Stargazing March 2014

These are a few photos from our March 7th meeting. The skies cleared and most of the 40 members went into the car park to look through the two large goto telescopes we had set up. Members could look at the moon, Jupiter and an array of stars in the night sky.

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Several newer members were treated to a short explanation of how to find the pole or North star by Karin Rodgers…to be honest some of the older members also learned something too. The easiest method for finding the North Star is by finding the ‘Plough’, an easy to identify group of seven stars. It is known as the ‘Big Dipper’ to the Americans and the ‘saucepan’ to many others. Next you find the ‘pointer’ stars, these are the two stars that a liquid would run off if you tipped up your ‘saucepan’. The North Star will always be five times the distance between these two pointers in the direction that they point (up away from the pan). True north lies directly under this star.

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The ‘Plough’ rotates anti-clockwise about the North Star, so it will sometimes appear on its side or even upside down. However its relationship with the North Star never changes and it will always dependably point the way to it.

The reason the North Star is so important for natural navigation is that it sits directly over the North Pole. Something that people often forget is that whenever you are trying to find true north, you are actually trying to find the direction of the North Pole from wherever you are – even if you are only heading a few hundred metres on a gentle walk – ‘north’ is still just an abbreviation for ‘towards the North Pole’.

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