What is Your Favorite Constellation (1 Viewer)

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Linda

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Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my Grandparents, and one of our activities was stargazing. Of course, it was much easier to do in the olden days with less light pollution. My Grandfather and Father were well-versed in the constellations (my Dad was in the Navy), and they shared all of that with me. First up was the North Star, which could always be our guide, then the dippers.

The one I loved the most then and still do today (tonight :-D) is the Northern Cross. Technically, it is an asterism and not a constellation because it made up of part of Cygnus the Swan. It also is known as the backbone of the Milky Way.

The first step to locating the Northern Cross (or Cygnus the Swan) is to find the Northern Cross’ most brilliant star, Deneb. Deneb marks the top of the Northern Cross. Deneb is perhaps just as well known for being one the three brilliant stars of the Summer Triangle, along with the even brighter stars Vega and Altair. Knowing the three stars of the Summer Triangle gives you good footing for locating the Northern Cross, which is embedded within the Summer Triangle asterism.
Roughly halfway between Altair to Vega, and somewhat offset toward Deneb, look for the brightest star in that part of the sky. That’s Albireo. Although a modestly bright star, Albireo is easy to see on a clear, dark night. Since there are no similarly bright stars near Albireo, it is fairly easy to find. Once you locate Deneb and Albireo, you’re only a hop and a skip away from piecing together the Northern Cross.
I don't really know why this one attracts me so, but I do feel an affinity for the star named Deneb. Amusingly, it has made its way into the world of science fiction with settings in Star Trek, Babylon 5, and 2 Isaac Asimov stories.

Also, in my early years, I read Kon Tiki, the story of Thor Heyerdahl's journey across the South Pacific on a raft. I became entranced by the idea of the Southern Cross, which later was reignited by Stephen Still's song, Southern Cross.

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
'Cause the truth you might be runnin' from is so small
But it's as big as the promise, the promise of a comin' day

Given the number of nautical terms I use, I figure I've had some lives on the ocean. The times I've been far away from cities, I've been astounded at the abundance and brilliance of the night sky. There is so much more that just don't see in my normal life.

These are my favorites. How about you all?

Cygnus-Northern-Cross-Summer-Triangle.jpg
Image via Bob Mohler.
 

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Hailstones Melt

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Living in the Southern Hemisphere and not being an astronomer, it's hard to know what you're looking at, because a lot of our cultural myths and legends about cosmology have been a direct transplant from the northern hemisphere as that is where many of our ancestors came from. Unless you travel to the northern hemisphere, you simply will not see what you may have been hearing about all your life.

Also, it is necessary to know some concepts about looking up in the sky. Some of these are not so obvious when you think about how urban most people's lives are, and that most people gravitate to looking downwards when they walk. The concepts I mean are that as the seasons cycle, so do the stars overhead, and also, even in the course of one night, stars move from horizon to horizon, and it is necessary to know what time of the night you should be star-gazing, to capture the sights you wish to see.

I persist and I do use manuals and star charts, and I have been to the local telescopes and observatories, as well as making some of the larger radio telescopes the object of a holiday or two.

The ones I find easy to recognise in the southern hemisphere just by looking up are Orion's belt (part of the Hunter); the Southern Cross, and Triangulum Australe. We also have a good view of Sirius in the Canis Major constellation, and Canopus in the Carina constellation.

It is also easier to identify the planets of our solar system as opposed to star constellations, as they are much closer to us, and they can be seen on an ecliptic (imaginary curving line of arc overhead).

The "Total Skywatcher's Manual" by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific says:

Astronomer Bart Bok, namesake of Bok Globules (the nebulae found in large numbers in the southern hemisphere) once said "All the good stuff is in the southern hemisphere!" While we're not one to choose sides, it's a sentiment echoed by most amateur astronomers....
Canopus: A blue supergiant star about 300 lights years away, Canopus (Alpha Carinae) is so bright that it is often the default guide star for tracking systems on space probes. It is fairly near Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris) in our sky. First, find Canis Major, Sirius's home. Look for a second bright star above it, that's Canopus.
Magellanic Clouds: On a dark night you may be able to see what look to be two glowing clouds in the sky. These aren't clouds; they are satellite galaxies to our own Milky Way Galaxy, named after Magellan, the famous global navigator whose crew spotted them on their voyage around the world. To find them, follow a path starting from Sirius down through Canopus. Keep following that line until you arrive near the Large Magellanic Cloud. The Small Magellanic Cloud is nearby.
Southern Cross: The Southern Cross is the symbol of the southern hemisphere for many. Also known as Crux, it serves as a handy guide to many of the other southern night-sky delights. While Crux should be very noticeable, there is also a False Cross made of two stars from Carina and two from Vela. you can always make sure you have the true cross by following its crossbar to the bright stars Hadar (Beta Centauri) and Rigal Kentaurus (Alpha Centauri).
Note: the bluest stars are the hottest.
 
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Linda

Linda

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HM, thanks for your post - it helped me remember something wonderful. There are 2 telescopes at the university campus, and one of them is very old - made in the 1930s and the lens, in the late 1800s. It is just as you would imagine with gears and cranks moving it. The lens was made by Brashear, a famous lens maker. Of course, being in the middle of the city, only very bright items are visible, but you can see the rings of Saturn. It is a magical place, like stepping into a Jules Verne story.

