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"History of the Far Southern Constellations" with Andrew James

Date: Friday 22 March  2013 - 8:00pm
Topic: History of the Far Southern Constellations
Speaker: Andrew James
Venue: Epping Creative Centre - 26 Stanley Road, Epping
Abstract: In recent years, I have become far more interested in the history of the southern constellations and celestial objects gathered around the south celestial pole and extending out to declinations of -30 degrees. Like most of us, we have been continuously exposed to northern-centric views of the sky, often tainted with significant errors, wrong concepts, and seemingly deliberate falsehoods.

This interesting talk discusses the earliest origins of the southern constellations, and then follows the paths of naming, observations and classification of many of their naked-eye stars. We will examine the disconnect between these ancient constellations, and then tell of the various characters and southern explorers who seemingly piecemeal carved up the skies either for their own fame, prestige or even notoriety. Also discussed and shown are some of the southern star charts published throughout the centuries and how we can learn more on the gradual developments of constellation shapes and accepted areas, especially in their influence in the creation of several early star catalogues.

For example, where does the ‘47’ come from in the globular star cluster 47 Tucanae, the ‘p’ come from in the double star p Eridani, or why do some southern constellation have inexplicable missing Roman or Greek letters that are supposed to be sequenced by their descending brightness?

From then we’ll discuss the significant contribution and thoughts of like those like John Herschel or Benjamin Apthorp Gould, and the inroads or influences made by the astronomy popularists or celestial cartographers of the late 19th Century. Our story ends with today's constellations decided by the IAU and their commissioned draughtsman, Delporte, in 1930.

We conclude with discussions on possible future adaptions, modifications of constellation boundaries and outlines, or discarding them for good. While this subject is adequately covered in many sources, I will attempt to dispel some of the myths and present the subject in a slightly different light.

Note: If some time is available, I hope to conduct an open discussion with members on the southern constellations as a “Q&A.”

Biography: Andrew is a long-standing member of the ASNSW and frequently contributes articles (notably, the Neat Southern Planetaries or NSP series) to Universe magazine.

Event Date: 
Friday, 22 March, 2013 - 20:00
Epping Creative Centre, 26 Stanley Road, Epping NSW

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