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My god, it's full of named stars

So I've been busy here in Bton. SF dinner, Gamer's Guild, anime club, and of course the wedding, which went great and I had fun, and I also got sentimental. And I've seen almost all my friends already, if some not as much as I'd like. But this isn't about those. This is about what may have been the best stargazing night of my life.

There've been other big nights. The Milky Way, meteors, other meteors, Comet Hyakutake and Mercury (same night, I think), the Southern Hemisphere. But I think this is the top night in my life for identifying what I was seeing.

That's a really low bar, mind you, what with having lived in cities most of life with few country trips and none with a star guide in hand. But still.

Came as I was walking 'home' from anime club, in the cold somewhat clear air, down 2nd street, and hitting somewhat dark spots -- not too many street and house lights, and only occasional car headlights to close my eyes against. It started as I looked north and identified Polaris straight off -- I don't even need the Big Dipper in an urban sky, if you know where north is then Polaris is the only thing visible in that part of the sky. Helps to be intimately familiar with the right angle to look at, of course, which was first identified 9 years ago via the Big Dipper. Anyway, having found that, I looked outward for the Big Dipper.

Couldn't see it. Rather baffling; lots of stars, but none of them right. Couldn't see Orion either, which I usually can if I can't see the Dipper. Baffling! Could see what I thought was Jupiter. But no Dipper.

But hey! As of a year ago, I have a smartphone. And as of sometime, I have Orrery on it, a stargazing program. (Also Stellarium, but that nearly kills my eee, never mind a phone.) So I started Orrery and got myself oriented.

Aha! The Dipper was basically buried behind trees and houses to the north, Orion blocked by trees to the east. 'Jupiter' was in fact Jupiter. But then I looked further. W-like thingy NE of Polaris, Cassiopeia? Yep -- I've absorbed *something* over the years. That's about it for what I knew off my head. But I identified a whole lot more. Perseus; star Capella just over some trees, and later an associated peak to its right that's part of Auriga; Andromeda, manifesting as two or three stars in a line; Triangulum; Aries, also manifesting as three simple stars, just above Jupiter; later, part of Cetus below Jupiter; Pegasus (also somewhat familiar), including a star to the right of Schaet and two stars below it, and a line of stars below Markab leading to Enif; Deneb capping Cygnus, and Altair and Vega by themselves. Maybe Cepheus. I don't think Draco. Aldebaran was below unobstructed visibility. As for magnitudes, I think the 4.6 map was more accurate than the 4.4 map or 4.8, but I wouldn't swear to it.

So, yeah. Biggest ID night ever, with just me and a star map program.

See the comment count unavailable DW comments at http://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/296169.html#comments



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 2nd, 2011 07:14 pm (UTC)
Cool! Well, welcome back to a place where you can see the stars.
Oct. 3rd, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC)
who needs an app?
Been there, done that, but old school: I had two pieces of paper (one for each hemisphere) xeroxed out of H.A Rey's constellation book. Gr. had to ID the Southern Cross for homework over the weekend, G. did pull out his iPod for that, granted with all the cityglow around our house it's hard to see much of anything unless you know where to look.
Oct. 3rd, 2011 10:09 pm (UTC)
Re: who needs an app?
Obviously one doesn't need an app if one plans ahead and has the paper and (red) flashlight. I hadn't planned ahead.

I'd forgotten that Orrery is location-sensitive; I'd actually been looking at the Boston sky map. Not hugely different from Bloomington's, but still. I see the Big Dipper on Orion were even lower than I thought. Between location and visibility levels, you can get a map that looks almost exactly like what you're seeing.

Bton still has its own share of glow; I was just in a dark spot where I wasn't getting direct glare as well...
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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