Archive for the ‘Mythology’ Category

11/12/2018 – Ephemeris – Orion is rising

November 12, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Veterans Day Observed, Monday, November 12th. The Sun will rise at 7:35. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 41 minutes, setting at 5:17. The Moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 9:25 this evening.

Just after the Moon sets tonight winter’s most dazzling constellation will be rising, Orion the hunter of Greek myth. The stars of his torso are in a rectangle leaning to the left. Orion’s belt of three stars in a straight line in the center of the rectangle is nearly vertical. The Anishinaabe peoples whose region we live in see the constellation of the Wintermaker rather than Orion. It uses Orion’s torso and belt stars, but his arms are spread wide from Aldebaran in the face of Taurus the bull to the west to Procyon in Canis Minor, which won’t rise until 11 p.m. to the east. The Wintermaker’s arms are wide enough to embrace the entire winter sky. Its name in Anishinaabemowin, which is Biboonikeonini, means “North Wind”.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Orion or Wintermaker rising
Take your pick: it’s either Orion rising of the Wintermaker rising at 9:30 p.m. November 12th. Created using Stellarium and GIMP, and Western and Ojibwe star lore.


10/04/2018 – Ephemeris Extra – Wintermaker rising

November 4, 2018 Comments off

A chill is in the air, The Fisher, Ojiig’s bloody tail has swooped low in the north at midnight to paint the trees with their fall colors, and the leaves have fallen to the ground. Haven’t heard of the Fisher? I mention it from time to time here on my Ephemeris program on Interlochen Public Radio. It’s a constellation of the Anishinaabe peoples indigenous to this area of Michigan, of which the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Ojibwe are a part.

The Fisher occupies the stars which we know as the Big Dipper and the Great Bear, Ursa Major. And unlike the bear, a fisher really does have a long tail. The fisher is a real weasel-like animal whose diet apparently does not include fish. It is found across southern Canada and in the American West. I’ve related the story of the Fisher, and how he brought summer to the Earth, in these pages in the August 2012 issue and on my blog Search for fisher. Like most legends, there are different versions of that story and others about the Fisher.
Fisher or not, summer is gone and the world seems darker and colder. Over in the east these evenings great winter constellation of Orion is rising. It brings to mind the Robert Frost poem Star-Splitter, and our star chart this month from the November 1st post:

“You know Orion always comes up sideways.
Throwing a leg up over our fence of mountains,
And rising on his hands, he looks in on me
Busy outdoors by lantern-light with something
I should have done by daylight, and indeed,
After the ground is frozen, I should have done
Before it froze, and a gust flings a handful
Of waste leaves at my smoky lantern chimney
To make fun of my way of doing things,
Or else fun of Orion's having caught me.
Has a man, I should like to ask, no rights
These forces are obliged to pay respect to?"

The rest of the poem is available on the Poetry Foundation website: The poem is about one Brad McLaughlin and his telescope. While I don’t approve of how he financed his telescope, I do share his enthusiasm.

North Hegman Lake Pictographs
North Hegman Lake Pictographs with the Wintermaker (Orion), Curly Tail (Leo-Hydra), and Moose (Pegasus). Credit: Etphonehome.

The Wintermaker, Biboonikeonini’s, name literally means North Wind. While his torso is the same as Orion’s his arms stretch from Aldebaran in Taurus to Procyon in Canis Minor, just about spanning the entire winter sky. The pictographs, seen above of the Wintermaker, Curly Tail and Moose can only be seen from a canoe in the cliff face on one side of the narrows between North Hegman and Trease lakes, 15 miles north of Ely, Minnesota

Wintermaker rising
The Wintermaker (Orion) rising in the east-southeast. And Hole-In-The-Sky (Pleiades) as seen in Stellarium with Ojibwe Star Lore in Stellarium. From the Ojibwe Sky Star Map Constellation Guide, ISBN 978-0-615-98678-4 by A. Lee, W. Wilson, and C. Gawboy.

In late winter as Ojiig is rising in the northeast signaling the maple sugaring season, the Wintermaker is moving lower in the southwest. Some Ojibwe parents make bows for their children to shoot arrows at the Wintermaker to convince him to flee the skies so spring can begin as a way to teach them the old legends of their culture.

