Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | September 21, 2016

Big Dipper — Clock in the Sky

(3 Minute Read)

Big Dipper Polaris

The Big Dipper is the most recognizable star pattern in the northern hemisphere. It is an asterism (group of stars) which is part of the constellation Ursa Major (Latin for Great Bear).

The stars of the Big Dipper’s bowl opposite the handle are the Pointer Stars, Merak and Dubhe. A line from Merak through Dubhe hits Polaris, the North Star, about one Dipper length away, as shown in the accompanying diagram.

Polaris is the end star of the handle of the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor, Little Bear). It lies above the earth’s North Pole. As the earth rotates, Polaris appears to stay fixed. Seen from earth, the rest of the stars appear to revolve around Polaris counterclockwise due to the earth’s rotation.

Who Made the Big Dipper?

God created the stars on Creation Day Four along with the sun and moon.
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.
(Genesis 1:14-18 NASB)

After Eden 20001211-ChristmasLights

The purpose for the “lights in the heavens” was “to divide the day from the night and for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years and to give light on the earth.” (Genesis 1:14-15)

The Genesis 1:15 statement “and it was so” indicates the stars were functioning immediately for their intended purpose right from the beginning. The stars would have to be visible to Adam right away for them to be of use in accomplishing these purposes. Adam saw stars the first night he was alive.

The Big Dipper Clock

The Big Dipper marks the seasons as it gradually shifts counterclockwise around Polaris throughout the year. The opening of its bowl always faces Polaris. At midnight Standard Time, or at 1 am Daylight Savings Time, on September 1 the Big Dipper is “beneath” Polaris “holding water” with the two Pointer Stars lined up vertically pointing up at Polaris. As the seasons progress the Big Dipper orbits counterclockwise around Polaris with the handle trailing the bowl. At midnight on December 1 it is standing on its handle to the right of Polaris with the two Pointer Stars lined up horizontally pointing left at Polaris. At midnight on March 1 it is upside down above Polaris. And on midnight on June 1 it is standing on the bowl left of Polaris.

The Big Dipper is God’s Clock in the Sky. By knowing the date, you can tell time at night from the position of the Big Dipper as it rotates counterclockwise around Polaris relative to the earth. The Big Dipper makes a complete circuit around Polaris every 24 hours. In 6 hours it moves 90 degrees, or 15 degrees every hour. From this information and that of the preceding paragraph, one can read the time at night from the position of the Big Dipper relative to Polaris.

Think of a giant clock face centered on Polaris in the sky with the Pointer Stars of the Big Dipper moving counterclockwise around Polaris. Every hour they move 15 degrees which corresponds to one-half hour on this giant clock face.

The basic idea for determining time from the Big Dipper’s position is to see where the Pointer Stars would be on the current date at midnight Standard Time or 1 am Daylight Savings Time. Then count backward or forward the proper number of hours as determined by the current position of the Pointer Stars. During each hour of time, the Pointer Stars move counterclockwise a half hour of clock position.

Examples

1. Suppose the Pointer Stars are lined up directly beneath pointing up at Polaris on October 15. What time of night is it?

October 15 is still Daylight Savings Time, so I will use that. The Pointer Stars would be at clock position 4:30 pointing at Polaris at 1 am DST on October 15, because October 15 is halfway between September 1 (Pointer Stars directly below pointing up at Polaris) and December 1 (Pointer Stars horizontal pointing left at Polaris). The Pointer Stars move 15 degrees every hour, so they would be at the 5 o’clock position at midnight DST, at the 5:30 o’clock position at 11 pm DST, and at the 6 o’clock position at 10 pm DST. So the answer is 10 pm DST.

2. Suppose the Pointer Stars are at the 11:30 o’clock position on February 1. What time of night is it?

At midnight Standard Time on February 1 the Pointer Stars would be at the 1 o’clock position pointing at Polaris. One hour later they would be at the 12:30 o’clock position. In another two hours they would be at the 11:30 o’clock position. Hence the time is 3 am.

The Big Dipper Glorifies God

Throughout Scripture Yahweh points to the heavens as reflectors of His glory.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1 ESV)

The Big Dipper, Polaris, and the rest of the stars were created for signs and for seasons and for days and years. They help man measure the passage of time.

For thousands of years, the Big Dipper has accurately measured time. No man-made device has lasted nearly as long. The Big Dipper reflects the Creator’s glory as it fulfills one of the purposes for which He created it — measuring the passage of time.

Questions to Ponder
  1. Suppose the Pointer Stars are at the 11 o’clock position on May 15. What time of night (DST) is it?
  2. If the date of the diagram at the top of this article is June 15, what time of night is it?
Answers:
  1. 10 pm DST
  2. 9 pm DST

For more about the Big Dipper, read Did Adam See the Big Dipper?

Soli Deo Gloria.

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday September 21, 2016 A.D.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.
(Genesis 1:14-18 NASB)


Responses

  1. Thank you so much for your Scripture-based thoughts on creation topics. I’ll have to try to figure out this sky clock! What an amazing God we have – only He could design the universe to have such order.

    Like

    • I appreciate your encouraging words. The awesome and intriguing creation testifies to the greatness of its Maker.

      Like


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