By Ranger Steve Mueller
Imagine a giant child placing a dark veil over the Earth and using a pin to poke holes in the veil to allow light through. The pinholes would look like stars to us. A new “star” would appear with each pinhole. It has only been a few centuries since similar ideas have been slowly replaced with scientific explanations. Of course, we still write stories as real. Many people believe them because they are simple explanations or are consistent with ideas we learned as a child about time and space or are simply what we want to believe.
I still like to travel to “Never Never Land” even though there is no physical scientific evidence of its existence. We like to believe there are parallel universes like exist in the “Back to the Future” movie series.
I sat on the Ody Brook Big Field bench at dusk when the sky only expressed one star, Arcturus. It was not long before more stars popped into view as if a giant child was poking holes in a dark veil covering over Earth.
High and slightly to the north above me, the constellation Cassiopeia looked like a lopsided bright W. To the northwest and closer to the horizon from the W was a lone star in the dusk sky. It was the North Star. Even closer to the northwest horizon were three bright stars creating the handle of the Big Dipper. Only one of the Big Dipper bucket stars was visible before darkness increased. Stars rise four minutes earlier each night, changing their position as the year progresses. Expect constellations to be on the move all year.
An introduction to the night sky is best discovered when the sky is not fully dark. Most constellations are composed of bright stars. It is easier to see them before the sky is cluttered with dimmer stars. For better or worse, lights from communities prevent viewing of dimmer stars. It might be easier to see the bright constellations but I want a dark sky lighted by 2000 stars.
Using outside lights that shine down instead up saves energy, money, and improves night darkness. Placing a shade above lights lowers needed wattage and expense. A billboard was placed across the road from Ody Brook with two bright lights shining skyward where they light the neighborhood and sky instead of just the sign. Township and city commissions could be elected to implement practices that protect neighborhood darkness.
As dusk changed to darkness, the other three stars forming the bucket of the Big Dipper appeared and a dim star by the middle handle star became visible. That dim star in the past was used to test distance vision and in the military to determine if servicemen were allowed to serve in certain positions requiring keen eyesight.
When the sky was dark enough, dimmer stars of the Little Dipper became visible. Consider the Big Dipper sitting on a level table and it will appear the smaller dipper empties into the larger. Their names are Ursa major and Ursa minor. The seven stars in each do not resemble Big and Little Bear shapes. There are more stars comprising the bear constellations. They are dimmer stars not easily visible in a community lit sky.
The Milky Way crosses the sky from Cassiopeia southward toward Sagittarius, the Archer. The Milky Way is comprised of massive stars arranged in a flat plane like a dinner plate. The flat plate is our galaxy. Stars above and below the plate stand out against the black night sky and are close enough for us to see as individual stars. Most stars in the Milky Way are distant and appear as a fuzzy white band unless one uses a telescope.
Physical evidence only supports that life exists on Earth. New evidence constantly changes science knowledge and facts about universe nature niches. We all “know” life exists elsewhere based on Star Trek and Star Wars. Many believe similar ideas instead of science-based evidence. Atmospheric evidence is adequately conclusive to convince 97 percent of climate scientists that human caused global climate change is increasing and threatening our economy, coastal cities, and agriculture. Validity deniers should ask why they deny despite overwhelming climate change evidence. Is it for personal reasons? Where are your holes in the fabric of space? Is the child with veil and pin real? Forty-nine percent of US citizens deny human-caused climate change. I wonder why?
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at firstname.lastname@example.org – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.