Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Looking to the Stars

By Hannah Putnam
Environmental Educator

In New England, sunny winter days turn into crisp nights with clear skies that are perfect for stargazing. I have been fascinated by the star-filled night sky ever since I was a child. One of the first constellations that I learned to identify was Orion, with his belt of three stars providing my young eyes with an easy reference point to orient myself.


There are many stories about the constellation we call Orion. Some people look up and see Orion the great hunter or archer who is fighting the nearby constellation, Taurus the Bull. Orion carries a club and a shield, and has a sword through his belt. Other people look up and see something totally different. For the Pawnee Indians of the Great Plains, the stars in the Orion constellation form the shape of three deer leaping across the sky. The Ojibwa see the Winter Maker who heralds the coming of many months of cold and snow.

The hunter Orion has a faithful companion in his dog Sirius, another constellation itself, known as Canis Major. Sirius is the brightest star in our skies, second only to our sun. It is blue-white and appears to sparkle when it is near the horizon because of the angle of its light passing through our atmosphere.

If you, like me, are fascinated by the mysteries of our night sky, join me at VINS as we present Looking to the Stars, a series of astronomy programs. We’ll delve into the depths of outer space and explore constellations, distant galaxies and planets. Under clear skies, we’ll be stargazing. Stories and interactive activities for all ages take place whether cloudy or clear. The first program takes place on Jan. 22 from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. Future dates for Looking to the Stars include Feb. 12 and March 12. Pre-registration requested. The cost is $10 for VINS members, $12 for non-members. For registration and cancellation due to extreme winter weather, call (802) 359-5000, ext. 223

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