Celestial Navigation

Uploaded 14 Jul 2010 — 8 favorites
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© Mary Ann Reilly
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Photo license: © All rights reserved

This work began in dialogue. I had received a curriculum (History and Mathematics: Classical Studies) to respond to that was written two high school teachers (Dawn deMartino and Harry Sugar) and as I read I was fascinated by one suggested culminating work, senior students would do:

“Navigate a journey, using ancient navigational methods, that patterns the journey of Jason, Aeneus or Odysseus in a myth of your own creation.
1. Share versions of the story of Jason and the Argonauts. Reflect on the meaning of a personal quest. Create a myth about your personal quest.
2. Explore the ancient astronomy of the Babylonians and Phoenicians.
3. Mathematically plot the journey of Jason or Aeneus using celestial navigation.
4. Incorporate all of the above and create a presentation of the journey that presents a new myth using 5 geographic points also visited in Jason or Aeneus’ journey. The myth will include the beliefs and ways of life encountered in visiting the 5 geographical locations as well as mythical creative fiction.
5. The presentation will include celestial navigation software and incorporate multimedia.”

So I got to wondering about navigating one’s way using celestial navigation and wondered if the star maps 2000+ years ago would be different from tonight.

Harry responded:

“Regarding Mary Ann’s question about changes in the constellations, there are two types of changes. First is the movement of the stars relative to the sun which affects the shapes or patterns of the constellations. However, 2-3
thousand years will not make a discernible in the constellations. So the ancient Greeks saw the same constellations as we see. Or as my son once said as a little boy when I showed him the stars in the backyard and then we walked to the front to go back inside, “Dad, the stars are the same as in the backyard!”

Second is the precession of the earth’s axis of rotation. This is the change in the orientation of the axis. The axis does not point to the same spot in the sky but makes a circle with a period of 26 thousand years. This means that what we designate as the north star will change.”

Then he included two snapshots of the northern sky from his iPhone app. The first was for the year 0000 and the second for 2010.

“You’ll notice that the position of the Zenith has changed but the patterns of the constellations have not. The Zenith is the spot in the sky that is directly overhead,” wrote Harry.

Well you can’t send me images of the stars, 2000 years old or from last night and not expect a response. A pleasure to co-create this one from the images Harry sent.

4 responses

  • William Tracy

    William Tracy said (14 Jul 2010):

    What a treasure you are!! This is wonderful.

  • Leslie Hunziker

    Leslie Hunziker   gave props (14 Jul 2010):

    These are stunning! I loved all the info on the constellations.

  • dp *

    dp * gave props (15 Jul 2010):

    Wonderful read and image.

  • Bruce Miller

    Bruce Miller (Deleted) gave props (16 Jul 2010):

    This is too wonderful!

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