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The Art of Constellations

kawaiidaigakusei at 12:00AM, April 17, 2017
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Ursa Major constellation from Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius

The night sky in southern California has been clear the last couple of nights. When I look up at the sky I see Orion the Hunter and the clear dots that make up the Big Dipper. The night sky shows different constellations depending on where you live around the world and I spend most of my year in the northern hemisphere, which limits the constellations I get to enjoy on a daily basis.

I am unsure how rest of the world studies the stars, but whenever I go to the planetarium, there is usually a light show that recreates the night sky in a dome theater. After a few minutes of staring at clusters of white dots, the animations are projected on the screen that outline each constellation with its corresponding group of stars. I had an issue with the constellation animations because they were so intricate and full of detail that they were completely different from the simple group of stars that it represented.

Creating an image out of a constellation seems so simple, like connecting the dots. I like to think of myself as a creative person, but I have a difficult making out the outline of a large bear when I stare at Ursa major, the big dipper, when all I really see is a saucepan with a crooked handle.

What is your favorite constellation? (In addition to Orion and the Big Dipper, I am partial to Scorpius.)


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anonymous?

thunderdavid at 8:19AM, April 19, 2017

I can easy see the Big Dipper from my front yard. But not much after that, with near by town and street lights, the night sky is kinda polluted. But after couple bottles of wine, i start see my constellations 😊

ozoneocean at 7:47PM, April 18, 2017

Some stars clusters move together but there IS no pattern. It's fanciful

bravo1102 at 1:44PM, April 17, 2017

Constellations are an aide in memorizing the stars. Like ROY G. BIV helps one memorize the colors in a rainbow "seeing" the patterns of constellations helps you remember stars, their rising and setting and so on. There's a book called "Hamlet's Mill" which theorizes that certain mythology served as memory aides for all the time keeping the ancients did with the sky including stellar progression. Look at the stars for a long enough time and keep records and you will figure it out.

ozoneocean at 7:28AM, April 17, 2017

I have never been able to see any of the imagery in the constellations ^_^ they're just dots in the sky to me... I LOVED reading about astronomy when I was a very little kid and knew more about space than most kids of that age knew about dinosaurs, I also loved all the myths associated with the constellations, I could still never connect them WITH the actual constellations though.

bravo1102 at 6:24AM, April 17, 2017

Constellations are part of the human propensity to assign familiar patterns to things which are totally random. The patterns are random to serve as signposts for telling time. That's what the ancients used the stars for. Western interpretations are mostly from the Sumerians passed through an Egyptian filter and then to the rest of the Western World. Chinese, Polynesians also have constellations but they see different things. The bear is the celestial bureaucrat or something. I don't really have a favorite constellation, I like telling time and the passing of season by the motions of stars. When teaching I made a model astrolabe to measure movements and it was lot of fun. Now I just use my fingers as ancient astronomer did. And drugs were never necessary to instill a sense of wonder at the broad canopy of the night sky.

KimLuster at 4:59AM, April 17, 2017

Orion is certainly a favorite of so many, probably because it's so obvious... I always enjoy showing my nerd side when I explain to people that Orion's Belt and Sword are not 'the Big Dipper'. Then I show them real Big Dipper (and how it's, you know, Big...), and how you can use the last two stars of dipper part to find the North Star!! Probably my favorite (besides Orion and the Big Dipper) is Pleides! A tiny constellation but it's always caught my eye (and when it others notice it, I often have to explain that it's NOT the Little Dipper haha)! Yeah, sometimes I'm pedantic!!

PaulEberhardt at 1:28AM, April 17, 2017

It seems to prove that ancient people really had a lot of free evenings and possibly some unhealthy habits that involved experimenting with medicinal herbs... How they could see an African queen in W-shaped Cassiopeia is beyond me, at any rate. I like Taurus (which doesn't look like a bull at all to me, but is full of beautiful star clusters) and the Swan (where I can actually see how they got that idea, kind of). Apart from that, Orion, the heavenly hunter with his two dogs, has of course a special place among my favourites of the firmament.


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