By Bhuvi M
Continuing from Dhruv Tara (Pole Star) & Me – Part 1
Then it was tryst with “Lessons from Science”; understanding of solar system, suns, stars, planets, constellations and milky ways. I understood those stars were distant suns that had their own set of planets as our solar system. The context of imaginations changed. I started imagining earth-like life on some of those planets. Then how the inhabitants of those planets would look like; were they tiny people from “Gulliver’s Travels” or varied creatures from “Alice in Wonderland” or giants as big as eighty times as we or yet people with single eye and eight arms. My questions remained unanswered and fascination of staring stars continued.
Later these stars & constellations became a useful tool to identify directions. Being a member of Bharat Scouts & Guides at school, I was trained how to use constellations to identify Pole Star that always shined in north. If one is lost in an unknown territory, in absence of a compass to identify direction, we can use Pole Star in night to find our way. The Great Bear or Ursa Major constellation helped in identifying Pole Star (Polaris). Start from the last star of the tail of Ursa Major towards the body; three stars of the tail and two of the body form an arch like shape when joined together with lines. Rest two stars of the body are left aside. Join these two standalone stars by a separate straight line. Extend this straight line in the direction of the convex side of arch formed by joining other five stars of constellation. Pole star falls on this extended straight line. The distance between the constellation and Pole Star is approximately five time of the distance between two stars from which straight line originated. To re-verify if Pole Star is rightly identified use The Little Bear or Ursa Minor. Pole Star is the last star of the tail of this constellation. Ursa Minor is replica of Ursa Major, a less brighter one and smaller. Identification of the Pole Star for the first time was a learning experience. I understood it was not the brightest star in the sky. 🙂
The constellations are on move (rather the Earth is on move). There are times in year The Great Bear can’t be located in the sky. This time starts in beginning of November. In such times identify “Cassiopeia” constellation or “W” star to locate Pole Star. A group of five stars of this constellation forms a structure like “W” alphabet of English, hence this name. Both Vs of “W” have varied angles. Bisect the larger angle with a straight line. This straight line when extended directly reaches Pole Star.
Ah!! this was a happy star gazing time for me. I’m still to try it with a telescope, but watching the starry sky with naked eye has its own charm. Since I left my sleepy town for higher studies and a career; this fun, learning, exploring stopped. It is missed. I wish to catch up on it very next time I’m in a countryside, village or camping on a hilly terrain. The simplicity of this activity can’t be felt in the Planetariums….. an activity spruced and spiced up with grandma’s stories, will be missed by new generation.