Third Years Lesson Four


Professor Zephyrmoon expected the students were well prepared for this lesson. One everyone was settled, he jumped right in with the lecture with very little introduction. “Today, we are looking at more constellations, specifically the ones we can only see in each hemisphere. The earth is large - so large that it is impossible to see every visible star from one location. Therefore, we must explore from the South and the North. Let’s begin by looking at this list on the board,” he said as she waved her wand. A list of the constellations appeared on the board.

The Southern Cross (Crux): Two of the four stars, Acrux and Becrux, are first-magnitude stars, meaning they are among the brightest in the sky. Along the eastern edge of the Crux is the Coalsack Nebula, a dark place where stars are born. Just near the Coalsack is something called The Jewel Box, which holds a cluster of red, white, and blue stars. Connecting lines create a cross-like shape.

Carina (The Keel): This constellation is known as the keel or the bottommost part of a ship. It makes a kind of “U” shape, and the circle at the end could be seen as the ship’s figurehead. It was originally part of a huge constellation called Argo Navis, a huge boat in the sky. The brightest star in Carina is Canopus and is the second brightest star in the sky after Sirius.

Centaurus (The Centaur): Centaurus lies below Hydra and Scorpius and resembles a half-man, half-horse creature. Its brightest star, Alpha Centauri, is the third brightest star in the sky and the closest star to the sun. It is also the home of the brightest and biggest globular cluster, a spherical cluster of stars that is extremely dense in the middle, Omega Centauri (NGC 5139).

Sagittarius: While you can technically see this constellation in the Northern Hemisphere, it is best seen in the South. Like Centaurus, Sagittarius is a centaur, but he has a man riding atop him. Many people just recognize the brighter stars in the center as a little teapots. On very dark summer and fall nights, you may be able to see ‘steam’ rising out of the spout. This steam is the galactic center of our frothy Milky Way.

Percival paused a moment for students to catch up with the notes they were taking, “Alright, moving on from Sagittarius, we will bring our attention up north,” he said waving his wand and a new list appeared on the board. These were the constellations he had grown up looking at and he knew them like the back of his hand.

Ursa Major (The Big Dipper): 7 stars form the Big Dipper appear in the familiar shape. Chances are, this was the first constellation you learned. For anyone in the latitude of New York or higher, this constellation never goes below the horizon. To see the Big Dipper in all of its big dipper glory, you must be north of latitude 25 degrees south. Astronomers in the past also refer to Ursa Major as a Large Bear.

Cassiopeia (The Queen): Looking like a flat “W” pressed against our Milky Way, Cassiopeia can best be seen in the late fall and winter months. The star in the middle of the constellation, Gamma Cassiopeia, is about 15 times bigger than the sun.

Cepheus (The King): Cepheus is an old constellation, discovered in the 2nd century, and it looks more like a house than a king. The star at the very top of the house-like structure is a Cepheid or a giant star used as a reference point for measuring distances.

Ursa Minor (The Little Dipper): Ursa Minor is best known for the star at its tail, the North Star, or Polaris. It’s called the North Star because it never budges from its spot at the end of the Little Dipper. It is the brightest star in the constellation and the brightest Cepheid in the night sky.

With that, Percival finished the lesson with a wave of his wand, and the homework for the following week appeared on the board. He dismissed the students right after they had copied down the homework.

For full credit, RP the lesson.
For extra credit (up to 5 points, one for each sentence), write a short essay about the story behind any major constellation we have discussed this year. Make sure to credit any outside sources.
Source for this week's lesson material.
Teddy arrived for Astronomy, half expecting a trip away from the castle or an evening of stargazing, but it was just a lecture today. He took out his quill and parchment feeling somewhat disappointed. The professor charged on discussing the stars visible in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, and Teddy found it interesting that each side of the Earth had its own night sky. He took notes while following the lecture.

Towards the end of the class, Teddy stifled a yawn, wondering why these lessons couldn't be scheduled earlier in the day when he was more alert. When it concluded, he packed up his belongings and headed back to his common room to rest.
When Professor Zephyrmoon began to talk about the different constellations that could be seen in different parts of the world she had a horrible feeling they were heading out on another field trip to somewhere cold. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and they would instead by learning from the board. Millie breathed a sigh of relief as she reached into her bag and pulled out a blank sheet of parchment and began to take notes.

It was interesting that different parts of the Earth saw different constellations, that was fascinating but Millie was more excited that she was learning that information in the comfort of the classroom, she couldn’t hide that relief. She made extensive notes about the different constellations that could be seen in both hemispheres of the Earth and when the lesson was over she took the notes she had made and stuffed them into her bag and made her way out of the classroom.

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