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Night sky stories

The night sky is full of stories. Since ancient times, people have looked to the skies and observed stars that appeared grouped into patterns. The patterns resembled people and animals, reminding them of their gods and goddesses. Stories based on these star groups, or constellations, developed and are still told today.

Stargazing with binoculars
Robin Scagell, David Frydman.
Richmond Hill, Ont. ; New York : Firefly Books, 2011.
"A serious contender for the title of best all-around introduction to binocular astronomy." -- Sky and Telescope (on the first edition) Stargazing with Binoculars is a practical guide to using binoculars to view the night sky for newcomers to astronomy. The book includes reviews of the wide range of binoculars on the market and provides advice on features to consider before making a purchase. The authors guide the beginner through the first steps of using binoculars to observe the night sky, describe what will be visible and show how to find specific objects. This new edition has been thoroughly updated to incorporate the latest technological developments in binoculars. Illustrated throughout and filled with handy tips and tricks, it covers: What to expect from binoculars and how they actually work Buying binoculars for the first time Upgrading after the first purchase Observing the sun, the moon, planets, comets, asteroids, stars, clusters, variable stars, double stars, novas, nebulas and galaxies The effects of light pollution Observing from the city and from the countryside Terminology Stargazing with Binoculars is a practical, easy-to-read handbook for newcomers to astronomy -- whatever their age.
     
Stargazing with binoculars
Robin Scagell and David Frydman.
Richmond Hill, Ont. : Firefly Books, 2008.
Includes index.
     
The Gospel in the stars
Joseph A. Seiss.
New York : Cosimo Classics, [2007]
  1. Originally published: 1882.
  2. Includes index.
     
Skywatcher's companion : constellations and their mythology.
 
Victoria, B.C. : Heritage House Pub., [2007?]
  1. "The text was written by Stan Shadick and Heritage House editorial staff."--P. [48]
  2. A starry, starry night discovery book.
     
A constellation album : stars and mythology of the night sky
by P.K. Chen.
Cambridge, MA : New Track Media, c2007.
By using transparencies to overlay traditional constellation figures onto his photographs of the night sky, renowned astrophotographer Chen has created an exciting and unusual way to link the brightest stars within each constellation.
     
Patterns in the sky : an introduction to stargazing
Ken Hewitt-White.
Cambridge, Mass. : Sky Pub., c2006.
Includes index.
     
Simple stargazing : a first-time skywatcher's guide
Anton Vamplew.
New York, NY : Collins, 2006.
This book will make sense of the night sky for beginners of all ages. And contrary to popular belief, you don't need expensive equipment to start skygazing. The author introduces the night sky just as if he were by your side, pointing out all the things you can discover with the naked eye.
     
Astronomy
Ian Ridpath.
London ; New York : Dorling Kindersley, 2006.
  1. Includes index.
  2. History -- The universe. Origins ; Phenomena ; The solar system -- The night sky. Observation ; The constellations ; Monthly sky guide ; Almanac.
     

One of the most recognizable constellations in the northern sky is Ursa Major, (the Great Bear), home of the Big Dipper. Stories from both the Greek and North American cultures revolve around the bear figure and this constellation, perhaps because of the bear's ability to live and thrive in the northerly climate.

Several Native American stories describe the creation of Ursa Major. In one Navaho story a maiden changes into a bear to get revenge, forcing her sister and brothers to flee to the heavens. The Musquakie tribe's version tells the story a different way.  Here the bowl stars of the Dipper form a bear and the stars of the handle are hunters. According to this legend, each fall as the Dipper drops low on the horizon blood from the hunter's arrows drips to earth and turns the leaves red.

Ptolemy, the Greek astronomer, listed 48 constellations in his book The Almagest. Others, many in the southern sky that was not visible to the Greeks, were added later making the modern total 88.

(more about the night sky)

The Greeks also associated the Ursa Major constellation with a bear.  In their tale, Zeus, king of the gods, turns the wood-nymph Callisto into a bear and sends her to live forever in the heavens. Her son, Arcas, will also be turned in a bear and join his mother in the heavens as Ursa Minor (Lesser Bear).

Today 88 constellations are officially recognized. Almost all have stories associated with them making the night sky a source for continuous fascination and imagination.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff