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O R I E N T    I T S E L F

I N     T H E    S K Y



    To find constellations is a stimulus for any nascent one, and that all we have happened for that reason like one it ventures as opposed to the challenge of the dark sky that we have upon us for any night. The key consists of identifying most shining and soon to jump of star to star according to the directions that they have and that are exposed in this page. Let us begin with the adventure.

    To orient itself in the sky can turn out in the beginning quite desalentador, by the difficulty to begin to locate to forms and figures, but in fact it is not more difficult that to read a map of highways and a small dose of relaxation. The stars during any night seem that they ramble smoothly by the sky, and in addition, tomorrow at night they will resemble the same ones. But how to find the way to a point determined in a so immense and jammed sky of stars? Very easy, a star as reference and soon to jump from a star to another one.



To find the north  

    For the inhabitants of the North hemisphere the sky presents a bright star near the celestial North Pole, that is a good point to begin.

umifind.gif (1628 bytes)      We can try to locate to the Big Bear or Ursa Major in our northern skies during the nights of spring and autumn. Soon mentally we drew an imaginary line that one the two stars more shining of the big bear which they correspond to the Dubhe stars or a of clear color orange of 2 magnitude and Merak or b of white color of 2.4; and draw five times and will be the pole star or Polaris of magnitude 2.1 and clear yellow color in the constellation of the  little Bear or Ursa Minor .

    But if we were in the stations of autumn and winter we must orient by the constellation of Cassiopea .

     Located to the Big Bear and the Little Bear, we found Casiopea in the part diametrically opposed the Big Bear , at first imagined a line from the precious visible double of the Great Bear or z or Mizar of magnitude 2.4 and white color and its star double Alcor of magnitude 4,0 until the pole star and we continued the imaginary line to the other side of the pole star there; and there it is the constellation of Cassiopea or Casiopea. Its form is peculiar since according to the time of the year in which we observe it it will have form of W or E letter.


     We have left in the beginning from two stars more shining of the Big Bear to locate Polar or Polaris of the Little Bear , but if we continued with the imaginary line we will end up locating the precious constellation in form of house with tile roof of Cefeo or Cepheus . Whose star that does of tile roof calls Alrai of magnitude 3,4 and weakly orange color. Most shining of the constellation Alderamin is denominated and been white of magnitude 2,6 and will be near the Celestial North Pole within 5,500 years.



To find the south  

    For an observer of the South hemisphere it does not turn out far from easy to locate the celestial South Pole since it is not laid out by shining stars, but exist diverse interesting ways to locate it.


     Easiest it is to extend to the long arm of the South Cross or average Crux four times and to approach the pole. This one is closely together, indicated by the star s Octantis or Octants that turns out too weak to be useful.



Spring trips at northern and autum at southern

     Located to the Big Bear it can be a good guide to identify other constellations. If we followed the line curved of the tail of the Big Bear we will arrive at a star shining called Arcturus in the constellation of Bootes or Boyero of magnitude 0,2 and orange color, it is the villa it stars more brilliant and he is visible during many months of the year. it is 35 light years.


     But still there is more, we follow the line imaginary! and what we found. Then one is about the Spica star or to the constellation of Virgo or the Virgin . Its magnitude is of 1,2 and of sure blue color she is one of stars them more beautiful of the sky, very well-known by the navigators because of his isolated position that still makes easy to locate it him. It is located to a distance of 217 light years, that is to say, that the light that we are seeing now 217 years ago it left from the star.


Let us follow in the Big Bear, and concrete in the head of the Bear or the dipper. If we prolonged an imaginary line in sense in opposition to the polestar and starting off of the dipper we will locate the precious Regulus star or a of the constellation of Lion or Leo . Its form is characteristic and there is no doubt some. Regulus , its more shining star, has a brightness of 1,3, clear blue color and light is to a distance of 67 light years. During the month of November he is visible in this constellation meteorite meteor shower of the leonids, that usually are spectacular.



Winter trips at northern and spring at southern

     Between the months of November and February, we can easily locate the precious constellation of Orion , one of the most wonderful jewels of the sky, formed by very shining stars, two of them of first magnitude and four of second and easy ones to locate. It emphasizes the reddish star Betelguese or a Orionis to 466 light years, it is a supergiant 400 times greater than the Sun. Rigel or b , of magnitude 0,3 of clear blue color to 1305 light years. g or Bellatrix of 1,7 brightness and bluish white color to 326 light years, and Saiph or k of clear blue color and magnitude 2,2 to 1305 light years. And in the middle of the rectangle we see denominated the three Maries or belt of Orion formed by Mintaka , Alnilam and Alnitak , all of blue color, very young and located to the same distance 1305 light years.


     Located Orion if we imagined a line that leaves from the belt of Orion we will locate without problem to the star most shining of our skies, to Sirius . Sirius is in a the constellation of Big Dog or Canis Major . Its magnitude is of -1,5, white color with blue reflections that are to only 8 light years. She is most shining and some times is seen it emit iridiscentes, greenish or reddish reflections; but this only happens when she is low on the horizon, and, therefore, to a purely atmospheric phenomenon. For the Egyptians it was Isis and its exit in the horizon shortly before the exit of the Sun, phenomenon that takes place at the beginning of September represented the beginning of the year and the swelling of the Nile, fundamental for his development like civilization.


     But we follow by the way of Orion. If on the contrary the imaginary line we directed it in sense in opposition to Sirius we will be arriving at Aldebaran o a from the constellation of the Bull or Taurus . and if we continued the line we will get to locate to the seven sawhorses or to the blue star accumulation of the Pleiads of magnitude fourth and spectacular. Aldebaran is of magnitude 1,1, orange yellow color and light it is 63 light years.


