Bicentennial Star Shines On

With the conclusion of 2016 comes the end of two Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Projects that encouraged people to celebrate the state's 200th birthday by observing the sun and stars. Thanks to all who kindly acted on Indiana Bicentennial Star and Anniversary Solargraph, whether with curious whimsy or outright zeal. Half of all history has occurred between sunset and sunrise, so it is fitting to recognize the value of night.

First, Scheat is a corner star in the Great Square of Pegasus, depicted as the star atop the torch and under the name Indiana in this modification of the state flag. Relatively nearby in our Milky Way Galaxy, the Bicentennial Star is conveniently about 200 light years away.

The video Bicentennial Highlights, produced by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, concludes with a big reflection on how much has happened since starlight left Scheat. The postage stamp sunset in Milford, Indiana, segues into the star Scheat and muses about varied and unique moments that tie Hoosiers together and make Indiana home. Around 05:00 in the video it begins:

"And now, look up--the star Scheat, in the constellation Pegasus...Two hundred light years away, starlight that left Scheat in 1816 is just now reaching our eyes..."

Image courtesy of Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

The Indiana Bicentennial Star annually passes its mantle to the next year's bicentennial celebrations. In 2017 some other party can use the distant star named Scheat for its 200th birthday, like University of Michigan or State of Mississippi or American School for the Deaf. Keep looking up.

A second astronomy-related Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project was Anniversary Solargraph, in which pinhole cameras made from aluminum cans, duct tape, and photographic paper captured the essence of time--the path of the sun across the sky between the solstices. Solargraph cans stood as sentries at multiple sites, bearing witness to the passage of time while taking a long-duration snapshot of time and place in this 200th anniversary.

A collection of solargraph images in 2016 have ignited a plan to place more solargraphs around the community. Contact me soon if you want to participate, before we get far past the December solstice.

Thanks go to Indiana Bicentennial celebrants who advocated for looking up to witness wonders of the firmament. Astronomy colleagues, solargraph hosts, bicentennial organizers, and family have been greatly supportive in 2016. A further nod goes to friends who have worn their support outright, like Donnie and Andrea Rogers, shown here sporting their Indiana Bicentennial Star buttons. I appreciate your riding this train.

As we segue into the new year, consider my list of Astronomy Things To Do.

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