarium.

03/11/2021 – Ephemeris – The Guardian of the Bear is rising

March 11, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, March 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 42 minutes, setting at 6:44, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:00. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 7:09 tomorrow morning.

The brightest star of spring is Arcturus which will be visible by 9 pm low in the east-northeast. Arcturus can most famously be found by following the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper, which resides fairly high in the northeastern sky to it. “Follow the arc of the handle to Arcturus.” It’s the fourth or fifth brightest star in the sky, depending on the list. It was regarded as the “Guardian of the Bear”, meaning the Great Bear, Ursa Major, of which the Big Dipper is its hind end. Apparently it’s guarding its rear. Arcturus will stay in our evening sky until the end of summer and has a fascinating story of its own aside from its ancient mythology, which I’ll talk about when it’s higher in the sky. It’s located at the base of a kite shaped constellation called Boötes, which is now horizontal and too close to the horizon to be appreciated.

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

Addendum

Arcturus rising finder animation

Arcturus rising finder animation for 9 pm tonight, March 11, 2021. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

01/18/2021 – Ephemeris – The Drinking Gourd

January 18, 2021 Comments off

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.

Addendum

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.