THE BIG SKY

Canal Boat - - Boater’s Break - WITH SEB JAY

Boaters moored with a clear hori­zon to their north get a fan­tas­tic view of the Plough this Septem­ber. It’s a fa­mil­iar pat­tern of seven bright stars named for its strik­ing sim­i­lar­ity to the out­line of that now not-so-fa­mil­iar piece of agri­cul­tural equip­ment, a horse drawn plough. I like to think of those seven bright stars as a ce­les­tial saucepan cook­ing up some un­seen good­ies. Thoughts of food aside the con­stel­la­tion’s of­fi­cial latin name, Ursa Ma­jor, has noth­ing to do with kitchen uten­sils or farm­ing ap­pa­ra­tus. Roughly trans­lated it means Great Bear, but how do you make a bear out of those seven stars? The an­swer is you don’t! The Great Bear takes in many more stars than just the seven bright ones. Trace a line through the saucepan’s han­dle (the bear’s tail) and across the top of the saucepan (the bear’s back). Con­tinue out to an unequal tri­an­gle of stars to the right of the pan. This is the bear’s head. Un­der­neath the pan look for two thin tri­an­gles of stars ex­tend­ing down to the right. These are the bear’s legs and feet. It’s a pat­tern that’s tricky to see first off, but once you’ve got it you’ll al­ways recog­nise it!

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