How does the shape of the Earth affect our view of the stars?

We will be taking a “virtual” field trip to different spots on the Earth and viewing the stars there. We are going to focus in on two major constellations, and one very important star—Polaris, or the North Star.

Through the magic of “virtual astrovision,” we will be viewing the sky at the same time in every location we go to! We need to do this so that we can see the sky the same way at each location.

As you may already know, our view of the constellations change over an evening—the stars appear to move because the Earth is rotating!**** Your view of the sky at 9:00 p.m. is different from your view at 11:00 p.m., just for example.

****Polaris is the exception to this!!!

We are going to deal with this problem by arriving at each location at precisely the same time…through our superstellar supersonic time machine (SSTM)!

Hop on board!

Hop on board!

Hop on board!

Hop on board!

Hop on board!

Our first stop is really closeby! Central Park in New York City!

What is the latitude of NY city?

New York, New York 41o N Latitude Big Dipper Cassiopeia
Polaris

Pointer Stars

We are going to “calibrate” our screen so that we can make measurements of the location of Polaris in other places on Earth. We will be using a device called a “sextant.” This measures the star’s angle above the horizon. This is called ALTITUDE. ALTITUDE This simulation is only in 2-D, so the sextant appears like a ruler. However, in the real-world of 3-D, this device would measure what angle you have to tilt your head up in order to see a star. Therefore, if the star is at the horizon, the angle is ZERO. Directly overhead, the angle is 90o.

New York, New York 41o N Big Dipper
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Cassiopeia
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Polaris

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Pointer Stars

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Measure the altitude of Polaris

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What does this view “feel like” in 3dimensions?
POLARIS The arc represents the Celestial hemisphere (the sky above)

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The ground W There is a 41 degree angle between the horizon and Polaris.

In other words, the viewer must tilt his or her head (and telescope!) up 41o from the horizontal in order to directly see Polaris.

Now let’s head to Tampa, Florida and view the night sky there!

Tampa, Florida What is the altitude of Polaris in Tampa?
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What is the altitude of Polaris in Tampa?
Again, let’s get a feeling of what this looks like in 3-D!

What does this view “feel like” in 3dimensions? Plot the position of Polaris for Tampa
The arc represents the Celestial hemisphere (the sky above)

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The ground W In Tampa, would you tilt your head up more or less than in New York in order to see Polaris?

Did you notice that the Big Dipper, and Cassiopeia are also lower in the sky here…

Tampa, Florida
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New York, New York 41o N …than in New York!
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What is the latitude of Tampa?

Now we are flying off to Popayán, Colombia in order to view the tropical night sky!

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Popayán, Colombia What is the altitude of Polaris in Popayán?
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What is the altitude of Polaris in Popayán ?

Again, let’s get a feeling of what this looks like in 3-D!

What does this view “feel like” in 3dimensions? Plot the position of Polaris for Popayán
The arc represents the Celestial hemisphere (the sky above)

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In Popayán, how would you have to orient your head so you could see Polaris?

What is the latitude of Popayán?

Predict where you would find Polaris if you were at o the Equator (O )

Let’s see if you are getting the hang of this! For our next stop we are going to view the sky FIRST, and then predict our latitude from our view of Polaris! Pretty neat, huh!

Mystery Location

Before, we measure, determine this: Are we North or South of NY? Here is NY again for comparison…

New York, New York 41o N Latitude And now back to our mystery location!

O.K.! Let’s determine the altitude of Polaris…

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So where is Polaris in this location?

The arc represents the Celestial hemisphere (the sky above)

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So now we know what latitude we are at. What is it?

Of the choices given, where in the world are we?

Churchill, Canada Quebec, Canada Hartford, CT
Washington, D.C.

New Orleans, LA

Now that you’re so good at this, predict the altitude of Polaris at the North Pole!

Let’s imagine what it would be like to do this at the North Pole. Be careful you don’t strain your neck!

…and make sure you are EXTRA good while you are here!!!! You know who’s watching….

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What is the altitude of Polaris?

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Where is Polaris at the North Pole?

The arc represents the Celestial hemisphere (the sky above)

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Describe what you would have to do in order to view Polaris at the North Pole.

All aboard for our last stop! Another mystery location for you to solve!

To give you a hint, we’ll place a marker where Polaris would be if we were in New York at this time… Do the measuremen t…

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Of the choices given, where in the world are we?

Churchill, Canada

Ottawa, Canada Philadelphia, PA

Meridian, MS

Havana, Cuba

Well, our adventuring is over for today! Thanks for making our mission a success!

Well, our adventuring is over for today! Thanks for making our mission a success!

Well, our adventuring is over for today! Thanks for making our mission a success!

Well, our adventuring is over for today! Thanks for making our mission a success!

Well, our adventuring is over for today! Thanks for making our mission a success!

WHEE! See you next time!!!!!

Well, our adventuring is over for today! Thanks for making our mission a success!