Again we locate Orion . Let us leave from two stars of above and prolong the imaginary line a twice and average one, and there we will locate to Procyon or of the Little Dog or Canis Minor. It is a small constellation that forms a triangle unmistakable (triangle of the winter) with Sirius in Canis Major and Betelgeuse in Orion . Procyon has a 0,5 brightness, very clear yellow color and it is to 11 light years.


   With Orion to the front and following the line from one of stars of the belt of Orión in the direction of Betelgeuse , the reddish star par excellence of the zone, we will get to locate to a distance of four times to Beaver that along with Pollux comprises of the precious constellation of Gemelos or Gemini . Both stars are of similarity brightness, 1,6 Beaver of and Pollux of 1,2, white to 45 and 35 light years respectively. The distance among them is almost of 4º 30 ' and constitutes a reference of measurement very used for angular distances.


   Let us return to the Big Bear, than he is visible during these months. If we prolonged the line as it indicates the figure we will locate to a precious yellow star denominated Capella or to visible for a northern observer during many months. The constellation of Charioteer or Auriga is in a. Capella has the same color that our Sun and is to 44 light years.



Autumnal trips at northern and spring at southern

    As they spend the months of summers for a northern observer or the months of winter for an austral one the constellations of summery move towards their horizon the west and begin to leave new groups by the east.


   Pegasus or the Pegaso or horse is the jewel of these skies. Its form of great quadrilateral formed by four stars constitutes an asterism easy to locate it. Formed by Alpheratz, white of brightness 2.2;    Scheat, magnitude 2.6, red to 171 light years;; Markab, bluish of 2,6 to 101 light years; and 2,9 Algenib of and bluish white. and following the quadrilateral we located without problems Andromeda or Andromeda


   With Pegasus like departure point, if we followed the line of two stars of the quadrilateral we will locate Whale or Cetus. Austral, extensive and weak constellation in stars formed by Menkar  or a of 2,8 magnitude and orange color located to 280 light years and Diphda or Deneb Kaitos or b of magnitude 2,2 of intense yellow color to 63 light years


But if we followed the line previous, we will end up arriving at a star shining denominated Ankaa or a of magnitude 0,2 of color orange and located to 170 light years of the constellation of the Phoenix or Phoenix, well-known constellation from the antiquity that represents the mithological bird that arose from its own ashes


   With Pegasus we can identify without problems to Cassiopea, extending three times the distance between two stars of the quadrilateral of Pegasus, will arrive therefore, to the star Caph or b, of magnitude 2,4 and clear yellow color. We observed it, therefore, in form of circumpolar W and for the observers of the North hemisphere. For the austral ones it is already impossible to detect it when culminating below the North horizon.


   Let us return again to Pegasus. Let us do just like before, but for an austral observer it will be more rewarding. Let us prolong four times the distance between two stars of the quadrilateral of the Pegaso, and will arrive at a brilliant and precious white star, of magnitude 2,0, Fomalhaut or to of the Southern Fish or Piscis Austrinus. It is 20 light years, is the queen of autumnal skies for an observer of the North and primaverales hemisphere for an austral one.
    After the trip we return to be at the beginning of the year to continue exploring the sky and discovering more again and more constellations. Next one detachhes the constellations that we can see during different months to get to identify all that I assure to you is very rewarding.



How to locate them 

        It is not difficult to identify the constellations, We can begin as encounter point to observe the points that we have upon us depending on the time of the year in which we are. For them we will guide ourselves based on the months. 


January, February and March

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    It begins the year with the constellations of winter for an observer located in the North hemisphere and the warm summer for one austral one. The jewel is unquestionably Orion, and with Orion we can locate Geminis, the dogs, Canis Major with Sirius the brightest star of the sky and Smaller Canis. Also we see the Bull or Taurus, Auriga with its presiosa star Capella and Perseus for those of the North hemisphere and for the austral observers the hare or Lepus, Eridianus or the river and Horologium. 


April, May and June

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   During the months of March, April and May we observed that the constellations of the previous months little by little are put on the horizon and begin to rise new stars not as shining as previous but the very pretty ones. For an observer located in the North hemisphere it will be able to see the lion, Virgo and Canes Venatici, and for one located in the South hemisphere in addition it will be able to see the Hydra, that it is the one of the constellations longest like its satellites such as crow or Corvus, the glass or Crater, Antlia and Vela.


July, August and September

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   During the warm nights of summer for an observer located in the North hemisphere and the cold nights of winter for austral a sky changes, we can see the Milky Way to us completely happening through the Swan or Cygnus, the eagle or Aquila and the Shield or Scutum and for an austral observer will get to see Sagitario where it is the nucleus of our galaxy, the scorpion and until the she-wolf.


October, November and December

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   and finally when the year finishes to us already, during the boreal autumn and the austral spring we observed that the constellations of the previous months little by little are put on the west horizon and by the east they leave the other new such as great square the Pegaso, Andrómeda, the weak fish or Piscis and the Aries sheep. For an austral observer it will be able to see the austral fish with its precious Folmanhaut star, grulla or Grux and the bird Fenix, everything a precious spectacle.



North celestial pole

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   One is constellations that are visible throughout the year for an observer located in the North and invisible hemisphere for one located in the austral one. It emphasizes the pole star or Polaris, stars not very shining located to few minutes of arc of the true celestial North Pole. Among them it honors the big Bear or Ursa Major and in front of her Casiopea in form of w or e based on the time of year. 



South celestial pole

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   There is no austral pole star, but the power is worth the trouble to observe the rich star field that there are in him. Constellations are that can throughout be observed the year for an observer located in the South hemisphere and invisible for that they live in North hemisphere. They emphasize the cross of South or Crux that comprises of the flags of Australia and New Zeland, as well as Centarus, the altar or Altar and the austral Triangle.

 Masm © (Last update 10.17.2003)