As Columbus Day transitions more and more to a celebration of indigenous people, we can look to the northeastern horizon just after 8 o’clock, where we can watch the Seven Starry Dancers rise, known also as the Seven Sisters, or the Pleiades. This smudge of stars, well right of the bright star Capella, recalls the Onondaga people’s story of seven boys who neglect their chores, and dance all the way into the heavens.
Ursa Major, better known as the Great Bear, is settling very low along the northern horizon during the evenings. The best known stars here are the Big Dipper, with the “bowl” of the Dipper part of the Bear’s body, and the “handle” his long, bushy tail. The Bear reaches his lowest point, due north, near midnight.
When Columbus landed in the Bahamas on this date in 1492, he used the North Star to determine his location. However, he mistakenly used the star Alderamin in Cepheus, and thought he landed near what is now Boston. Either tropical breezes, or an able assistant, helped him to correct his error.