I went outside tonight in the crisp (brrr!) Fall weather in search of inspiration for this blog. As I stared at the almost full moon with Jupiter so brightly illuminated beneath it, I recognized that I’ve always loved looking up at the night sky, yet I know very little about it.
I can usually find the Big Dipper. And Orion, thanks to those three central stars all in a row. I decided to try to educate myself on the night sky. To find one constellation I hadn’t found before. The Little Dipper. Did I mention I’m a bit spatially challenged. 🙂
First, I went searching for how it got named. It figures that Zeus (of Greek mythology) would have a hand in it. Turns out he fell for a young woman name Callisto. His jealous wife, Hera, turned Callisto into a bear and, while in bear form, she runs into her own son, Arcas, who tries to shoot her. To save her, Zeus hurtles them both into the sky. Callisto becomes Ursa Major and Arcas becomes Ursa Minor, or the Little Dipper.
In my quest to find the Little Dipper, I knew that the first thing I needed was a map of the sky for my area and time. This is where raising kids comes in handy. Back when my youngest was a science geek like her mother, we got to do an overnight at a local science center and there we made local star charts. And I’ve kept it all these years. However, since not everyone has this handy little chart, here’s a site where you can map your own star chart:
I set the chart for tonight’s date and the current time and headed back outdoors. I stared at the sky. And at the chart. And back at the sky. I couldn’t even find Polaris, the North Star and tip of the Little Dipper. In my defense, I did mention that the moon is almost full, right? That, coupled with normal urban light density, made my first choice of constellation all but impossible to find. At least, that’s my story. 🙂
I did, however, find Cassiopeia. It’s this weird shaped “W” and it was straight up above me. I’ll take that as a good start. And next time, before I decide to stand outside in, um, cool weather for 10 minutes or so to star gaze, I’ll at least make sure it’s not a full moon so I can actually SEE something.
Oh, and, in my area, evening sightings are coming back around for the ISS (International Space Station). so don’t forget to check the NASA sight for your area. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll get to see the dot of light cross the sky. If you want more information, you can check out my earlier blog at:
Happy star gazing!
by Laurie Ryan