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Do you watch the night sky? Do you know constellations?
I've always been fascinated by the night sky. When I was quite young I'd spend a portion of most warm summer nights gazing at the sky. I learned the constellations. I also watched the planets that we can see with our eyes transit the sky knowing where each one was located all year long. Only a few generations ago most people knew the night sky quite well. Now it seems to be a rarity. I actually come across folks all the time that literally don't know where to look in the night sky to locate the Big Dipper.
I'm bringing this topic up because right now in the middle of the night sky is Jupiter in the constellation Gemini. So if you have a clear sky, go take a look up high in the sky facing south. Jupiter is the brightest planet and will be quite obvious since it's right smack dab in the middle of Gemini.
Gemini is easy to make out because each of the twins has a bright star at his head and a bright star at his feet. It looks like a rectangle. In the pic below the heads of the twins are on top. The bright star on left of those is Pollux. The bright star to the right of that is Castor. In the pic below, Gemini is seen upright. It's the dominant constellation in the southern sky right now about 10 PM, but you'll see it on it's side with the heads of the twins oriented to the east of their feet to the west.
Later in life I bought a telescope and got into astrophotography and star parties. Star Parties are cool because everyone loves the night sky and has a telescope. I've never been to one that had anything but the nicest folks who always love to show you whatever they are viewing through their telescope.
Constellations are easy to learn if you start with a simple plan. What at first seems like an overwhelming thing becomes easy because you start with a small number of obvious things.
1) Start by learning the constellations that pretty much look like what they are supposed to be.
2) There is a main constellation that rules each season in the night sky. Learn those. They are found high in the south sky.
3) Learn just a handful of the brightest stars in the constellations that rule each season and you are on your way, if you desire, to fill in the blanks in between.
So, I'm going to give you all you need to really get a grasp on the night sky year-round. All you need is a cloud free night and your eyes. I'm going to highlight just seven easy to see constellations and some of the bright stars in them.
Everyone should be able to find the Big Dipper. It's always visible in the northern sky from the northern hemisphere no matter what the season. Depending upon the time of year, you'll find it right side up or upside down like in this pic:
Directly across from the Big Dipper in the northern sky...across from the north star Polaris, is an easy to see group of stars that appear as the letter "m" or "w" depending upon which way it is oriented. That's the constellation Cassiopeia which is also visible any season. Being able to make out the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia takes care of the north sky.
As a quick side note: there are two very bright stars in the summer sky that are so easy to find because the handle of the Big Dipper points to them in an arc shape. Remembering their names is a snap too using this little moniker "arc to Arcturus then jab into Spica." What a handy, dandy saying.
The 12 zodiac constellations follow the sun's path across the sky. Just imagine where the sun arced across the sky during the day and you'll know where to look for the visible zodiak constellations at night along the same arc in the south sky. Right now the sun is in Pisces which means it is directly behind the sun so you can't see it.
OK, all we need to learn about are very easy to make out constellations for each season and we're set.
In the summer, we look into the middle of our galaxy. That's why the Milky Way is so bright in summer. The dominant constellation that is super easy to make out in summer is Scorpio. It looks like a scorpion with its tail. Sagittarius is east of Scorpio and looks like a teapot about to pour tea on Scorpio's tail, so it's easy to make out as well. The middle of our galaxy is right between these two, so you are looking at the place the dark hole hangs out. The bright red star Antares is in the middle of Scorpio.
The major constellation dominating the spring night sky is Leo, which looks like a lion that is lying down on the ground with his head raised up. The head of Leo is the curved part. The triangle at the back is Leo's rear haunch. It's a big, easy to see constellation. The bright star Regulus is at Leo's front.
OK, we need a winter sky constellation to complete this. And it's Orion the hunter. Orion is very easy to make out. The left shoulder of Orion has a very bright red star called Betelgeuse. The bright blue star of Orion's right knee is Rigel. Three stars create a belt across Orion's mid-section and three more stars hanging below his waist make out his sword.
To the east of Orion is the brightest star we can see in the northern hemisphere. It is Sirius the dog star seen at the lower left of this pic. During winter we look away from the center of the Milky Way so the winter sky is very crisp and dark compared to the summer sky.
To bring this diary full circle this pic below shows how the winter sky looks right now as the sky darkens and the stars show up. Gemini follows Orion from east to west. The orientation of Gemini right now looks just like it is in the pic below (sideways with the twins' heads on the left side). Bright Jupiter is right about at Gemini's mid-section. The bottom graphic shows where Jupiter will be found in Gemini. Go take a look on a clear night.
