WPBT2's Star Gazers

Episode #12-17 "Time Traveling With The Big Dipper"
Air Dates April 23 - April 29, 2012



FIVE MINUTE EPISODE SCRIPT
JAMES: Welcome to Star Gazers. I'm James Albury, director of the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium in Gainesville, Florida. 

DEAN: And I'm dean Regas, outreach astronomer from the Cincinnati Observatory.  We're both here to help you be sure you know what you're seeing in the night sky when you...

BOTH: Look up. 

JAMES: With Astronomy Day near the end of this week, on Saturday, April 28th, the Big Dipper is in a great location for viewing. The stars of the Big Dipper were some of Jack Horkheimer's favorites.

DEAN:  That's right James, and every spring Jack would encourage us star gazers to make an effort to go out and find this most famous and best loved star pattern.  One of the greatest things about the Big Dipper is that the stars are at just the right distance from us that the light we see coming from them takes a lifetime to get here.  Let's show you!

(STOP & DROP)

DEAN:  OK, we have our skies set for just after sunset next week, and if you look toward the north you'll see the seven bright stars that make up the Big Dipper.  You might be surprised to know that these stars are all roughly the same distance from us.  In fact the stars are so incredibly far away that we have to measure their distance with a special term, a measure of distance which we call a light year.

JAMES:  That's right Dean.  A light year is simply how far light travels in one year, which is a distance of approximately six trillion miles; which further means that if there were a star six trillion miles away from us, we would be looking at the star not as it exists now, but as it existed one year ago. So, let's take the stars of the Big Dipper and do a little time traveling.  

DEAN:  When we look at the Big Dipper, we're actually looking back in time.  The closest star is the one in the bend of the handle, Mizar.  It's 78 light years away; which means that when we look at Mizar, we see it as it actually existed 78 years ago, in 1934 - the same year that Gene Cernan (the last man on the moon) was born.

JAMES: The tiny star next to it (Alcor) and the 4th star in the Dippers cup (Megrez) are both 81 light years away, so the light that left those stars left in 1931, the same year that the Star Spangled Banner was officially adopted by Congress as the national anthem of the United States of America.

DEAN:  Alioth is the first star in the handle and lies between Megrez and Mizar.  Its 80 light years away.  So when we look at Alioth tonight, we see the light that left that star in 1932, six years before our favorite Star Gazer, Jack Horkheimer was born.

JAMES:  Indeed, and that's not all.  The last star in the handle, Alkaid is so far away, that the light that left it began its journey 100 years ago in 1912, the same year the Titanic had its ill-fated trip across the Atlantic.

DEAN:  The last two stars are the pointer stars, Dubhe and Merak. We use these stars to find the North star.  Merak, the farthest from the North Star, is 79 light years from earth, but Dubhe, the one closer to the North Star is a whopping 123 light years from us.

JAMES:  Yep!  The light that left Dubhe left in 1889.  And what happened in 1889 you might ask?  Well, it was the year that residents of California and Nevada experienced a New Year’s Day total solar eclipse.  An experience that really rang in the New Year!

DEAN:  Looking at the stars of the Big Dipper can really make you feel like a time traveler.  So in 2052, we'll get to see the light that left Mizar the year I was born.  And by my calculations James, you'll be… what… 85 that year?

JAMES:  Yep!  I'll be getting ready for Halley's Comet to return… in about 9 more years.

DEAN:  Eh… it's barely a tick of the clock, cosmically speaking.

JAMES:  (Chuckle) So, next time you look up at the Big Dipper remind yourself, if you're still young, that some day you will see these stars as they actually existed when you first appeared on this planet.

DEAN:  And if you're not so young, delight in the thought that you are looking back at some of the few things that appear exactly as they were in those sunlit days and star-filled nights of youth.

JAMES:  Happy Star Gazing…

DEAN:  And… happy time traveling!

BOTH: Keep looking up!

 

Episode #12-17 "Time Traveling With The Big Dipper"
Air Dates April 23 - April 29, 2012



ONE MINUTE EPISODE SCRIPT
JAMES: Welcome to Star Gazers.  With Astronomy Day near the end of this week, on Saturday, April 28th, the Big Dipper is in a great location for viewing. The stars of the Big Dipper were some of Jack Horkheimers favorites.

DEAN:  That's right James, and the light from five of the seven Big Dipper stars take a lifetime to get here. 

STOP AND DROP

JAMES:  When we look at the Big Dipper, were actually looking back in time.  The light we see from the closest star, Mizar, left 78 years ago in 1934.

DEAN: Alcor and Megrez are both 81 light years away, so the light that left those stars left in 1931,

JAMES:  Alioth is 80 light years away, and the light we see from Alkaid began its journey 100 years ago.

DEAN:  The last two stars are Dubhe and Merak. Merak is 79 light years from Earth, but Dubhe is a whopping 123 light years away. Looking at the Big Dipper can really make you feel like a time traveler.

BOTH: Keep looking up!

 

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