The “Stars” of Titanic

The Titanic. Photo by Bain News Service

I answer a fair share of questions from authors, historians, and filmmakers who are trying to find weather or astronomical observations for a particular time and place so they can accurately describe a moment in time. You can imagine my delight when I read that film director James Cameron will be including a historically accurate night sky in the re-release of the 1997 epic film Titanic, which happens to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912. The inaccuracies of the film’s night sky were brought to Cameron’s attention back in the late 1990’s when American astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson informed the filmmaker that the sky he used in the iconic film was astronomically incorrect. It turns out the night sky in the 1997 film was an artistic rendering, with half of the sky reflecting a mirror image of the other half.

Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson provided Cameron with the astronomically correct star field to use in the 2012 re-release. According to Cameron, the restructured night sky is the only technical change made to the 2012 release. To give you an idea of the night sky during the Titanic’s voyage in 1912, I scanned the April 1912 Evening Sky Map from the Monthly Evening Sky Map series.  I also discovered that there was central eclipse of the sun on April 17, 1912 that would have been partially seen in the morning hours along the Eastern US and Canada.

From Monthly Evening Sky Map, v. 6 , April 1912.

Additionally, I decided to calculate the sun and moon times for the Titanic on April 14-15, 1912 using the United States Naval Observatory Complete Sun and Moon Data (Please keep in mind that these times are estimates  based on the latitude N41.8, longitude W50.2,  and Universal Time hour – 3 hours).

April 14, 1912

Sun:

  • Sunrise: 5:43 am
  • Sunset 7:00 pm
  • End of civil Twilight: 7:29 pm

Moon: Waning crescent with 9% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated. New Moon on April 17, 1912

  • Moonrise 4:36 am
  •  Moon Transit: 10:15 am
  •  Moonset: 4:04 pm
  • Moonrise 4:56 am on following day (April 15, 1912)

April 15, 1912

Sun:

  • Sunrise 5:41 am
  • Sunset 7:01 pm
  • End of Civil Twilight: 7:30 pm

Moon: Waning crescent with 4% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated

  • Moon rise 4:56 am
  • Moon Transit 10:58 am
  • Moonset 5:11 pm

Composite of five mounted photographs of wireless operator on shipboard receiving distress call; life boats bringing Titanic’s survivors to the Carpathia; Capt. Smith of the Titanic–1912.

The Library of Congress offers a wealth of primary and secondary sources about the Titanic. Mark Hall, a librarian for the Digital Reference Service, wrote about the Library’s Titanic Treasure Trove in a 1998 LC Information Bulletin. In this article, Mark highlights and discusses the Library’s vast collection of Titanic material that includes newspaper articles, music, photographs, books, sound recordings, manuscripts, and film/footage.

This past week my fellow LC bloggers have also published articles on the Titanic in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of its sinking:

LC Blog:- An Unsinkable Legacy- Remembering the Titanic 

In the Muse (Performing Arts) – Sheet music of the Week-Titanic Centennial Edition 

Teaching with the Library of Congress- Titanic: In the News and Memory 

Picture This! (Prints and Photographs)- The Waifs in the Deep: Titanic Survivors

In Custodia Legis (Law Library) – Failure to Update the Law a Titanic Mistake

From the Catbird Seat (Poetry) – RMS Titanic: The Poetic Response

One Comment

  1. OSWALDO SANVITI
    April 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    luft spiegel, also airplanes crash by this phenomena, the landing field is seen like at short altitude than in normal conditions

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