"I have always looked at the starry sky and yearned to know the stars and "see" the constellations. But although I had to learn the mechanics of the sky for my astrology exams and indeed for teaching my students, I have never really felt that I understood the sky.
Because I live out in the country and we get glorious starry night skies, Bernadette Brady brought Starlight up on a notebook computer for a night of stargazing.
A group of us took the computer out onto the top of a hill, where we had a 360° view of the sky. The horizon was covered in mist but we could look straight up to the zenith (directly above our heads) for a clear view.
Starlight was set for our date, time and place and then very simply we switched to the Sky Map and turned on the Azimuth grid - the grid based on your location that shows altitude above the horizon and culminates at the zenith directly above your head. This clearly showed us the stars that we could see by simply looking up. In other words, what you see when you lay on your back and look straight up to the stars.
By referring to Starlight's sky map, we could start to identify the stars we were seeing above our head. We also used a special navigational dial in the Starlight Sky Map to make sure that the view in the Sky Map was aligned to the way we were facing.
Thus we could look at the Sky Map, then look straight up see the same pattern of stars in the sky. Also we were able to turn on stick figures in Starlight which showed us the constellations, which further helped us to understand what we were seeing. But the really exciting thing for me was that we could also ask Starlight to show us an actual picture of the constellations.
We were looking at the Centaur in the sky and could vaguely make out the outline of the constellation. But then we asked Starlight to show us the image of the Centaur spearing the wolf. The image opened up on the screen with the stars and the stick figure overlaid upon it. THEN I could see this wonderful constellation. Once seen, never forgotten. It is huge!
It was so exciting to finally reconnect with the sky. We then looked at Scorpio climbing high in the sky and the Hydra which seemed to run parallel to the horizon and cover a third of the sky. I could see its alpha star, Alphard, the Heart of the Serpent twinkling at us and clearly recognisable, thanks to Starlight.
With the Sky Map, the navigational dial, the stick figures and the constellation images, all of these combined to achieve for me, what years of trying had never done. For the first time in my life I could see some of the constellations in the sky and name some of the stars. As an astrologer this was a very moving experience. I feel now I will have a chance to learn the sky!