|Polaris, also known as the North Star, is part of the |
Ursa Minor constellation, more commonly called the "Little Dipper"
The stars and constellations functioned as a calendar and clock as well. The stars and constellations were first named by early Greek and Roman astronomers. A constellation is a group of stars forming a recognizable pattern that is traditionally named after its apparent form or identified with a mythological figure. They discovered that while some constellations (Ursa Major and Minor, Cassiopeia, and Cygnus) could be see nearly every night, others were only seen seasonally, or in different places depending on the season. Astronomers recording the time and location of constellations created star maps. It certainly helped that the Roman Empire was so far-reaching; it meant there were wide variations in latitude. A map from one location could be checked against another to help sailors navigate north and south. During the day, the angle of the sun was used as a clock. At night the Big Dipper’s positioning was used as a 24 hour clock to tell time. By using these positions, navigators would be able to determine if they were traveling east or west.
|Cygnus - the Swan. |
If you look carefully, you can imagine the neck extending up to the left,
and the stars that form his body and tail in the lower right.
Perhaps the most famous single "star" used for overland, overnight travel is the one that brought the three Magi to Bethlehem. However, modern astronomy has disproved that the Star of Bethlehem was just any star. In fact, it probably wasn’t even a star at all! Based on the history of the Roman Empire and the census that called Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the location of the city, and patterns seen since, the “Star of Bethlehem” was likely either a comet called Kepler, a supernova (exploding star), or a planetary abnormality and/or alignment.
Star and constellations were used for navigation in many ways. They were used by sailors to be able to tell the location of their ships and the direction to travel in. The were also used as a calendar and a clock. Overland travel was aided by the position of the sun and stars as well. As long as the navigators could see the stars, they could travel. May you always have clear skies and smooth sailing!
Photo note: We took these pictures of the stars in "real time" using the Skyview: Explore the Universe App. It's pretty cool for navigating the backyard in modern times, or even just amateur star gazing. Plus, it shows celestial bodies' regardless of where you are. By aiming the camera south and through the floor, we were able to "see" the location of Crux through the earth! When we took this photo, Mercury, Saturn, and Scorpio were not visible outside due to placement and daylight, but we were able to "find" them in our kitchen.
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