Stargazing on the Run

Posted: February 22, 2011 in Personal, Random

There are heavenly bodies, and then there are heavenly bodies. Running regularly enhances your chances of seeing both. As an avid stargazer, I love training when it’s dark because I can see the stars and have the moon illuminate my path. It has become my ritual to look up and around while doing my warm-up exercises and sometimes even during my run. Of course, I can only do this if I have a clear view of the sky and I’m running on good roads without any traffic, preferably an enclosed track for safety.

When conditions are good, I try to see if I can guess the constellations and spot the nearby planets. After I get home, I look them up in a star chart to see if I got them right. Wanna do some stargazing yourself? I got you covered. Below are screencaps from Stellarium showing some of the most easy-to-find “star clusters” at this time of the year. Click the pictures to view a larger size and see the details.


The Sky at Night

  • ORION. A hunter in Greek mythology. Orion’s Belt is composed of three nearly co-linear stars. Below the belt is a cluster sometimes referred to as his sword which contains the Orion Nebula, among the most visible nebulas in the sky. The brightest star in the constellation is named Betelgeuse.
  • GEMINI. The twins Castor and Pollux, again from Greek myth. They have the same mother but different fathers, a mortal and Zeus. Castor is therefore mortal and Pollux an immortal. When Castor died, Pollux begged Zeus to bring back his brother and reunite them. Ever the pilosopo, he turned them both into stars. If you connect the dots of this constellation, you’ll see two stick figures side-by-side.
  • CANCER. Latin for crab. One of the twelve zodiacs. In Greek mythology, the goddess Hera sent a giant crab to kill Hercules but he kicked it so hard it flew to the sky (I swear I’m not making this up).

The Sky in the Early Morn

  • MOON. Usually at its full face mid-month. It’s approximately 384,000 KM away from us with a diameter one-fourth that of the Earth.
  • VENUS. At the lower left hand corner of the picture (taken around 4:30am facing Southeast). The planet looks like a very bright star, here seen on top of the constellation Sagittarius.
  • SAGITTARIUS. Latin for archer. One of the twelve zodiacs. From myth, it is a centaur here in the act of firing a bow from an arrow, in the direction of Scorpius.
  • SCORPIUS. Latin for Scorpion. One of the twelve zodiacs. The head with a singular bright star connected to three other stars can be readily seen.
  • SATURN. The planet Saturn looks like a faint distant star. In the picture below, it’s within the constellation Virgo.
  • VIRGO. Latin for virgin. One of the twelve zodiacs. It’s the second largest constellation and its brightest star is Spica, a blue giant 260 light years from Earth.

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