So, the take-away from our stories is to encourage people to look up.
 
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Lila

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Orion is mine.
Every time I look up and see it I feel loved and protected. It helps that it's so easy to find; those three bright stars of Orion's belt are amazingly characteristic.
I hadn't realized it was easy to see in the Southern Hemisphere. Thanks for that Hailstones Melt.
 

Angela

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Maybe when I'm older it'll be more of a hobby for me. I have a few books and star charts and I really would love to get a telescope but the light pollution is just absolutely terrible most of the time. I've only really seen the whole milky way once and that was in the middle of the night when we were traveling across states in the middle of no where. I told my husband to pull over.

We try at least once yearly to get far enough away. Usually on my birthday in August during the Perseides meteor shower. But it is never really that dark.

I hold a special place for Cygnus. But not for obvious reasons. I actually had a ridiculously large crush on a guy all through middle and high school and this was his chat name. *le sigh* I found it sensitive and intelligent that he should've picked something like this. Heh. Oh well.

Beyond that, I don't have a favorite, as I am not learned enough of them besides the larger known ones. The dippers, Orion, etc. (The etc could virtually be a period. Hah! )

We went to the Lowell Observatory in Arizona once. It's one of the oldest in the United States and is actually the observatory that discovered Pluto. Very cool. They had a number of telescopes for us to use. And it was here that we learned that the center star of Orion's belt is actually close (by star standards; certainly not a couple years from now. Haha) to going supernova. https://stardate.org/radio/program/alnilam-0

In a really good telescope you can see some of the colors, like green (or blue, I can't quite remember) aura around it. Given how absolutely huge it is, it also made me really appreciate how the shapes we make with constellations would be non existent if you could see it from the side, as that star is so far away beyond the others.


I really really do love the stars so much though and I would love to actively learn about it with a telescope and books.
 
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Linda

Linda

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There are some websites that help you track the night sky, so it is easier to know what you might be able to see.

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/

Some show the space station and satellites, which is kind of cool. One of my fond memories from times past was when a friend, who was in a different city, and I were both outside as we talked on the phone. First he saw the space shuttle go by and a couple of minutes later, so did I.

https://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/interactive-sky-watching-tools/skyandtelescope-coms-satellite-tracker/
 
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Pucksterguy

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I was a star gazer when I was a kid. I used to do wilderness fishing/camping trips well north of the city. A big attraction used to be the dark and starry nights. I have no trpuble picking out the major constellatons. Cassiopea, the big and little dipper the milky way etc. My favorite was the Pleadies I never knew why back then and now I have friends from there lol. Maybe I hail from there as well. All the above became a huge attraction for my camp. Being literaly in the middle of nowhere my first night there left me star struck. The moonless nights are black and full of stars with many meteor sightings. I often sit outside with my back to the fire looking at the night sky. Truely wonderful.
 
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Hailstones Melt

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I was a star gazer when I was a kid. I used to do wilderness fishing/camping trips well north of the city. A big attraction used to be the dark and starry nights. I have no trpuble picking out the major constellatons. Cassiopea, the big and little dipper the milky way etc. My favorite was the Pleadies I never knew why back then and now I have friends from there lol. Maybe I hail from there as well. All the above became a huge attraction for my camp. Being literaly in the middle of nowhere my first night there left me star struck. The moonless nights are black and full of stars with many meteor sightings. I often sit outside with my back to the fire looking at the night sky. Truely wonderful.
I am yet to see one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way as we spin within its embrace. You are very lucky to have that gift of dark skies, PG!
 

Lila

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I was a star gazer when I was a kid. I used to do wilderness fishing/camping trips well north of the city. A big attraction used to be the dark and starry nights. I have no trpuble picking out the major constellatons. Cassiopea, the big and little dipper the milky way etc. My favorite was the Pleadies I never knew why back then and now I have friends from there lol. Maybe I hail from there as well. All the above became a huge attraction for my camp. Being literaly in the middle of nowhere my first night there left me star struck. The moonless nights are black and full of stars with many meteor sightings. I often sit outside with my back to the fire looking at the night sky. Truely wonderful.
I seem to remember us getting out of your truck at camp late that first night and just stopping to stare.
There was so much to stare at and it'd been so long since I'd seen the Milky Way. Each time I do I feel like I'm coming home.
 

jen1010

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Draco!! Dragon of the sky!! (wiki): "The Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, possibly the largest known structure in the universe, covers a part of the southern region of Draco"... One star in the constellation was the north star in ancient Egypt times and pyramids were aligned to it.... DRACO! the Dragon, magnificent creation! - a witness - hears and sees your trials - feels - message ~you are loved~
 

Lila

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Draco!! Dragon of the sky!! (wiki): "The Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, possibly the largest known structure in the universe, covers a part of the southern region of Draco"... One star in the constellation was the north star in ancient Egypt times and pyramids were aligned to it.... DRACO! the Dragon, magnificent creation! - a witness - hears and sees your trials - feels - message ~you are loved~
Oooh, how can you not love Draco!
And I hadn't heard of that particular Great Wall. Thanks :cool:
 
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