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”

Tilt Head to Tilt Earth

Physical Astronomy by Daniel CummingsTilt your head to tilt the earth and experi nice the seasons

Seasons are caused by a titled Earth

Use this technique to understand how seasons happen on the Earth. The Earth is tilted. When the northern part (your forehead and eyes) tilts away from the Sun the season is winter. When the northern part tilts toward the Sun the season is summer.

The Earth is tilted as it spins daily – it is not straight up and down like a top, but more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa (if the tower could spin!). As it goes through its yearly orbit, the Sun hits the northern and then the southern parts of the Earth.

Tilt your head to tilt the Earth

In this model, when the northern part (your forehead and eyes) tilts away from the Sun the season is winter. When the northern part tilts toward the Sun the season is summer.

Did you like this season model? Any questions? Type in the comments to send me a message.

The Moon is Upside Down

The Moon is Upside Down

The moon is upside down (as seen from the Southern Hemisphere)
The moon as seen from the Southern Hemisphere. source: Wikipedia.

When you are in the southern hemisphere, the moon looks upside down.

When I came back to the US from living in Australia for 4 years, I published a poster with a picture of the moon on in and I placed it “upside down” – someone pointed it out and I looked at the moon and said “the moon is upside down.” This was true – in the Northern Hemisphere – but to people living in the Southern Hemisphere the moon appears “upside down.”

I was shocked, but the claim was true – in the Northern Hemisphere! But to Australians and other people living in places in the Southern Hemisphere the moon appears “upside down.”

 

Train your Brain – See the shape of the solar system

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings.

Train your Brain - See the solar system disk

See the solar system from Earth

Most people, when they look up at the night sky can easily see stars and identify some familiar groups of stars (asterisms and constellations). Some people can even find and name some planets – Venus, Jupiter, and Mars are all bright and easy to see.

But, there are many invisible wonders in the sky – and some of them can be seen without a telescope. In fact they are so big that a telescope is not the right tool to use; we have to use something even more powerful… imagination!

Using visualization and imagination, I am going to show you how to find and “see” a very large structure in our sky: the solar system disk itself.

Continue reading “Train your Brain – See the shape of the solar system”

Night is…

“‘Night’ is not what time it is… it is where you are.” – Daniel Cummings

Stellarium – a Gift to Humanity

Screenshot of Stellarium review

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.

What Looks Like Sunset

English: The sunset seen from Shwesandaw Pagoda in Bagan, Myanmar. Date 9 December 2014, 17:23:27 Source Own work Author Jacklee Camera location 21° 09′ 49.23″ N, 94° 51′ 58.11″ E Heading=76.098113207547° Is what looks like sunset really the sun – “setting”?

What is that thing that happens every day that makes it look like sunset?

Can you change your mind easily? Are you flexible enough to understand that the same set of observations and facts can lead two different people to two different conclusions?

For a long time, everyone on the Earth thought the Sun was moving and the Earth was staying still. This is just what it looks like and anyone who dared to suggest a different view might easily be considered odd, or worse, dangerous. Having the benefit of hundreds of years of scientific evidence and wisdom to back up my observations, I now have the luxury of believing that it is the Earth that is moving and that the Sun is the one standing still.

It is fun to imagine being carried through space on the surface of a giant ball. Definitely better than staying still while the sun careens through the sky each day. With this image in my mind, I feel the Earth is carrying me away from the view of the Sun.

Sunset should be called “away sun” and not “sun set” because it is me moving, not the sun. It is me being carried away into the shadows forming behind the bulge of the Earth, not the Sun setting. I am riding the Earth with its great round bulk between me and the Sun.

It’s NOT a sunset but me… rushing backwards… at 1000 mph as the bulge of the earth grows in between.

I propose “awaysun” as the new name for sunset and “towardsun” as the name for sunrise. These new names help solidify the idea that we are the ones moving.

What do you think?

The Moon Moves Toward the Dawn – a Mnemonic

The moon moves toward the dawn

Memorize this mnemonic: The moon moves toward the dawn. This phrase describes the day-by-day movement of the moon. With this simple phrase, you can understand the phases of the moon. You will actually begin to see the moon’s beautiful orbit traced out in the sky.

Repeat. The moon moves toward the dawn. The moon moves toward the dawn. 

The moon moves toward the dawn.
It rises higher in the dusky sky after each day. It sweeps over the hills.
It circles and rolls. It transits. It leaves the Sun, then chases the Sun.
The moon moves toward the dawn.
Look East! That’s where the moon wants to go.
Once arrived, it crosses the face of the Sun and once again moves toward the dawn.
The moon moves toward the dawn.

Hello world! Welcome to Physical Astronomy.

Daniel Cummings moon phase immersiveWelcome to Star in a Star!

There are many ways to learn about Astronomy and the sky. Some people learn best by reading books or websites. Some learn best by debate and discussion. Some learn by doing.

I like to learn about Astronomy by interacting with people, places, and things. I like to listen to children’s questions and wonder along with them. I like to create immersive real-world experiences – aka “Physical Astronomy” – that help to illuminate the answers – when there are answers – and create tools for thought and imagination.

In posts and pages and links and media I am going to show you how to learn (and teach) Physical Astronomy in this unique way. We will learn about how to foster deep scientific understanding through exercising a sense of place and presence in a space.

Most importantly, I hope to share my passion for Astronomy and share the joy I feel each time someone near me says those epic words of discovery: “Wow – I never knew that before.”

Daniel