I live in the northern hemisphere, and Brunnen-G lives in the southern
hemisphere. That thought suddenly got me thinking about stargazing, which has
been an interest of mine since childhood, although not one I've spent a lot
of time with or know anything about.
Sam: Do you know anything about constellations and stuff? I just realized next March might be my only opportunity to see some of the constellations in the southern hemisphere, so I'm going to read up before then.
Brunnen_G: YEAH! I used to be right into stargazing when I was a kid.
Brunnen_G: I was thinking about that the other week, in fact, realising it'll be the first time you guys see different stars.
Brunnen_G: When I was a kid my parents gave me a planisphere for Christmas one year, because I was always looking at the stars every night on the boat. It was so crazy. You need a torch or light to *read* the planisphere, and then your night vision goes so you can't see what you just tried to identify :-)
Brunnen_G: When I was in the USA it freaked me out the first time I looked up at night and the sky was different. It just felt so wrong to me. Heh.
Brunnen_G: I mean, I *knew* the northern sky was different, but *seeing* it just weirds you out, the first time. It doesn't feel like something that ought to ever change.
Sam: It seems inconceivable to me that the big dipper wouldn't have looked anciently familiar to you.
Brunnen_G: It seemed inconceivable to ME that there wouldn't be a Southern Cross!
* Brunnen_G looks at the Northern Sky and Southern Sky thingies in the atlas
Sam: Are you north enough to see Orion in...hmmm...I guess it would be winter for you also, since it's winter for us, too.
Brunnen_G: Yes, Orion's usually there, but way down on the horizon part of the year
Sam: That's weird. We get it in winter (in summer, it's daytime when it's around), so you would get it in our summer, but that's your winter, so it's the same season for you. Hemispheres are weird.
Brunnen_G: The thing I noticed most as a difference was the lack of the Southern Cross, and the Milky Way being different. It didn't seem nearly as prominent in the northern hemisphere
Sam: It's more prominent there? Cool! Most nights it's very difficult if not impossible to discern.
Brunnen_G: Yes, the Milky Way here is the dominant feature of the sky. It's very, very obvious. It's like a big wide stripe across the whole sky.
Brunnen_G: And that's even just looking at it from the city. If you're out in the country, or on the water, it's incredible.
Sam: How high up in the sky does Canopus get? That's the southern most star I know, and I don't think it's very southern. I also don't think we ever see it up here.
Brunnen_G: Canopus is right up in the sky. It's one of the ones you use to find south, I think, with the Southern Cross
Sam: Ah, cool.
Sam: The rule here is, take the two stars on the far "pan" part of the big dipper -- follow those up, and you get the north star. The north star is at the end of the handle of the little dipper, so you could find it that way, but the little dipper isn't as conspicuous as the big dipper (which is basically all bright stars), so on hazy days you wouldn't be able to do that.
Brunnen_G: Here, you find south by extending a line through two of the stars of the Southern Cross, and intersecting it with a line from Canopus (I think)
Brunnen_G: No, maybe it isn't Canopus. Darn. I know what star it *is* when I see it, but I'm hazy on the names these days.
Sam: Another cool big dipper fun fact is that the handle's second star from the end is actually two. They're a ridiculous number of light years apart, actually, but from Earth it just looks like one bright star, and, just above it and a bit to the right, a little tiny white dot. On hazy days, they look like one star. As the stories go, it used to be a way to test one's eyesight. If you could distinguish the second, more distant star from the brighter one, your vision was ok.
Sam: Is Pegasus southern enough for you to see also?
Brunnen_G: Pegasus...hmmm...I don't know. Let me look on this atlas
Brunnen_G: I don't think so. I can't find it here.
Sam: Cassiopeia is the second most identifiable constellation in the north. Like the big dipper, it's close enough to the north star that you can pretty much always see it, and it consists only of bright stars. Nicknamed the "Lazy W," because that's what it looks like. I can't imagine looking up and not seeing it. I guess our feelings about stars are mutual. :-)
Brunnen_G: I like the Magellanic Clouds. They're pretty through binoculars.
