Patterning

Patterning is our focus in CEP 818 this unit.  Patterning is the ability to recognize and create repeating themes, ideas or structures within a domain or topic.  Simple patterns are easily found, and most complex patterns are merely multiple simple patterns layered on top of each other.

Within the domain of space science, there are many examples of patterning.  Some of them are obvious like the patterns within the constellations :

Star Chart
Image from jpl.nasa.gov

Or the phases of the moon.

Moon Phases
Image from spaceplace.nasa.gov

Some of them are not so obvious like the patterns of elliptical orbits from the moon to the earth to the sun and beyond.

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All of these patterns make it easier to understand the grand scale of our universe.  When we look at a sky full of stars, it is helpful to pull out those patterns recognized generations ago to identify specific stars or celestial bodies, and pair them up with the mythological stories that were used to help coordinate the patterns.  The patterns found in the phases of the moon guide us to seeing the relationship between the celestial bodies of the sun, earth and moon as they dance through the sky on their interdependent routes.  The elliptical patterns created by gravitational pull illustrate to us how these rules of science are consistent throughout the known universe.  To me, these patterns help me make the universe smaller and more understandable.

I had more difficulty with the idea of pattern creation than I did with pattern identification on this assignment.  As a result, I took one of the pattern ideas from above and reworked it for the assignment.  The 88 modern constellations that most of us see in the sky are not universal in their inspiration. Over the course of history, other cultures have seen other pictures in the night sky.  That is the basis for my pattern creation.  I took an unlabeled sky map and tried to find patterns on my own.  Here is a portion of my sky map:

repattern

My entire repatterned sky map can be found here.

Thinking of how I teach the stars and constellations, I think that this activity of patterning helps me understand better what it would have been like before the night sky was mapped.  It was overwhelming to look at a sky map – even one with the stars already identified – and try to make sense of it.  It is very much like trying to map grains of sand or leaves on a tree.  I also found that once I stopped trying to force patterns into places I wanted to see them and just let my brain go, the activity turned into an enjoyable one – similar to laying on your back and identifying the shapes in the clouds.  It gave me an appreciation for finding the larger, more distinguishable features and using them as anchor points because those would be the features that would always be most readily recognizable.  The patterns in the sky have always fascinated me and been a focal point of my teaching of astronomy.  Now, I understand why.

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