By: R. Phillips & Co.
Date: 1821 (circa)
Dimensions: 10.25 x 8.25inches (26 cm x 20.9)
This hand colored antique engraving depicts the constellations of the southern hemisphere as they appear in the night sky. Colored constellations fill the sky, along with figures of animals, real and legendary, a large frigate, and a variety of man-made objects including a scale representing the constellation Libra.
Stars and their magnitude are depicted and a scale defines their magnitude. Nebulae are also included. There is no pole star in the southern hemisphere. From the latitudes of the United States, there exists a significant difference between the northern half of the night sky and the southern half. The northern half basically displays the same constellations each night of the year. Their positions change, but the star patterns remain the same.
The southern half shows different constellations as the Earth rotates. Our planet’s axis points toward Polaris, which is also known as the North Star or the Pole Star. As Earth turns, Polaris remains in the same position in the sky, and the other stars all rotate around it. The Southern Constellations comprise a large group of 32 constellations, many of them named in modern times by European scientists exploring the southern hemisphere for the first time, during the age of exploration that followed the voyages of Columbus in 1492.
Although objects of great interest can be found in these skies, they are not visible from North America or Europe, and can only be viewed by traveling south of the equator. In ancient times people depended on the stars for their lives and livelihood. With the North Star and Ursa Major predictably in place in the Northern Hemisphere, people could trust the stars to prevent losing their way whether sailing the high seas or crossing trackless deserts in caravans. Thus, knowledge of the constellations of both hemispheres became increasingly important as the ‘Age of Exploration’ increased in momentum.
Condition: This engraving is in A condition with some slight soiling of the borders.
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