Friday, June 29, 2012

care for a dip?

I hope you can see this alright, despite it being so dark.  A late drive with a clear night sky took me far enough away from the city lights, that I pulled over and took pics of the stars from a corn field.  I used a tripod and a wireless remote control.  The manual focus was preset to infinity.  Exif data: 20mm, 30.0s, f/4.5, ISO 400.

This part of the sky was the big dipper, which is one of the easiest constellations to find.  No telescope required!  I hope to learn more about classic astronomy, but we all have to start somewhere, right?

First, I'll tell you about the picture, and then I want to point out a couple of things.

These stars were the brightest, but there were many others that showed up, even though they were not as bright.  I found that distracting, so to minimize the clutter, I copied the photograph, and on the second image, I blacked out most of the stars, and then made a composite of the two.

After that, I searched online to find the names of these stars and voila! I discovered that what I always assumed was one star in the handle was actually two!  The second spot from the end of the big dipper's handle is a binary cluster of stars that is difficult to discern from any area where we do not have enough darkness in the night sky.  Did you already know about those two stars?  Their names are Mizar and Alcor, but sometimes they're called the Horse and Rider.  It is said that ancient Romans used Alcor to test a warrior's eyesight.  (For me, this "Horse and Rider" was the single most exciting thing about this pic.)

On the opposite of the Big Dipper's handle, we can use the last two points, Merak and Dubhe to point us in the direction of the North star (Polaris).  The distance from the constellation is approximately five times the distance between the optical space between these two stars.  Here's another easy way to find it: stretch yout your arm and open your hand wide; the distance between your thumb and pinkie is about the space between the lip of the Big Dipper and the North star.

For more about Sky Watch Friday, visit http://skyley.blogspot.com/ .

18 comments:

donsands said...

That's a joy to look at Craver. So many memories, and it also speaks of God's greatness, when we look upon the stars.
Thanks bro!

have a great Lord's Day my good friend.

Jackie said...

Wonderful lesson, Craver...and a magnificent photo. Thank you for sharing how how you copied, blacked out and merged photos. I love to learn, and I am fascinated to read about the constellations. I enjoy seeing Mars and Venus and Mercury. What a wonder to behold the night sky! Lovely job, my friend. Lovely!!

Happyone said...

I love looking at the night sky, but I just can't tell one star from another. : )

Craver Vii said...

Blessings to you and your family as well, Sandman.

I tried to see Mercury, but I think it was obscured by cloud cover. I'm always appreciative of your visits, Jackie.

Happyone, you might like to use one of those handy star charts I've seen. Maybe I'll find a link to share. :-)

imac said...

Great shot my friend - as you reach for the stars,,,,
Whats the name of this one *

Betty Manousos said...

marvellous shot! i also love looking at the night sky. great job! thanks for the interesting lesson.

chubskulit said...

Gorgeous! Visiting late from Sky Watch Friday.

Please come take a peek at my Sky Shots, have a great weekend!

Brenda Cortes said...

Beautiful......Happy Skywatch.

Brenda
Bouncing on Words
Life Less Ordinary
From my Points of View
Racheng’s Blog

Craver Vii said...

I haven't a clue, Imac. Methinks you can name that one anything you like.

I hope you are near a place where you can catch a good view of the night sky, Betty. There's so much good information available online, too. Have you seen those smartphone apps that you can hold up to the sky, and it will identify the constellation for you?

Thanks for visiting, Chubskulit. Yes, I found your blog and left a comment.

Hello Brenda! Hey, I spent a couple weeks on Laguna. The Philippines holds a special place in my heart.

Shammickite said...

The constellation that you call the Big Dipper is known as the Plough in Britain where I grew up.... and if you don't know what a Plough is, you might know it as a Plow. Complicated, eh?

Shammickite said...

Have you ever seen a 5 minute TV show on your PBS station called Star Gazer, hosted by Jack Horkheimer, of the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium. I used to be able to watch it on Friday nights on the Buffalo station but haven't seen it for ages, but possibly it's available of the internet, must check it out. He always finishes his programme by saying "Keep looking up!"
Ooops just found the web site, apparently Jack Horkheimer died in 2010.... but you really should check him out, he gave fantastic information about the heavens, and was very entertaining at the same time.

Antonina said...

Thank you for visiting my blog.
Your photo is also fascinating.
Greetings:)

Craver Vii said...

The Plough? Good to know, Shammy. This is the first time I heard that, so thanks! I was also unaware that we had different spellings for "plow." I love learning new things!

Unfortunately, I had never seen that show before. But based on your information, I looked it up on the internet, and watched a few YouTube episodes. That's so cool! Jack obviously enjoyed sharing his passion for stargazing.

It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Antonina. I haven't done SkyWatch for a long time, and I don't know how often I'll get back to it. It sure is nice to see lots of beautiful photographs of the sky, as well as to make new friends.

Shammickite said...

Hooray! Now you're a Jack Horkheimer fan. He must have been a hoot to know.

kiwi 2468 said...

Just as your guiding star is The North Star, ours is The Southern Cross.

I have just posted my latest.

George said...

This is a great photo, and I like the research you did in connection with it. I have enough trouble getting a decent shot of the moon -- I haven't tried to capture stars.

Craver Vii said...

Oh yeah, Shammy! Could you imagine how cool it would have been to be one of Jack's lucky nephews or nieces?

I have to confess that I know so little about the Southern Cross, Kiwi. I'll have to look that up.

Ohmygoodness!! It's late, and your comment reminds me that this is the night of the Full Thunder Moon! George, I hope we have a clear night, so I can attempt a shot at it.

lime said...

i have never known the names of any of the big dipper stars. thanks for teaching me :)