Sam: Hmmm. You can see all the zodiac constellations, right?
Brunnen_G: I'm trying to work that out.
Brunnen_G: No, I can't see them all on the southern hemisphere chart.
Brunnen_G: Leo is just barely on the edge of it, and so are some of the others.
Sam: They're all located above one latitude, although some of them only have a piece over the latitude while the major portions are further north or south. So if you can see one in its entirety, you should be able to see at least portions of them all, though not at the same times of year.
Brunnen_G: Ah, right, I see now. We get Leo, Virgo, Libra, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, and Pisces just barely visible around the horizon, and Scorpio a bit higher. None of the others.
Sam: Scorpio must be one that hangs down. Or, in your case, hangs up. In fact, you must see them all upside down. Man, that's freaky.
Brunnen_G: So that would mean you don't have any of the constellations that are closer to the centre of our star chart, right? Like Hydrus, Phoenix, Corona, and the Jewel Box?
Brunnen_G: Right, and looking at the northern one, we don't have all the central ones like the bears or Cassiopeia or Perseus or Draco. OK
Sam: Draco rules. I think it's bright enough for me to have seen like six times in my life.
Sam: It's entirely too paradoxical to form a constellation of a great and mighty dragon, the most fearsome beast in all mythology, and make it up entirely of stars YOU CAN'T SEE.
Sam: I'm exaggerating somewhat. I've probably seen it more times than that, but it's true that it's not visible on the *average* night.
Brunnen_G: Constellation names rule. OK, there's Phoenix. It looks like a zigzag line with a curvy bit at one end. There's Centaurus. It looks like a zigzag line. There's Sculptor. It looks like a zigzag line. What are these all meant to be, roadkill versions?
Brunnen_G: Hydrus looks like a triangle. Yeah, a big flat triangle is EXACTLY how I always imagined a hydra to look.
Brunnen_G: They really screwed up on naming the Southern Cross. It looks like a cross, and it points south. They should have called it the Celestial Salesman or something.
Sam: You're forgetting that the stars aren't all there are to constellations. You also need that transparent art image superimposed over the stars.
Brunnen_G: Oh yeah. It must be because I live in a city. Those transparent art images never show up.
Brunnen_G: Lepus is right near Sirius. Maybe it was running away from the dog and got hit by a truck.
* Reoko hands Brunnen_G the Comidey Award for being extremly hillarious today.
Sam: Leo actually looks something like a lion if you connect the dots right. But the bears both look like dippers (except that the "Big Dipper" is only part of the constellation of the "Great Bear," but the other stars are dim and nobody knows what they are anyway), so they're known as dippers, not bears. But Cassioeoiapooeiaia is, indeed, a zigzag line.
Brunnen_G: Cassiopeia is called that because that's her crown, I believe. It turns upside down for some of the year because she was deposed. Something like that
* Brunnen_G can only vaguely remember who Cassiopeia was, but she did some sort of thing against Hera or somebody. Like everybody did, it seems.
Sam: What is somewhat uncool is that nobody knows what Orion is. They get the four boxy outside stars and the three in his belt, and that's it. But get the others in -- the club raised over him and the curvy shield thing out to the side, and the sword hanging down from his belt (one "star" of which is actually a galaxy -- cool!!) and you get a constellation that actually resembles something real.
Brunnen_G: I like Orion.
Brunnen_G: Orion goes down over the horizon as Scorpio appears, right? Because he was killed by the scorpion. I like all the stories behind them.
Sam: I have an old program lying around that has a 3D map of the visible stars. You can view them all from earth, including constellation lines, and then you can zoom out to, oh, Betelgeuse or something, and then you can look at how different the stars look, and how crazy the constellation lines look.
Brunnen_G: Wow, cool.
* Brunnen_G hopes our sun doesn't form part of a really stupid constellation from some other planet.
* Brunnen_G imagines some bunch of aliens looking up at the sky and going, "Man, I'd hate to live THERE. The Butt of the Great Turkey of the Heavens."
Back to the RinkChat Archives.