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04/24/2017 – Ephemeris – A story of the Great Bear, Ursa Major

April 24, 2017 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Monday, April 24th.  The Sun rises at 6:42.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 55 minutes, setting at 8:38.  The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:32 tomorrow morning.

Appearing in the eastern sky at 10 p.m. tonight is the kite shaped constellation of Boötes the herdsman.  The bright star Arcturus is at the bottom of the kite to the right, pointed to by the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper, higher in the east.  In one story Boötes represents a young hunter named Arcas, son of Callisto, a beautiful young lady who had the misfortune of being loved by Zeus the chief of the Greek gods.  Zeus’ wife Hera, found out about the affair, and since she couldn’t punish Zeus, turned the poor woman into an ugly bear.  Arcas, many years later, unaware of the events surrounding his mother’s disappearance was about to kill the bear when Zeus intervened and placed them both in the sky to save her, as he continues to chase her across the sky nightly.

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

Addendum

Arcas and Callisto

Bootes and Ursa Major aka Arcas chasing Callisto around the pole of the sky. Created using Stellarium.

Arcas and Callisto woodcut

Arcas about to slay the bear by the 17th century artist Baur. Source: University of Virginia Electronic Text Center

04/18/2017 – Ephemeris – How Queen Berenice lost her hair

April 18, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 18th.  The Sun rises at 6:52.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 38 minutes, setting at 8:31.  The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 3:04 tomorrow morning.

High in the east-southeast at 10 p.m. is the tiny and faint constellation of Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s Hair.  In it are lots of faint stars that look like several strands of hair.  The whole group will fit in the field of a pair of binoculars, which will also show many more stars.  The star cluster is 280 light years away, nearly twice as far as the Hyades, the face of Taurus the Bull setting in the west.  The story behind it was that Berenice was the Queen of Egypt, whose husband was away at war.  She offered her golden tresses to the gods for the king’s safe return.  The hair, was placed in a temple.  However the offering disappeared when the king returned.  Ever since the constellation of Coma Berenices has been seen to commemorate the queen’s sacrifice.

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

Coma Berenices finder chart

Coma Berenices finder chart for 10 p.m. April 18, 2017. Created using Stellarium.

Coma Berenices

Approximate 7 power binocular field of view of the Coma Berenices Cluster. Created using Carted du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Addendum

03/16/2017 – Ephemeris – Curly Tail, The Great Underwater Panther

March 16, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, March 16th.  The Sun will rise at 7:52.  It’ll be up for 11 hours and 57 minutes, setting at 7:50.  The Moon, half way from full to last quarter, will rise at 12:03 tomorrow morning.

The Anishinabek people of the Great Lakes Region, which includes the Ottawa, Chippewa and Ojibwe Indians have two constellations of winter that I know of.  The first is The Winter Maker which uses many of Orion’s stars plus Procyon the Little Dog Star.  It rises in the eastern skies in the evening as winter is beginning.  The second is the Curly Tail, the Great Underwater Panther.  Which uses the stars of Leo the lion’s backward question mark as its tail and the small knot of stars that are the head of Hydra the water snake below Cancer as its head.  I imagine this constellation was a warning to youngsters to keep off the thinning ice of spring, lest they fall in and be snatched by the great underwater panther that lives beneath the ice.

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

Addendum

Ojibwe constellations

An animated GIF rotating between an unannotated star field facing south at 10 p.m. March 16th.; Western constellation names and lines for Orion, Hydra, and Leo; Western constellation art, Ojibwe constellation names and lines; and Ojibwe constellation art. Created using Stellarium. The Ojibwe constellation art is supplied as part of the latest version of Stellarium.  Click on the image to enlarge.

