3D Starmap  

work in progress

Maybe you've wondered where our star fits into the swarm surrounding. Well, most stars, even those within relative arm's reach, don't have names, especially anything most people are likely to have ever heard of. In fact, most stars with names are so far away that anyone living there has yet to hear about I Love Lucy. But there are a few very bright ones that should ring a bell, if you've been exposed to a little sci-fi: Alpha Centauri, Sirius, Altair, Vega, Tau-Ceti, Arcturus - all these stars are well within reach, and you should know where they are by now.
Desktop Wallpaper
Tiddly Winks and Tinker Toys
rarely aspire to such grand designs
as the arrangement of our local stars.
Chasing the Dragon
The surrounding stars are arranged as
intertwining ribbons of mostly red dwarfs,
with the occasional substantial sun like ours.

Constellation Hours Map
The Local Neighborhood
Above is the view of "The Local Neighborhood" from about 20 light years away, due north - with our sun, Sol, in the center; and Alpha Centauri, the closest star system (~4ly), right next to it (us). From this perspective (as with any view of, probably, any sky), only about half of the stars shown are really as close to each other as they seem - and a few stars (especially the furthest from us) have been omitted, to thus unclutter the image.

Many of the stars shown here may have been formed from the same nebula, but most are likely just happenstance passersby in our mutual collective orbits around the galaxy, which takes millions of years. - an average star may make several in its lifetime - and our sun may be on the opposite side of the galaxy from any remaining remnant of the original stellar nursery from which we, as stardust, originally spawned. In any case, about a third of all stars in this area are more or less very much like our own: Yellow-Orange - while cooler Red Dwarfs account for about half (such is thought to be the case in most of the galaxy) and the rest comprise hotter, short-lived Blue-White stars like Sirius, the brightest star in our sky; possibly a sister star to Vega and Altair, also very close by.

Right Ascension and Declination
Aside from their catalog numbers (which stand in place of names for most places we've never been), stars are given referencial digitations denoting their particular position in the sky, known as Right Ascension and Declination - this is a time-worn system of coordinates, which assumes all observations (needing these numbers, anyways) will be made from planet Earth - basically based on Longitude and Latitude; kinda the same concept.

For Right Ascension, imagine Time Zones (or peel an orange and notice the slices) - and like an orange section, these regions are widest at the equator and narrowest at the poles - 24 equal sections known as Hours (further divided into Minutes and Seconds).

For Declination, measure by Degrees, (also further divided up into Minutes and Seconds), relative to the equator (positive and negative, 0-90). The North Pole is +90 and South Pole is -90 ..... and 0 would be anywhere on the Equator.

Roughly corresponding to the Celestial Equator, is the Ecliptic, which is the path that the Sun and Moon and all the Planets follow (except for Pluto) - basically the disc of the Solar System. The Zodiac also kinda follows the middle of our sky, and thus appears to turn around once per day, as diagramed above, in the outer ring.

Not all stars within each Sign of the Zodiac are within relative proximity to us or each other. Some of the dim ones are very close to us, while many of the bright ones are very far away. Some stars, known as Optical Binaries, appear to be orbiting each other - but it is merely that they are on near exact line of sight, from our perspective, with respect to our position. Therefore, Constellations (such as the Signs of the Zodiac) are not necessarily groupings of stars among themselves - and most stars in most Constellations do not consider themselves to have anything to do with each other; and any Constellation they might consider themselves to be a member of, might not be apparent to us. Our sun, as a star in someone else's sky, is very dim compared to other stars - and only a naked-eye star within a few light years or so - maybe a dozen, or 20, depends on the sky.

Below is a list of video files which all humanoids should download and watch for hours on end. All known local stars within about 40 light years or so are represented by orbs of various corresponding sizes and colors - and color coded connecting rods, which help with the virtual perspective, but are invisible in real life.

6 sirius.avi 640 x 480 23.6 MB (2:55) video tour of the (local) Sirius Sector
audio: Yes - mood for a day (live)
5 STARS-ribbon1.avi 640 x 480 700 K    (0:04)
STARS-ribbon2.avi 640 x 480 53.6 MB (0:04)
STARS-ribbon3.avi 640 x 480 54.9 MB (0:04)
4 dragon1.avi 640 x 480 5.2 MB (0:12) the original "no-frills" video clip
dragon1a.avi 320 x 240 1.5 MB (0:25) pauses to display Star Names
3 STARS-ani3.avi 320 x 240 19.2 MB (3:00) silent - uncompressed
STARS-ani3a.avi 320 x 240 33.5 MB (3:00) captioned - uncompressed
STARS-ani3a.wmv 320 x 240 5.9 MB (3:00) captioned - compressed
2 STARS-ani2(orig).avi 320 x 240 33.1 MB (0:10)
STARS-ani2a(orig).avi 320 x 240 66.1 MB (0:20)
1 STARS-ani1(orig).avi 320 x 240 13.4 MB (0:04)
STARS-ani1.avi 320 x 240 224 K    (0:04)
STARS-ani1a(orig).avi 320 x 240 13.4 MB (0:04)

Before the latest technology in marine GPS,
sailors often used constellations to help with navigation at sea.
When crossing the Gulf of Mexico in a Back Cove Yacht, Mercury
and Venus can be seen around sunrise or sunset all year round,
with Mars, Jupiter and Saturn dancing across The Milky Way.