Stellarium – Find the Humanity Star

A new satellite called the Humanity Star looks like a disco ball

Looking for information on how to track the Humanity Star location using Stellarium astronomy software?

Here is a quick tutorial on how to find the Humanity Star using Stellarium.

You can track the position of the Humanity Star with Stellarium
The Humanity Star satellite before launch – still on the Earth.

Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck announced that the company’s rocket had placed a special satellite in a 90 minute orbit around the Earth.

A lot of people want to see this new “star” in the sky. Stellarium can help you do that.

If you don’t have Stellarium, you can download a copy here. And I have a few tutorials that can help you get started with this amazing piece of software.

Tutorial – use Stellarium to find the Humanity Star satellite

First, you have to use the satellite database which is available in the Configurations > Plugins section of Stellarium.

Click on the wrench with the star, then click the Plugins tab, then scroll down until you see “Satellites” in the list on the left.

Stellarium configuration panels showing the satellites plugin which is needed to track the Humanity Star (it is a satellite after all)
Stellarium configuration window showing the satellites plugin.

Update the satellite data

Once you have done that (be sure to check “Load at startup” you will have a list of satellites to choose from. However, there are new objects launched into space every day, so this plugin has a button that says “Update Now”

Stellarium can hep you find the Humanity Star
Update the satellite list to get all the newest satellites – including the Humanity Star.

Search for the Humanity Star

Now, open the Search panel in Stellarium and type Humanity Star and hit the return key on the keyboard or click the magnifying glass button.

Stellarium search panel showing the Humanity Star as a findable object
Open the Search panel and type Humanity Star. Stellarium will find it.

Stellarium will highlight the Humanity Star. Hit the space bar to lock it into the view.

Time lapse

Now that Stellarium has locked the Humanity Star into the view center. You can speed up time by tapping the “L” key on the keyboard a few times. This will speed up the clock and show you where the Humanity Star is traveling in the sky.

Stellarium Humanity Star in the Constellation Cygnus in March 2018
Stellarium Humanity Star in the Constellation Cygnus in March 2018 as seen from the New York Metropolitan Area.

Predicting the brightness (magnitude) of the Humanity Star

By using this website, you can enter your location on Earth (in the top right of the page choose Location) and track many satellites and get predictions for when they will fly overhead.

The Humanity Star is one of several “satellites of special interest” so you can click on the link and see flyover predictions with magnitude estimates.

According to the satellite tracking website “Heavens Above” the Humanity Star is not one of the brightest objects in the sky. In the second week of March 2018, it ranges from magnitude 4.1 to 8.4. Magnitude 4.1 is just barely visible to the naked eye in light polluted suburban skies, but magnitude 8.4 is basically invisible under all normal viewing conditions.

This table shows the visibility and brightness prediction for the Humanity Star satellite
Table of predictions for the New York metropolitan area Humanity Star visibility and brightness.

I would love to hear if you were able to use these directions to find and see the Humanity Star in your area!

Clear Skies. Happy Humanity Star satellite hunting with Stellarium.

Quiz – Can we see the Sun at midnight? Where is it?

Can we see the Sun at midnight?

Yes. We can see the Sun at midnight. But, only if we are at one of the polar regions during the Summer season.

Image of the Sun's rays hitting the Earth. The Earth is tilted 23.4 degrees. Summer is when the northern hemisphere is titled toward the Sun. The summer Sun never sets - not even at midnight - if you are north of the Arctic Circle.
You can see the Sun at midnight! If you are at the North Pole in summer.

A quiz – seeing the Sun at midnight – don’t scroll til you try to answer!

When you see the Sun “rising” in the morning at dawn you are facing the east.

When you see the Sun “setting” at the end of the day you are facing the west.

Assuming you are not above the Arctic circle and not too close to the equator… if you could look right at the Sun (when the night is exactly half over) – by looking through the Earth – which cardinal direction would you be facing? East, West, North, or South?

Looking north or south to see the Sun at midnight?
A compass rose showing the cardinal directions.

