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05/23/2017 – Ephemeris – The Big Dipper as seen in many lands

May 23, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, May 23rd.  Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 6 minutes, setting at 9:12, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:05.  The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 5:38 tomorrow morning.

The Big Dipper is overhead at 10 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. So 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

The many faces of the Big Dipper

The Big Dipper as I imagine it from some lands facing southwest and looking straight up. The X in the picture is the zenith point. We cycle through the stars only, the Big Dipper or the Saucepan, The Plough (plow in the U.S.), Charles Wain, and finally the Cleaver. Created using my LookingUp program.

Do you know any other asterisms or informal constellations assigned to these stars, add a comment.

 

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04/13/2015 – Ephemeris – The Big Dipper as seen from many lands

April 13, 2015 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, April 13th.  The Sun will rise at 7:02.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 22 minutes, setting at 8:25.   The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 4:31 tomorrow morning.

The Big Dipper will be high in the east, nearly overhead at 10 p.m.  It is officially part of Ursa Major, the Great Bear.  Other cultures have different representations for this star group.  It’s the plough (plow), Charles’ Wain (Charlemagne’s Wagon), the Saucepan, or the Cleaver depending on the country.  It performs an invaluable service in pointing out other stars and constellations, especially the star Polaris the north star.  That star, which seems to hover over the north pole of the Earth can be found by using the two stars at the front of the bowl of the dipper to point to it.  And at our latitude of around 45 degrees north, the Big Dipper is always in the sky.  It is one of the circumpolar star groups that can be seen in any season.

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

Addendum

Right now in the spring the Big Dipper is nearly overhead pointing down to Polaris.  I’ve turned these upside down so the images make more sense.

Big Dipper or Sauce Pan

The Big Dipper or Sauce Pan. Credit: Bob Moler’s LookingUp program.

For runaway slaves fleeing northward at night it was their compass… “Follow the Drinking Gourd”

The Plow

The Plough or plow in American. Credit: Bob Moler’s LookingUp program.

Charle's Wain. The Plough or plow in American.    Credit: Bob Moler's LookinUp program.

Charles’ Wain. Credit: Bob Moler’s LookingUp program.

The Cleaver

The Cleaver. Credit: Bob Moler’s LookingUp program.

Do you know any others?