Star Gazing On Titanic


May 3, 2005
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In the (1953) movie "Titanic" a somewhat inebriated and de-frocked Priest "Ex-Rev. George Healey" (Richard Basehart) is shown leaning over the railng at night, gazing at the stars.
He remarks "Answer up for the roll call...... Aldebaran, you lonely star....."
Would it have been possible to have seen Aldebaran from the Titanic ?
The setting is possibly intended to be sometime during the night of April 12-13 (?) 1912, somewhere a night or two before the collision site . (?)

Is this based on fact or just another bit of fiction ?
 
A

Aaron_2016

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I don't know if it was based on fact, but the night sky was certainly remarkable, especially the night she sank. e.g.

When the Titanic stopped her engines survivor Helen Candee went out on deck and gazed at the stars above with Mr. Woolner.

Helen Candee
"It was a marvelous sight all emphasized by a more than twilight and a Heaven full of such stars as only an Arctic cold can produce. They actually lighted the atmosphere. The sea with its glassy surface threw back star by star the dazzling array, and made of the universe a complete unity without the break of a sky-line. It was like the inside of an entire globe. We both gasped at such beauty and for a moment forgot the menace still unexplained but deeply real, wildly impressive......Woolner and I fell under the spell of the marvelous stars. But the dominant note was a deep and solemn sense of peril. It pressed on the soul. It made our puny actions seem unworthy. Something so big hung over us that it dominated all else......Talking was a little assurance of the normal. So I chatted about the stars, foolishly. 'If you will pick for me three of four of the brightest,' I said, 'I will put them in my hair.' Woolner's response was only a sort of grunt, by which I knew I had offended his taste."


Survivor Lawrence Beesley also described the brilliance of the stars above.

"The night was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The sky without a single cloud to mar the perfect brilliance of the stars, clustered so thickly together that in places there seemed almost more dazzling points of light set in the black sky than background of sky itself; and each star seemed, in the keen atmosphere, free from any haze, to have increased its brilliance tenfold and to twinkle and glitter with a staccato flash that made the sky seem nothing but a setting made for them in which to display their wonder. They seemed so near, and their light so much more intense than ever before, that fancy suggested they saw this beautiful ship in dire distress below and all their energies had awakened to flash messages across the black dome of the sky to each other; telling and warning of the calamity happening in the world beneath."

"The stars seemed really to be alive and to talk. The complete absence of haze produced a phenomenon I had never seen before: where the sky met the sea the line was as clear and definite as the edge of a knife, so that the water and the air never merged gradually into each other and blended to a softened rounded horizon, but each element was so exclusively separate that where a star came low down in the sky near the clear-cut edge of the waterline, it still lost none of its brilliance. As the earth revolved and the water edge came up and covered partially the star, as it were, it simply cut the star in two, the upper half continuing to sparkle as long as it was not entirely hidden, and throwing a long beam of light along the sea to us."


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Jay Roches

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Apr 14, 2012
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I used a free planetarium program called Stellarium to plot the skies at Titanic's SOS position on April 14, 1912. Aldebaran is visible in the western sky (278 degrees, 15 degrees elevation) at 9 pm. It is visible from sunset to about 9:45 pm, so it was not visible during the sinking, but as you mentioned the scene happened before the sinking. Aldebaran was visible on the 12th as well.
 
May 3, 2005
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Thanks Athlen-
This particular movie is not noted for its accuracy, but maybe they got something right in this case ?
The time of the setting could be interpreted as April 12, 1912. Juilia Sturges (Barbara Stanwyck) is shown walking on an open promenade deck, wearing a heavy coat, indicating it could be cold.

This movie is a bit scant of historical details but heavy on the drama between an estranged couple , Richard Ward Sturges (Clifton Webb) and his wife Julia. Of course these are fictional characters. One of the many nit-picks is that the Astor's are shown coming out of an inside cabin

Another is that "Sturges" is told at Cherbourg. that "Titanic has been sold out for months" and he has to bribe a steerage family to get a ticket to get aboard.
 
Last edited:

Mila

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Sep 28, 2016
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In the (1953) movie "Titanic" a somewhat inebriated and de-frocked Priest "Ex-Rev. George Healey" (Richard Basehart) is shown leaning over the railng at night, gazing at the stars.
He remarks "Answer up for the roll call...... Aldebaran, you lonely star....."
Would it have been possible to have seen Aldebaran from the Titanic ?
The setting is possibly intended to be sometime during the night of April 12-13 (?) 1912, somewhere a night or two before the collision site . (?)

Is this based on fact or just another bit of fiction ?
Here's the sky with Aldebaran around 30 minutes before the collision.
post.jpg


But I am more interested in Capella. I found this site Strictly Astronomy • Night sky over the position of the wreck of the... that provides sky map for the time of the collision and states:

Capella was setting on the northern horizon at the time of the sinking, at an azimuth of about 340°.
I've read the same thing about Capella setting in other places, but Capella never sets in the place the Titanic sank (Capella (Goat Star) - Alpha Aurigae | Constellation Guide) Some authors even say that Capella could have been mistaking with a mast-light of a steamer. Am I missing something?
 

Mila

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Sep 28, 2016
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Here's the sky with Aldebaran around 30 minutes before the collision.View attachment 39479

But I am more interested in Capella. I found this site Strictly Astronomy • Night sky over the position of the wreck of the... that provides sky map for the time of the collision and states:


I've read the same thing about Capella setting in other places, but Capella never sets in the place the Titanic sank (Capella (Goat Star) - Alpha Aurigae | Constellation Guide) Some authors even say that Capella could have been mistaking with a mast-light of a steamer. Am I missing something?

I found this site Titanic and Astronomy
Capella set at 2-30 a.m. and could easily have been taken for a ship's light, especially after 2-00 a.m.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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The statement, "Capella was setting on the northern horizon at the time of the sinking, at an azimuth of about 340°" is correct. Aldebaran was setting at an azimuth of about 292° about 1h 20m before the ship struck the iceberg. It certainly was visible in the western sky prior to that time, as was the planet Mars that night.

You can all play around with skyview software packages, but you must be careful that the observing position is entered correctly (e.g. the wreck site coordinates) and especially the time and date are entered correctly. I always use UTC standard date and time to avoid any mistakes. Titanic ATS was 2h 58m behind UTC, so the collision date and time would be 1912/04/15 02:38 UTC; and the sinking date and time would be 1912/04/15 05:18 UTC.

Have fun.
 

Mila

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Sep 28, 2016
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Hi Sam,
On this site Titanic and Astronomy it clearly states:

Capella set at 2-30 a.m. and could easily have been taken for a ship's light, especially after 2-00 a.m.
Below is an image that shows Capella at 5:47 GMT April 15, 1912.
It is way too high to be mistaken with a masthead light
cap.jpg

A star that never sets cannot be setting, and cannot set

A Capella | DiscoverMagazine.com
This most northerly of the night’s bright stars lies close enough to the celestial pole that it never sets for people in the northern United States, all of Canada, and most of Europe. No night is ever completely empty of Capella.
If your program shows Capella close to the horizon there ought to be something wrong with it.
Would it be possible to run your program for northern/northwestern sky for 5:47 GMT to compare our results?
Thanks.
 

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