Kuiper poses with big and little dippers.

Double Dipping

Kuiper double dips.

No Photoshop here, folks (except for the lines.) I took this picture with a single 15 second exposure, a wide-angle lens and a flash (which I wrapped in 4893 layers of red plastic and set on low to avoid annoying my fellow astronomers.) Needless to say, we had an amazing time at the Oregon Star Party.

Would you like to learn to read constellations? I have a few suggestions on how to get started, and it’s easier than you might think! You will need to know roughly where you are, when you are, and find access to a printer. Type “Uncle Al’s Star Wheels” into your search engine of choice and download the (free!) pdf appropriate for your area (e.g. Northern Hemisphere.) Alternatively, you can buy a much more robust, plastic wheel for $8-10 by searching “david chandler” “night sky” on Amazon.

I also recommend picking up a tiny red flashlight, or covering a small flashlight in lots of red plastic or red tape. Try to hide the flashlight in your hand and use only the smallest amount of light necessary to peek at your chart. Any amount of light disrupts the ability of your eyes to see in the dark (for reasons I will explain in another post), but red light disrupts it less.

Ok, so you have your star wheel and your flashlight and OH HOLY COW there are a lot of dots. Don’t panic! The thing to focus on first (for those of us up north) is to learn to recognize the Big and Little Dippers. These are “asterisms” (unofficial mini-constellations) that make up parts of Ursa Major and Minor (respectively.) The Dippers are key to orienting yourself in the Northern night sky.

Start with the BD. With your map, the time and a rough idea of which way is north, you can figure out what general area of the sky it’ll show up in. Do you see it? The two stars on the front of the ladle (opposite from the handle) are our “pointer stars.” Take the distance between them, multiply by about 5, and look up. There’s our LD emptying into the BD. The star on the end of LD’s handle is Polaris, the North Star. Contrary to popular belief, the North Star isn’t particularly bright (~50th brightest in the sky.) However, it’s heckin’ reliable.

To be continued!

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BmetxUsg8GM/

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