Stargazing on the Amazon River

November 08, 2011
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South America is different from its northern counterpart in many ways, but this will be especially apparent to stargazers or amateur astrologists searching the night skies. Nights on IE’s Amazon River tours offer plenty of time to admire the stars of the Southern Hemisphere. Some of the constellations seen in these areas are seasonal but others are circumpolar, so they can always be spotted.

According to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the sparkling lights in the sky have been of interest to humans since the first people wandered the Earth. Many cultures have given great significance to the stars, naming them and attributing them to different mythical creatures or stories. The first recorded constellations were found on the walls of a cave in southern France. The drawings are believed to date back some 17,300 years ago.

As can be assumed by many of the constellation names in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, the ancient Greeks were the first to describe the constellations — recordeding descriptions for more than half of the 88 constellations that are internationally recognized today. In the seventh and eighth books of Claudius Ptolemy's Almagest, he records 48 of the constellations we now know. European explorers "discovered" many more constellations as they ventured into the Southern Hemisphere between the 16th and 17th centuries.

The IAU defines a constellation by its boundary, which is represented by sky coordinates, not by its pattern. This means that the same constellation may have multiple variants in its representation. In addition, many people confuse asterisms with constellations. Similar to these star formations, asterisms are patterns or shapes of stars that are not related to known constellations. Regardless of their official title, both constellations and asterims are a delight to see, especially to those unfamiliar with the skies in the southern hemisphere.

Depending on the latitude and season of the star gazer, it is possible to see different constellations. If traveling down the Amazon River in the spring, stargazers may see Andromeda, Aquarius, Pegasus or Pisces. Summer travelers may see Canis Major, Orion or Taurus, while winter gazers may spot Hercules, Lyra or Scorpius. No matter the season, Carina, Centaurus and the Southern Cross can always be seen.


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