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‘Jade Sky’ presentations offer in-depth look at Chinese astronomy

February 18, 2015

The planetarium in the Ag Sci building is a place where people can go to see how ancient Chinese constellations compare to constellations in the western world.

UW-River Falls physics Professor Eileen Korenic presents a free presentation in the planetarium once a month called: “Jade Sky: Astronomy in China.” Korenic said these presentations are to celebrate the Year of China at UWRF. There were two presentations on Thursday, Feb. 12, because Feb. 19 is the start of the Chinese New Year.

Korenic said when she started researching Chinese astronomy she thought the Chinese constellations would be similar to constellations in the western world.

“I thought it was going to be pretty straightforward, that is, you just look at the same stars that we see in the western world, the same stars existed for the Chinese astronomers and I just assumed they would have different names but they actually chose different groupings of those stars,” Korenic said.

The Jade Sky presentations last about 45 minutes and Korenic said there are a lot of Chinese constellations and stories to choose from so she had to narrow down her choices for the presentation.

“The Chinese system for dividing up the sky has about 280 different individual either pictures or single stars that had some meaning, compared to the western world it only has 88,” Korenic said. “Since there were so many, I just had to go with what I thought was the most interesting, what did I thought were the coolest images, so it was a pretty personal choice.”

Jackie Davis, a non-traditional student at UWRF attended one of the Jade Sky presentations earlier this month. Davis said she was interested in the comparison between the Chinese and U.S. constellations.

“I really enjoyed the presentation,” Davis said. “It was beautiful, it was interesting, I learned a lot of things I didn’t know.”

During the presentation, Korenic shared a story about the Big Dipper and how that constellation is different in Chinese astronomy. Korenic said in Chinese astronomy the stars that make up the Big Dipper are called the “seven levels of human reasoning.”

Davis said there was a lot of information to take in at the presentation and she would like to read more about Chinese astronomy.

“I thought the presentation was too short,” Davis said. “I could have sat there and listened for hours.”

According to the Year of China events page, Jade Sky presentations are free and open to the public and suitable for all ages. The next presentation will be at 7 p.m. on March 12, in 201 Ag Sci.