Spin Cycle

Stargazers with even the most basic of knowledge will rightfully scoff at the ignorance within which I’d adamantly maintained that Polaris was positioned at the end of the handle of the Big Dipper.

As I finally discovered this weekend: wrong dipper. Polaris isn’t at the tip of Ursa Major (which includes the Big D), but rather at the end of Ursa Minor.

For those with less astronomical knowledge than me (which would be most four-legged animals and a 3-year-old in Colombia), Polaris is the star most directly aligned with our north pole and so in timelapse shots (to which I have something of an addiction), for that full circular sweep of celestial bodies across the night sky, it’s best to center your camera on it.

And to center your camera on it, it’s even better to know where it is.

Fortunately with my iPhone’s SkyVoyager app, I did a search for Polaris and permanently filled in that long-standing knowledge pothole.

Then I found it up there in the heavens, tripodded the camera on the porch of our cabin at Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park Friday night pointed it almost straight up through the nearby pines in Polaris’ general direction and opened up the shutter for as long as the battery lasted (about four hours; click for the slightly bigger picture):

The boughs are so heavily illuminated because of the surprising amount of light around the cabins’ grounds (mostly from various porches in the vicinity). Plus there’s some ¬†light leakage found in the lighter sections at the top of the frame, and the full-sized version of the image is littered with pixelized artifacts (symptoms of Old Camera Syndrome coupled to a dirty lens perhaps). But at least after I don’t know how many tries I got that full circular effect.