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| 1/17/2019 12:00:00 AM

Night lights 3a
A Leonid meteor shower

Country MoonI have always been fascinated by the night sky. Maybe it is the vastness, the oneness or just the sheer beauty of wondering what is out there.

Ever since I was in junior high school and we had a class assignment to find and chart all the constellations, I have been hooked. At the time I wasn’t so thrilled since it was in the middle of January’s freezing cold. Naturally, you have to wait until it is completely dark and there is no cold like a Michigan night when all is clear. However, once I was out there and saw all the beauty that the night sky has to offer, let’s just say that every season finds me looking up after dark.

Although I love seeing comets, meteors and the planets, finding the constellations still gives me the biggest thrill. They are groups of stars that form an imaginary outline or pattern on a celestial sphere. They represent animals, mythological persons or creatures and inanimate objects. They are totally imaginary things that people, poets, farmers and astrologers made up over 6,000 years ago that help people orient themselves using the night sky.

Small patterns of stars within a constellation are called asterisms. The Big and Little Dippers are asterisms within the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

All told, there are 88 official constellations. Some are only visible in the northern hemisphere and some in the southern. Of those that can be seen in both hemispheres, some may appear upside down, depending on your location. Some can be viewed all year long but most are seasonal and only appear at certain times.

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