MOTHER's Bi-Monthly 1977 Almanac: Winter Homesteading Tips

Learn how to use a sky chart, winter gardening tips, make cheese-potato soup, plant a wind break, make homemade cough syrup, make an original valentine, make a backyard skating rink, use wood ashes and recycle a Christmas tree.

| January/February 1977

  • Winter Homestead
    Try some new homesteading tips this winter season, while grabbing a cup of hot chocolate and warming up by the fire.  
  • 043-090-02-skychart_01
    A star chart, from January and February dates in 1977, which can be used to help learn plotted constellations in the nighttime sky.

  • Winter Homestead
  • 043-090-02-skychart_01

This may be the first generation to set foot on the moon and shoot rocket probes into the reaches of outer space. But, man for man and woman for woman, great granddad and great grandmother—or, for that matter, almost any primitive tribe of almost any past age — knew a lot more about identifying the stars and planets in the night sky than most of us currently do.

And so, with the help of Guy Ottewell, author of Astronomical Calendar 1977, MOTHER is going to try to change all that.

Constellation Star Chart

The chart pictured here maps the evening sky as seen from about 40 degrees north latitude (roughly the latitude of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Indianapolis, Indiana; Denver, Colorado and Reno, Nevada) at 10 p.m. on January 1, 1977. Although the sky "turns" from month to month as the earth orbits the sun, the heavens will still look quite similar to this at 9 p.m. on January 15, at 8 p.m. on February 1, and at 7 p.m. on February 15...except that the planets will have moved noticeably. If you allow for different times and/or locations when you use the map, however, you should find this guide substantially correct throughout January and February for most of the U.S. and the southern regions of Canada.

Until you become familiar with this star chart, the best way to identify celestial objects is to go outside in the evening, face south, and hold the map overhead so that the stars in the sky correspond with the markings on your guide. (If you face north, east, or west to look at the sky, be sure to turn the drawing to make it agree with the appropriate compass point...and then just imagine that the heavens form a huge "dome" which reaches down all around you to the horizon.)

Begin by identifying a few major stars or constellations. Pick out, say, the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) in the northeastern sky. Then imagine a line joining the two stars that lie opposite its "handle" and trace the connector across the heavens till you find Polaris. This key star — located directly north — is the last in the handle of the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor). Once you have these bearings, you'll usually find it much easier to identify other prominent constellations.

If you're just learning to recognize specific constellations for the first time, wait at least a few days before or after the full moon (the dark of the moon is best of all) so that its bright glare won't hide the stars. You'll also want to do your sky watching as far away from street or traffic lights as possible. Use a dim flashlight to illuminate the star chart, and allow plenty of time for your eyes to become readjusted to the darkness whenever you look up.

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