Answer and Explanation

This quiz tests an observer’s ability to think about cardinal directions at the same time paying attention to meridian, time, and hemispherical location.

When we see the Sun “rising” in the morning at dawn we are facing the east.

When we see the Sun “setting” at the end of the day we are facing the west.

When we look at the Sun at noon in the northern hemisphere we are facing south.

SPOILER ALERT — And when we look at the Sun – as if the Earth were transparent – at midnight in the northern hemisphere we are facing north.

In the southern hemisphere sunrise and sunset appear in the same cardinal directions (East and West). But as we pretend that we can look through the Earth at the Sun… at midnight… we are facing south. See the diagram below.

Image of 2 stick figures on the the earth - one in the northern hemisphere, one in the southern hemisphere - looking through the Earth to ward the Sun at midnight
Observers in the northern hemisphere face North at midnight to “see” the Sun. Those in the southern hemisphere face south.

I welcome any and all observation and feedback on this quiz!

Contact me by clicking the blue bubble in the bottom right of this page.

See Mercury and Venus orbits during the day

Your hands and arms help you see the orbits of Mercury and Venus and the shape of solar system

Question: If you could see the orbit of Venus would it fill the whole sky?

The answer might surprise you!

You can use your hands and arms to see the size of the orbits of the solar system’s inner planets: Mercury and Venus.

Imagine (as pictured below) if the orbit of Mercury were visible as a red oval and the orbit of Venus were visible in green.

Use your hands and elbows to see Mercury and Venus orbits any time of day or night. The orbits of Mercury and Venus can be seen.
Two hand spans show Mercury’s orbit, elbows show Venus’s orbit.

Physical Astronomy – see Mercury and Venus orbits

Caution! Do not look directly at the Sun without proper solar safety glasses on.

Turn toward the Sun, hold your arms out straight, hands up in the air with fingers spread wide and thumbs touching. Your pinky fingers now span the width of the orbit of Mercury and your elbows span the width of the orbit of Venus.

Both of the entire orbits of Mercury and Venus orbits would be visible in the sky all at once – if they could be made visible during the day.

Continue reading “See Mercury and Venus orbits during the day”

Shapes with Shadows – astrosketching Moon features with Alex Massey

Shapes with Shadows – what they can tell us

This the first of two special guest posts by Australian astrosketch artist Alexander Massey 

Live View Sketch of Moon craters Azrachel, Alphonsus, and Ptolemaeus by Alex Massey

Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus, and Arzachel… the names of three massive, interlocking craters on the Moon. These three craters tell the story of the ancient Moon’s creation and evolution. It’s a story of violent bombardments and oceans of lava. We can use light and shadows to reveal the shapes and deep history of these features.

Most people think of astronomy a science of light. But, light creates shadows when it hits things. Those features that lie in the shadows, the dark parts and seemingly just-in-the-way-of-the-light parts, are just as important as those that shine brightly. These dark shadows form most of the mass of all galaxies, house stellar nurseries, reveal old lava rivers on the Moon, and create curious plays of light and dark. These can play tricks on our eyes and make patterns appear.

Continue reading “Shapes with Shadows – astrosketching Moon features with Alex Massey”

Walk to Mintaka

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings
Mistakable rises toward the zenith as you walk toward the equator
As you walk toward the equator, Mintaka appears to rise higher in the sky.

In this post we will learn how to use one bright star of Orion’s belt to visualize the Earth’s equator.

Mintaka is a Star in Orion’s Belt

When you look up at the winter sky in the northern hemisphere, Orion and his famous belt are impossible to miss. The belt is made up of three stars of equal brightness.

One of these stars is called Mintaka and it is a guidepost for finding the Earth’s equator in space. Continue reading “Walk to Mintaka”

Arms around the ecliptic

Learn to see the ecliptic

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings

Ecliptic Arms

The sun follows the same path through the sky every day.

Sun up. Noon. Sun down.

The sun starts the day in the east in the morning, rises high in the sky at noon, and settles down again in the west for a nap at night.

See the ecliptic

Here is an exercise to discover that path – the ecliptic.