The Pleiades is an important group of stars for the Anishinaabe in several ways. It is the Hole-In-The-Sky, Bagone’giizhig, through which the Sky Woman fell and to give birth to the first humans on the Earth.

The Pleiades also represent the seven poles of the Shaking Tent Ceremony, and the seven sacred stones that are heated for the sweat lodge, which is also seen in the stars in the spring as Corona Borealis.

They are also the Seven Daughters of the Moon and Sun. They loved to dance and play, and when their father, the Moon was low in the sky, would descend to the Earth in a basket to do their thing. On one of their trips to the earth, one of them was captured by a human and she ended up falling in love with him, and married him. When father Moon found out he permanently dimmed her star, so now most people now only can spot 6 of the stars. This last bit seems to parallel the Greek story of the lost Pleiad.

Note:  This is published as an article in the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society’s November 2018 newsletter Stellar Sentinel.

09/06/2018 – Ephemeris – The constellations of Delphinus and Sagitta

September 6, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, September 6th. The Sun will rise at 7:11. It’ll be up for 12 hours and 59 minutes, setting at 8:10. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 4:19 tomorrow morning.

Located below the eastern edge of the Summer Triangle of three of the brightest stars in the sky, which is nearly overhead in our sky at 10 p.m., is the tiny constellation of Delphinus the dolphin. Delphinus’ 6 stars in a small parallelogram with a tail, really does look like a dolphin leaping out of the water. The parallelogram itself has the name Job’s Coffin. The origin of this asterism or informal constellation is unknown. Of the dolphin itself: the ancient Greeks appreciated this aquatic mammal as we do, and told stories of dolphins rescuing shipwrecked sailors. There’s another tiny constellation to the right of Delphinus, Sagitta the arrow a small thin group of 5 stars, which represents Cupid’s dart.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


Delphinus and Sagitta finder animation

Delphinus and Sagitta finder animation. Click on image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

09/03/2018 – Ephemeris – Looking for Sagittarius, Centaur or Teapot

September 3, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Labor Day, Monday, September 3rd. The Sun will rise at 7:07. It’ll be up for 13 hours and 8 minutes, setting at 8:15. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 1:08 tomorrow morning.

The Milky Way runs from northeast to south through the heavens at 10 p.m. The Milky Way is brighter and broader just above the horizon in the south. In that glow in the south is a star pattern that looks like a stout little teapot, with a bright stream of the Milky Way rising from the spout, which faces the west. This pattern of stars is the major part of the constellation called Sagittarius. This year the planet Saturn appears right above it.  According to Greek mythology Sagittarius is a centaur with a bow and arrow poised to shoot Scorpius the scorpion setting in the southwest. This centaur is Chiron, the most learned of the breed, centaurs usually being a rowdy bunch. The center of the pin wheel of our Milky Way galaxy lies hidden beyond the stars above the spout of the teapot.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


Sagittarius Finder animation

Sagittarius Finder animation for 10 p.m. September 3, 2018. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

07/17/2018 – Ephemeris – Finding Cygnus the swan

July 17, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, July 17th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 10 minutes, setting at 9:24, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:14. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 12:32 tomorrow morning

High in the east northeast as it gets dark flies the constellation of Cygnus the swan. This constellation is also known as the Northern Cross. The cross is seen lying on its side with the bright star Deneb at the head of the cross to the left. The rest of the cross is delineated in the stars to the right. As a swan, Deneb is the tail, the stars of the crosspiece of the cross are the leading edges of wings as Cygnus flies south through the Milky Way. There are faint stars that also define the tips and trailing edges of its wings. It is a very good portrayal of a flying swan, like the mute swans we see on the wing. In Cygnus we are looking in the direction that the Sun and the Earth are traveling as we orbit the center of the Milky Way.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


Cygnus finder animation

Animated Cygnus finder chart. Included also are, beside Deneb, the other stars of the Summer Triangle: Vega and Altair and their constellations Lyra the harp and Aquila. See if you can find them. Created using Stellarium.

07/16/2018 – Ephemeris – Lyra the harp, Hermes’ invention

July 16, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, July 16th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 12 minutes, setting at 9:24, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:13. The Moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 12:02 tomorrow morning.

