Make A Planisphere

The ridiculously difficult landing of Rosetta Mission’s Philae probe on comet 67P ignited pondering fires of cosmic wonder – a topic I’ve been silent on far too long. Months ago I wrote a post about “baby steps” to the cosmos, followed by several more on identifying specific stars, planets and constellations. Doubtful that many people bothered to follow meticulous instructions for visual orientation, my fall back has always been enthusiastic encouragement to download Google’s Sky Map app. As I pointed my phone at tonight’s sky, it occurred to me – this is too easy.Β  To”Google”, is to arrive at answers without the process of investigation. Sky apps are handy in a pinch, but rather like cheating on a final exam – how could I study for the test?

My mind drifted back to grade school, and it hit me – I’ll make my own Planisphere.

Planispheres have existed in one form or another for centuries – one disc over another, rotating on a central pivot. Or a “pocket” and “wheel” you slip into the pocket depending on where you are and what you want to see. I found the site linked below – step by step instructions for all your Planisphere needs. First you print a “pocket” based on your latitude, then you make “city” and “milky way” wheels. City wheels are basic orientation of the brightest objects as seen from your location. Milky Way wheels are full on representation of everything visible if you could view the night sky as if in a rural location, free of light pollution. The site gives latitudes and instructions for “traveling” star wheels – make Planispheres when you travel, or send them as Christmas gifts to anyone, anywhere.

Of course I could go out and buy a Planisphere, but that defeats the purpose. The point is to stop and think about your latitude, realizing it truly matters to the night sky. A Planisphere forces one to understand the cosmic drift and flow. Making one teaches far more than occasional posts or instant recognition Google ever could – a star wheel offers reasons, makes us think, and takes us back to the joy of discovery.


7 thoughts on “Make A Planisphere

  1. Ahhhh, you see, my biggest problem is that I can’t for the life of me stay awake long enough to bet much out of the night sky. Even three years into retirement I haven’t really broken the early to bed, early to rise pattern of a lifetime. We had a great chance in OR — but it was too chilly at night to be FUN and so often overcast so we couldn’t very often see all the multitude of stars that we were far enough from city lights to really SEE. sigh.
    Not sure what we’ll find in S. Tex. But it might be warm enough for me to get out in the evening and at least TRY to see the night sky. I’m such a wimp when it comes to cold. Didn’t use to be, but sure am now.

    • I tend to forget – most people don’t work bat shit hours the way I do. The other day I started work at 3 AM (had to have breakfast for 100 people ready to go by 4:45 AM) Many nights I get home from work at 3 AM. That aside – come on, the sun sets by 4:30 in Vancouver – can’t be that far off where you are πŸ™‚

      As for cold – I don’t mind a bit. Cold in my neck of the woods means no rain and clear skies – a perfect combination. FYI, I get the chilly nights in Oregon.Pacific northwest cold is far chillier than dry and crisp cold anywhere else.

      • We tend to be IN bed by 9, and I’m up (way too otten) at 4:30 or 5:00.

        After getting a really bad case of Frostbite in Pocatello ID some 30 years ago even cool gets to feeling really uncomfortable nowadays. πŸ™‚

        You can have your hours — and I’ll be sympathetic, πŸ™‚

      • That was back in the days when I drove truck. the REAL temperature was -50ΒΊ F (forget the wind chill) and my diesel fuel gelled. I would have froze to death except another driver came to my aide with a gallon of Liquid Gold — an additive that will dissipate gelled fuel and I got out of there, but it was not a fun situation. Bad in the hands (fingers) and feet.

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