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Justine Valencia

on 23 November 2014

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Observers in ancient times also imagined group of stars that form pictures of animals, objects and people. These imaginary groups of stars are called constellations.
Many of these constellations have names that can be traced back to early Babylonians and Greek Civilizations, but nearly all cultures have different names for the constellations. For example the Greeks called the large constellation Orion, which means hunter and is prominent in the night sky all over the world during winter. Early Filipinos visualized the same group of stars as Balatik, a trap used in hunting wild pigs. Christian Filipinos named the three stars (Orion's Belt) Tatlong Maria or Tres Marias.
By observing the Sun's movement and position in the sky, we can tell what time of the day it is. When it seems to rise in the east, it's morning. When it is above us, it is noon. When it seems to move towards the west, it is afternoon. At night,stars are used to tell time. Just like the Sun, stars also seem to move from East to West.
The Polaris
Polaris, commonly known as North Star, is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor (Little Dipper). It is very close to the north celestial pole, making it current northern pole star. Because it lies nearly in a direct line with the axis of the Earth's rotation "above" North Pole, Polaris stands almost motionless in the sky, and all the stars of the Northern sky appear to rotate around it.
In Metro Manila, when you face North, Polaris, which is 11.3° from the horizon, is seen at around 15° due to atmospheric refraction. In some parts of the country (i.e Southern Philippines, it would be very difficult to locate Polaris since starlights near the horizon are washed out by lights lit by men, and/or obstructed by man-made or topographical stuctures and/or trees.
An observer from Earth will be able to see the stars that are on the night side. The stars on the same side as the sun cannot be seen because sunlight overpowers all the starlights.
During summer in the Philippines, the constellations of Orion and Taurus are not visible at night. They will be visible again as cold season begins. During this time Scorpius will not be seen in the night sky.
As the Earth revolves around its orbit, the stars that were concealed by the bright light of the Sun in the previous months will appear in the sky.
How Early People
Used the Constellations
While constellations were associated with religion, they also have practical uses. Before the calendars, people had no way of determining when to sow or harvest except by looking at these patterns in the sky. Ancient people, developed a way to remember the patterns by giving these patterns names and stories. For example, in the northern hemisphere, the constellation Orion indicates the coming of cold season. The constellations made it easier for them to recognize and interpret patterns in the sky. For example, Gemini is seen in the Philippines during the months of April. and May.
Farmers interpreted the appearance of Gemini as the end of planting season and it signified rich harvest.
Another use of Constellation was in navigation. The Polaris is widely used in navigation because it does not change its position at any time of the night or year. Also, one can figure out his/her latitude just by looking at how high Polaris appears in the night sky. This allowed sailors to find their way as they sail across the sea.
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