Very high up in the eastern sky at 11 p.m. can be found a bright star just north of a small, narrow, but very distinctive parallelogram of stars. They are the stars of the constellation Lyra the harp. The bright star is Vega, one of the twenty one brightest first magnitude stars. Vega is actually the 5th brightest night-time star. The harp, according to Greek mythology, was invented by the god Hermes. The form of the harp in the sky, is as he had invented it: by stretching strings across a tortoise shell. Hermes gave it to his half-brother Apollo, who in turn gave it to the great musician Orpheus. The Sun has a motion with respect to most stars around it. Its direction is towards the vicinity of Lyra.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


Annimated Lyra finder chart

Animated Lyra finder chart. with Vega and the other named stars of the Summer Triangle. The lyre image not supplied by Stellarium but is from The World’s Earliest Music by Hermann Smith, Figure 60, A Project Gutenberg Ebook, and captioned “The Chelys or Greek Tortoiseshell Lyre”. Click on the image to enlarge Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Last Saturday night’s wild Sun ‘n Star Party

Last Saturday night the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society, myself included, and the rangers and volunteers of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore held our Sun ‘n Star Party at the Dune Climb.  I live 20 miles southeast of the Dune Climb, and about half way between Traverse City and Interlochen.  It’s also the location for which the Ephemeris sunrise and sunset times are calculated for.  We rely on the GOES East satellite imagery to show us the cloud patterns and movement.  Saturday morning was pretty overcast and hot.  GOES East showed that a big clearing was heading for us.  At 1 p.m. I emailed our members that the event was a GO, and began to pack up the car with my two telescopes, and assorted items.  Meanwhile some raindrops were showing up on the windshield.  A check with weather radar on my phone confirmed that some rainstorms were popping up between my location and Lake Michigan.  This is rather normal when it’s hot and humid in the afternoon, and wouldn’t affect the Dune area close to the lake.  In driving to the Dune Climb I drove through some rain showers, but the skies cleared by the time I got within 5 miles from the lake.

The solar observing from 4 to 6 p.m.was great, except for no sunspots.  We had 2 solar telescopes that did reveal some prominences.  The sky was clear.  The storm clouds were receding to the east.  Of course we couldn’t see much to the west because the dune was in the way.  Its angular altitude averaged 12 degrees.  Some of us stayed there and ate our dinner.  By 7:30 the wind came up from the southwest.  A check of the GOES East satellite showed us a large, roughly square cloud the width of the lake slowly moving northward that was just south of us.  Just after 8 p.m. we noticed clouds looming from the south, then fog was overtaking the tops of the dunes to the southwest.  Shortly thereafter we were socked in.  At a little after 9 p.m. Marie Scott the ranger in charge of this event gave introductions, and handed the microphone to me, who introduced our members and went over what we were supposed to see that night.  We couldn’t track this cloud anymore by satellite because it was between the daytime color imagery and the nighttime infrared imagery.  However around 10 p.m. someone spotted Vega, nearly overhead.  And while I was swinging my 11″ Dobsonian towards it, someone else called out Jupiter.  Looking around the fog was lifting.  The night was salvaged.  We stayed over an hour after the official 11 p.m. to watch Mars rise near the end of the star party, and finally view some of the wonders of the dark summer sky.

This was the fourth of seven monthly star parties scheduled at the Dunes this year.  It was the first we didn’t cancel due to weather.  We generally cancel one or two of then a year, but to start the year with three was depressing.


07/09/2018 – Ephemeris – Ophiuchus. the serpent bearer in the sky

July 9, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, July 9th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 22 minutes, setting at 9:29, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:07. The Moon, half way from last quarter to new, will rise at 3:50 tomorrow morning.

The red star Antares shines in the south at 11 p.m. In the constellation of Scorpius. In the area of sky above and a little to the left lies a large constellation of faint stars called Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer. The constellation shape is like a large bell, which reminds me of the head, shoulders and arms of a fellow that’s holding the snake-like a weight lifter pulling up a heavy barbell. The serpent he’s holding is Serpens, the only two-part constellation in the heavens. The head rises to Ophiuchus’ right and the tail extends up to the left. In Greek legend Ophiuchus was a great physician, educated by the god Apollo, and the centaur Chiron, also found in the stars as Sagittarius, now rising below and left of him.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


Ophiuchus finder animation

Ophiuchus finder animation plus constellations discussed. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.