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    Re: Constellation names
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2003 Nov 3, 09:29 +1100

    What I found initially confusing with celestial navigation was that the
    familiar names of stars were replaced with unfamiliar ones. An example:
    Alpha Centauri, our closest stellar neighbour, is known as Rigil Kentaurus,
    for reasons still unclear (to me).  It is one of the two stars known as the
    Pointers, as they point towards the Southern Cross (Crux) and can be used
    with Crux to find the direction of true south.
    Incidentally, there is a star lying virtually directly over the South Pole,
    like Polaris over the North, but unfortunately it is too dim for practical
    More star trivia: It is difficult to comprehend the proportions of celestial
    distances, I like this example. If the earth was the size of a pea then the
    sun would be the size of a basketball, and about 46 metres away ('from the
    house to the street', as I explained it to our children - we have a long
    driveway). But the nearest star is another basketball - in Singapore !
    (distance from Sydney). Though for further objects, nebulae and so on, the
    comparison breaks down, as the distances are still astronomical.

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