Behind The Scenes
During the day I scouted a location in the Big Bend area to catch the stars rising over the Chisos Mountains later that night, the view was perfect and the forecast was clear skies.
I returned after dark to set up the camera and the winds blowing across the desert kicked up dust obscuring the mountains on the horizon.
Rather than turn in for the night, I spun the camera around 180 degrees and was treated to the magnificent sight of Orion setting over Terlingua as the camera slowly clicked off 200 exposures over the course of an hour and twenty minutes.
A late night pickup truck travelling down the highway lit up the mountainside as it passed by, 20 minutes later it returned and lit up the other side making me concerned that all of the effort had been ruined.
It indeed turned out to be a wonderful image on a magical night. I wish I knew who the pickup driver was so that I could thank him!
88 Constellations over our heads
There is an annual tableau in the sky as the Earth makes its one year journey around the Sun. Humans have been studying the sky for millennia - the stars told them when to plant, when to harvest and when to prepare for winter. All of the ancient civilizations looked up, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, - the American Indians and they each had their way of defining the night sky.
The Babylonians, Greeks and Romans observed the stars and to better organize them, they imagined people or animals from their mythology in the sky, giving us the constellations. The ones that are across the ecliptic make up the zodiac, with each constellation being one of the zodiac signs.
Due to the rotation of the Earth, the constellations move 4 degrees to the west each night (about 3 fingers distance), so each season of the year has a different set of constellations for us to see!
What’s with the funny star names?
The learnings from the Greeks and Romans would have been lost to the mists of time during the dark ages except for the fact that the Arabs came across the texts and preserved them for future generations. While the constellation names mostly come from Greek and Roman mythology, the star names are often strange sounding to us. That is because the Arabs took on the task of mapping and naming the individual stars. “AL” is Arabic for “The”, with the rest of the name describing the star or where it sits in a constellation.
Buy or build a planisphere and rotate it to see the constellations by date and time, then go outside and see what constellations you can find.
A compass can help or download an App. There are many good ones, Stellarium is the one that I use, it also has a free desktop version as well.