Monday, March 7, 2011

The Big Dipper Got Us Home

Last night, March 6, I was walking out of church when I saw the beautiful conjunction of Jupiter and the moon, as illustrated in the middle of this picture (taken from www.skyandtelescope.com):
A young man walking out at the same time, a pilot and the husband of a former student, remarked that a teacher would notice this kind of thing. :-) He also commented that stars and other early methods were used for navigation even with pilots, and that just a few years ago a pilot whose instruments failed used a sextant and the position of the stars to get him to his location.

It reminded me of the time about three years ago when Nancy and I went to a girls' volleyball match, during ML's senior year, at a school somewhere in the boonies of north Georgia. We were able to get there fine, even though there were five or six turns on curvy mountain roads. But the way back, in the blackness of 9:00 at night, was another story. We got hopelessly lost, backtracking, changing where we turned, and really having no clue where we were. We came to a T in the road and had to make a decision which way to turn.

Then I remembered - We did know that the interstate was somewhere east of where we were. No idea where, or how far, but somewhere east. So I looked out the passenger side window and found the Big Dipper, which is north. As it was behind the car, we were therefore going south, and we knew to turn left. Sure enough, it was the right direction.

I never thought that knowing the position of the Big Dipper would help us get home one October Friday night.

Oh, and the young man I was talking with in the parking lot said his wife still points out constellations to him that she remembers from eighth grade!

3 comments:

LynnK said...

That's pretty neat!!! Unfortunately, nearsightedness has been a hindance to me in fine tuning the stars. Keep up the edge.

Ada said...

We were in the car the other night with Heater and saw the big dipper. She wondered if people in Australia could see the big dipper. What do you think? I jokingly told her they see the South Dipper.

Ann said...

Hey - That was a good question Heater asked. Tell her no, it's too far north. There are some constellations, like Orion, that are more on the equator and can be seen both in the northern and southern hemispheres.

South Dipper? New one on me. :-)