Continue reading “Arms around the ecliptic”

Groundhog Day Shadow Tracker

Physical Astronomy Tool by Daniel Cummings

Groundhog Day Shadow Tracker Lesson Plan
It’s Groundhog Day!

What better way to celebrate Groundhog Day than to Build your own Groundhog Day Shadow Tracker

Let’s do some Physical Astronomy. The experience will help you to understand the movement of the earth and sun through the seasons. You will build a scientific instrument that is also a fun garden decoration and you will be able to track the Groundhog’s Shadow all Spring!

Continue reading “Groundhog Day Shadow Tracker”

A new star will appear in the sky in 2022

Binary star merge to form a new star - a star in a starAn amazing thing is about to happen! A Star in a Star will be born.

You  can witness the birth of a new star in the night sky.  The new Star already has a birthday: 2022!

According to scientists, the new star will form when two stars that are orbiting each other grow so close that they merge into one.

The new star will appear in the constellation Cygnus. You can see the approximate location marked by a red circle in the Stellarium screenshot here:

A screenshot of Stellarium showing the new star location under the constellation Cygnus's left wing

The image of the two blue stars on the home page of this Star in a Star site shows what scientists think it looks like now. This impressive video shows an artist’s rendering of the star merge.

In the pair, one star is larger than the other so in the end, there will be a new star…  A Star in a Star.

The Moon Dance – Learn Moon Phases

PHYSICAL ASTRONOMY BY DANIEL CUMMINGS

The moon dance helps you learn and understand the phases of the moonAt sunset.

Face the sun.

Point your right hand toward the Sun.

Now point your left hand toward the Sun.

Both hands should be pointing at the sun.

Now, turn a little bit to the left, keeping both hands pointing at the sun.

Swing your left arm out until it is pointing in the opposite direction from the sunset. Bring your hands together again and repeat this swinging motion.

Bring your hands together again and point them both at the sun. This time, instead of swinging, bounce your left hand, leftward, some number of times… (14 is perfect if you can do it) …until it is pointing in the completely opposite direction from the Sun at sunset. Your left hand should now be pointing East.

Was the moon at any one of those 14 hand bounce spots? That is the age of the moon in days.

Please post your questions in the comments!

Stellarium – a Gift to Humanity

Hello! Are you looking for information on how to use Stellarium to find the Humanity Star satellite? It’s your lucky day! Click here for a tutorial that teaches you how to find the Humanity Star satellite with Stellarium.

Or continue reading to find out more about Stellarium.

An image of the winter sky showing the Full Moon near the constellations Orion, Taurus, the Big Dog (with the bright star Sirius), and the Little Dog (with the bright star Procyon).
An image of the winter sky showing the Full Moon near the constellations Orion, Taurus, the Big Dog (with the bright star Sirius), and the Little Dog (with the bright star Procyon).

Stellarium – a glorious gift to Humanity in software form – gives you super powers. And best of all … It’s FREE!

Superpowers!

Always wanted to know the names of the stars and constellations? You can search, play, pan and zoom, examine, compare and anchor your knowledge.

It’s a cloudy night? No problem. You can see through the clouds! 

Wished that the sky had labels on everything? Stellarium has 10 different label types.

Stop time? Move time by day, by week? Do you want to see what will happen in 2 months? Or look at the sky during the Pharoah’s reign? You can time travel.

You can easily drag and zoom, stop time, go in reverse, make a timelapse, follow the moon through its phases. You have a tool to help you understand the ecliptic and sidereal time and retrograde motion. You can see the great orbital swing of Venus as it circles the Sun.

Ok! I’m convinced by your Stellarium review. What should I do now? What’s my call to action?

Get a copy of Stellarium.

You can download it here.

Stellarium is a free, easy to use, and powerful tool – and best of all (did I mention this already?) it’s FREE and easy to use.

I will write some specific tutorials about my favorite parts of Stellarium in 2017, but for now… go get it and play!

You will be able to see things about sky objects and movements that are impossible to see live. But, once you have seen them with the help of Stellarium, the sky will open up for you – like a gift.