Once upon a time, every constellation had a backstory. Wait, every constellation does have a backstory! Have you ever wondered how these stories came to be or why some of them might be a little different? Let’s begin with the basics. What’s a constellation? It’s any group of stars that is easily recognizable and is named after what it may look like or resemble. People have been looking up at the nighttime sky and giving names to these constellations for as long as people have been able to look up at the sky! Some constellations, though, have a giant list of different names based on what people saw in the stars (very similar to cloud watching) or the culture of those specific people.
A multitude of recognizable constellations come from Greek mythology. Ever hear of Cancer the Crab? How about Pegasus the Winged Horse? Or Hercules the Hero? All of these are constellations that came from Greek legend each with their own fable or star story. Another well-known constellation is that of Orion the Hunter and can be seen in the winter sky in the northern hemisphere, indicating that winter is coming. Story tells that Orion was one of the greatest hunters who had ever lived and there are many different versions of how he ended up in the sky, but in every Greek version he was known as Orion.
In other places and cultures, the constellation that the Greeks named Orion had different names, but was still known as a great hunter. The Chinese called him “Shen”. In old Hungarian tradition, he was known as “Archer”. The stars of Orion’s belt were also known by some different names. The Scandinavians associated the Orion constellation with the goddess Freya and referred to Orion’s belt as “Frigg’s Distaff”. In Spain and Latina America, the three stars of the belt are called “Las Tres Marí” (Spanish for “The Three Marys”). Some cultures had completely different descriptions, such as the Babylonians of the Late Bronze Age. They knew Orion as “The Heavenly Shepherd” or “The True Shepherd of Anu”, with Anu being the god of the heavenly realms. Egyptians associated Orion with Unas, the last Pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty.
The names of constellations and the stories behind them are not set in stone. There is no name or story that is right and there is no name or story that is wrong. The most intriguing aspect is that despite all the different names and stories, different cultures still saw the same pattern in the sky and most used it as a reference of time, indicating winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in the southern hemisphere. When you get the opportunity, I encourage you to take a look at some blank constellations. Discover what you see in the stars!
Everyone can remember their first time looking up at the sky on a beautiful clear night with stars covering the all you can see. Many people never really get to experience this living in cities with large lights blocking everything up in the sky. Here at CIMI we have the unique opportunity to live somewhere that does not have a lot of ambient city light. Since the beginning of man, stars have left people wondering what is up there to be discovered. The best way to learn is to go outside and look up!
Photo taken by Alex Krowiak on the canon loop trail, Toyon Bay.
People often times overestimate the number of stars they can see with just the naked eye, which under the very best conditions is only around 2,000 stars. In turn hundreds of billions of stars make up our Milky Way galaxy. It can be very overwhelming to imagine the amount of stars that occur in the billions of galaxies in our universe. This all makes us feel small here on earth, as well as wonder how thy all got up there.
Stars go trough a very complex lifestyle beginning with gas, dust, and ice condensing in a nebula. As the star shrinks the hydrogen ignites causing nuclear fusion. The hydrogen will continue burning steadily and the star will join the main sequence stars (meaning they have shed their birth cloud and are burning). When all the hydrogen in the core is used up the hydrogen in the outer shell will start burning. This process causes the star to become brighter and larger entering it in the class of a red giant. Winds will begin blowing on the star expelling the outer layers, which will in turn form a planter nebula. The nebula will expand leaving behind just a little hot core now called a white dwarf. The white dwarf will start to cool and fade away forever. Concluding the life cycle of a star.
Stars with a greater mass than the sun will eventually explode as supernovas and leave a neutron star or a black hole. And stars with a lower mass will remain a red dwarf forever. This whole process takes billions of years and gives us a basis for how many stars in the universe.
Hey!!! Have you ever wondered…what is astronomy? Why is it important?
Well astronomy is the study of celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole. Without astronomy many technological discoveries may have never been made and we would not know about the mysterious lights and shapes in the night sky.
However, in 1958, July 29th President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an act that made history by creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The establishment of NASA was originally inspired by the creation of Sputnik, which was the first artificial satellite to be placed in orbit around the world. After this, the US began to make technological advances leading to the establishment of NASA.
Since then, NASA has made many groundbreaking scientific leaps such as playing a large part in the creation of the international space station, which serves as a home and laboratory for astronauts in space. Along with the ISS, NASA was the first to successfully land people on the moon, which was a historic event for the USA that ended the international space race. With countless revolutionary innovations, NASA has proved themselves to be a true pioneer within the discoveries of the cosmos as we know and understand them today.
But what does space have to do with the ocean?
Did you know that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the bottom of the ocean? Through the research we do in space, we begin to understand and discover more about the ocean as well. From the very beginnings of our astronomical research, we were able to prove that the gravitational pull from the moon has a major effect on the tides and as well has a physical, chemical and biological effect on the ocean. Just imagine how many possibilities the future holds for more pioneering discoveries out there in the stars and how much astronomy connects with the oceans and us!
We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. Catalina Island Marine Institute is a hands-on marine science program with an emphasis on ocean exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and ocean happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree usually in marine science or related subjects. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science and ocean information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.cimi.org for additional information. Happy Reading!