Another interesting side note: Due to parallax, Jupiter actually appeared to change directions as it traversed the constellation Gemini. It looked to be moving eastward through the constellation until Nov. 7, 2013 when it appeared to change direction. From then until today, Mar. 6, 2014, Jupiter has appeared to be moving westward through Gemini. After today, it will again look to be moving eastward again against the backdrop of Gemini. This is known as "going retrograde."
Well that's not too much to look for in the night sky if you want to orient yourself. Enjoy.
Have you looked at Jupiter in the constellation Gemini?
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Saturday, March 8th
Three Star Kossacks and Nashville KosKats Meet-up With State Senate Candidate Mary Mancini
TIME: 5:00 PM
LOCATION: The Pour House
730 8th Avenue South • Nashville
ORGANIZER: Send marykk a kosmail to attend.
Latest diary: Connect! Three Star Kossacks and Nashville KosKats to Convene!
2. Land of Enchantment
4. Sandy on Signal
5. Mr. Sandy on Signal
6. Mr. marykk
8. Mr. Sow Hat
9. Mrs. Sow Hat
Patrick is Lucky
Saturday, March 15th
LAKossacks Roll Out the Red Carpet for shanikka!
[Address] • [City]
ORGANIZER: Send Dave in Northridge a kosmail to attend.
Latest diary: [Waiting for linked diary]
1. Dave in Northridge
2. shanikka (Guest of Honor)
4. Gay CA Democrat
Saturday, March 15th
Sacramento/Central Valley Kossacks, Silicon Valley Kossacks and the SFKossacks Demonstrate at "Don't Frack California"
TIME: 1:00 PM
LOCATION: California State Capitol lawn
1315 10th St. • Sacramento
We'll be gathering near the Idle No More banners. See this diary for photos of banner. There will be a Daily Kos 7 ft. banner also.
We'll also be heading over to a local watering hole after the protest ends. Meet us at KBar at 1000 K Street, a couple of short blocks north of the Capitol building.
The Don't Frack California website has also arranged for buses from all over California. Places as far away as San Diego and Los Angeles. Check out their ride board and buy a ticket STAT.
Latest diary: The California Frack Wars: Episode 3 Revenge Of The Greed
1. Anthony Page aka SecondComing
3. Dan Bacher
7. Meteor Blades
11. Glen the Plumber
Sunday, March 16th
NYC Kossacks Meet-up
LOCATION: Spitzer's Corner
101 Rivington Street (Ludlow) • NYC
ORGANIZER: Send sidnora a kosmail to RSVP
Latest diary: NYC Meetup, Sunday, March 16: Good times ahead, now with special guest!
4. belinda ridgewood
8. No Exit
9. Its the Supreme Court Stupid
10. Denise Oliver Velez
Saturday, March 29th
Houston Kossacks Meet-up
TIME: 1:00 PM
LOCATION: Fadi's Mediterranean Grill
4738 Beechnut Street • Houston
ORGANIZER: Send Chrislove a kosmail to attend.
Latest diary: Houston Area Kossacks: Meet-Up Scheduled for Saturday, March 29 (plus a note on future meet-ups)
3. Libby Shaw
5. Bree Davis
7. Mary (Honorary Kossack)
8. Alan (Honorary Kossack)
Mr. Libby Shaw
Saturday, April 5th
Seattle & Puget Sound Kossacks Meet-up
TIME: Noon - 3:00 PM
LOCATION: Pyramid Alehouse, Brewery & Restaurant
1201 First Avenue South • Seattle
ORGANIZER: Send EagleOfFreedom a kosmail to attend.
Latest diary: Seattle & Puget Sound Kossacks Arrive
Saturday, May 3rd
DKos Asheville Kossacks Meet-up
TIME: 1:00 PM
LOCATION: The Bywater
796 Riverside Dr. • Asheville
ORGANIZER: Send randallt a kosmail to attend.
Latest diary: [Waiting for linked diary]
7. GulfGal 98
8. Otteray Scribe
10. people power granny
Tuesday, May 13th
SFKossacks Roll Out the Red Carpet for LeftOfYou & Expat Okie
TIME: 11:00 AM, Early lunch!
LOCATION: Yank Sing
Rincon Center, 101 Spear St. • San Francisco
ORGANIZER: Send navajo a kosmail to attend.
3. Expat Okie
4. side pocket
5. Justice Putnam
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