Stars, Why Are They Useful?
As you stand outside and look up at the stars you see that they shine bright against the dark blue sky. You feel the cool night breeze and you feel happy. You can smell the freshness that hung in the night air and you hear crickets chirping and the sounds of coyotes in the distance. Just standing there staring at the stars you wonder, what really goes on up there in the night sky?
You might wonder; what is the closest star to Earth? It may seem unbelievable but the sun is actually the closest star to Earth. Without the sun none of us could survive. It gives us just enough heat to survive. If the sun was any closer to us than it already is, the temperature would be too hot. If the sun was any farther away, the temperature would be too cold. The sun is in the exact place it needs to be so that we can survive. Nobody can go to the sun because they would die because of the heat. As you probably know, nobody can look at the sun. If it can blind us down here on Earth, imagine what it would do if you looked at it up close in space. Nobody can travel to the sun, that is why there are little facts about it. According to NASA, “(the sun’s mean radius is 432,450mi (miles). This makes its diameter about 864,938 miles long. You could line up 109 Earths across its face. The Sun’s circumference is 2,713,406 miles around.)”(NASA).
In lots of cases navigating by using stars has been useful. They are how slaves made it out of the slave states. The underground railroad used the stars to lead the slaves North out of the slave states. Back in times of piracy, pirates used them to guide their ships in the sea. They could use the stars so that they didn’t become lost at sea. Without the stars, they could not tell where they were going. Stars became useful in many cases including traveling. Did you know Caravans used them too? Caravans are a group of people who travel together often on trade journeys. According to the text, “Caravans were used mainly in desert areas and throughout the Silk Road. The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that were for centuries central to cultural interaction originally through regions of Eurasia connecting the East and West and stretching from the Korean peninsula and Japan to the Mediterranean Sea.” (Wikipedia). All these traveling groups used stars to know where they were going. However, they didn’t just follow ‘stars’, they followed constellations.
You may have heard of constellations. You have probably heard of the big dipper and the little dipper. Slaves used these constellations to travel North away from the slave states. The Little Dipper and the Big Dipper point different directions. The Big Dipper points North while the Little Dipper points South. Most slaves including the underground railroad followed the Big Dipper. Another constellation is “Ursa Major, the Great Bear”. As you know there is the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. The Big Dipper makes up part of the bear. According to the text, “The dipper’s seven bright stars form a portion of the great bear” (University of Texas).
The next time you stand outside or look through a telescope up into the night sky, then you will know more than you did before about what goes on up there. Stars are more important than you would think. According to William Shakespeare, “It is not the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves”.