“There’s the hunter and the crab and the Big Dipper.
It looks like a big spoon.
We will see all of them at the show.
I can hardly wait.
from: Fancy Nancy Sees Stars
by Jane O’Connor
illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser
I just found out that almost anyone can locate Sirius, the Dog Star. Use Orion’s belt and move your eyes southwest quite a ways until you find the brightest star in the whole sky. Since it is only Sunday afternoon, I have two tries to let you know I found it.
In late summer, like now, Sirius appears in the east just before sunrise. According to the Astronomical Applications Department at the U. S. Naval Observatory in Washington, DC., I should be able to find it at 5:39 on Monday morning. If I get out there before I post this Tuesday, 5:35 will do the trick. The cats start crying for breakfast around 5:00 or 5:30, but I’ll set my clock just in case. (You can find star-rise and star-set times for your favorite stars and favorite cities here: www.aa.usno.navy.mil)
The forty days between July 3 and August 11 are called dog days. Not because dogs are thirstiest then or because they lay around more. Not even because they are friendlier, nastier or licky-er. Actually, this time in late summer doesn’t really have anything to do with dogs, just the Dog Star, Sirius, in the constellation Canis Major. It rises just before the sun, this time of year and it's really bright.
I remember learning about constellations in school. We looked at drawings of the night sky, really just a navy-blue background. Various sized white dots were scattered all over. Dotted lines connected some dots to some other dots which was supposed to make a picture of something. A dog, a bear, a person holding a set of measuring scales, a lion, a bull, even a set of twins. I never found any of those. Part of the problem, I figure, is the difficulty of drawing an imaginary curved line. The rest of the problem involved interference with city lights. All the dots in the picture were not showing up in the real sky.
But I can find Orion’s belt. Anyone can. Just find three brightish stars close together, right above my back door,
When we had our boat, we sailed to Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie. The sky was chock full of stars. I had never seen so many. I’m glad I did not have to navigate by them. There are just so many!
Some years later, we traveled to Nantucket. It was one of my favorite trips. We went in October and most of the tourist attractions were closed for the season. We got a great rate at a bed and breakfast, plenty of room to move around, and the whaling museum stayed open. The sun set early and I discovered a new definition for stargazing. Which is more a gazillion or a bazillion? That’s about how many stars we could see. Now, there were too many stars to make out the constellations! How did the ancient Greeks and Egyptians and Chinese do it?
And we have the Parker Solar Probe on its way to the sun, our own life-giving, time-measuring, energy-producing star. See pictures of the launch here: https://www.space.com/41460-nasa-parker-solar-probe-launch-photos.html
And we might get a whole new branch of the military to watch over it. I hope we don’t need yet another wall to turn the Pentagon into a Hexagon. But that's a topic for another day!
I just finished Ann Tyler’s new book Clock Dance. It is one woman’s story about families: what makes them work and what makes them not as we witness her changing definition of “self.”