The source for the Ojibwe constellation art is from Ojibwe Sky Star Map Constellation Guide (An introduction to Ojibwe Star Knowledge) by Annette S. Lee, William Wilson, Jeffrey Tibbetts, and Carl Gawboy, ISBN 978-0-615-98678-4.  The illustrations are by Annette S. Lee and William Wilson.  There is also a poster sized star map available.  It should be available in book stores locally, or at Amazon.  I found my copy at Enerdyne in Suttons Bay.

Also shown is the Pleiades, which to the Ojibwe is Hole in the Sky, which has to do with the Shaking Tent Ceremony.  The Pleiades is also known as the Sweating Stones, the heated stones used in the Sweat Lodge Ceremony.  In the later spring sky the Sweat Lodge itself is seen in the stars of the Western Corona Borealis.

Note:  As far as tribe names go:  Ottawa = Odawa, and Chippewa = Ojibwe.

01/27/2017 – Ephemeris – The celestial twins

January 27, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, January 27th.  The Sun will rise at 8:06.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 38 minutes, setting at 5:44.  The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

The constellation Gemini, the Twins is visible high in the southeast at 9 p.m.  The namesake stars of the two lads, will be high on the upper left edge of the constellation, nearly vertically aligned.  Castor is above, while Pollux, a slightly brighter star is below it.  Lines of stars from Castor and Pollux to the lower right delineate the lads.  In Greek mythology Castor and Pollux were twins, and half brothers, Castor was fathered by a mere mortal, while Pollux was fathered by Zeus in the famous Leda and the swan affair.  The brothers, however were inseparable, and when Castor was killed during the quest for the Golden Fleece, Pollux pleaded with Zeus to let him die also.  Zeus granted his wish, so both appear in the sky together forever.

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

Addendum

Gemini

Gemini revealed by animation. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

12/16/2016 – Ephemeris – The Pleiades in the mythology of many cultures

December 16, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, December 16th.  The Sun will rise at 8:14.  It’ll be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:03.  The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 8:28 this evening.

Let’s look at how some other cultures saw the Pleiades.  To the Anishinabek native peoples around here the Pleiades is the “Hole in the Sky” or the seven stones that are heated for the sweat lodge ceremony. To the Kiowa* these were sister stars that had been whisked into the sky from the top of Devils Tower in Wyoming where they were threatened by a huge bear.  In Norse mythology these were the goddess Freya’s hens.  The name we know them by has rather misty origins.  Some think the Greek name is from the mother of the seven sisters, Pleione.  The Greek word for sail is similar to Pleiades, and some suggested that the appearance of the Pleiades in the morning sky signaled the best sailing weather in the Mediterranean region.

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

* I originally reported it as Lakota on the program, and earlier as the Sioux.

Addendum

Greek Pleiades

The Greek Pleiades a painting by Elihu Vedder in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. Public Domain.

Devil's Tower

Seven maidens being attacked by a giant bear, having fled to the top of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Painting by Herbert Collins, www.nps.gov/deto

Categories: Constellations, Mythology Tags:

12/15/2015 – Ephemeris – The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades

December 14, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, December 15th.  The Sun will rise at 8:13.  It’ll be up for 8 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 5:02.  The Moon, 2 days past full, will rise at 7:21 this evening.

While I’ve mentioned the Pleiades with regard to its neighboring stars and constellations several times this autumn I haven’t looked at this beautiful star cluster itself.  The Pleiades appears as a  group of six or seven stars visible to the naked eye, of over a hundred stars, and is also known as the Seven Sisters.  Some also mistake it for the Little Dipper, due to the little bowl shape in the center of the cluster.  I call it the “tiny dipper”.  The real Little Dipper is now hanging off Polaris in the north.  There are a lot of stories about the Pleiades from many different cultures.  From the Greek and Roman cultures we get our best known stories of them, that the seven sisters were the daughters of the god Atlas and Pleione.  The 9 brightest stars bear the names of the sisters and their parents.

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

Addendum

Hyades and Pleiades

The Pleiades (right) and the Hyades, the face of Taurus the bull (left) in this photograph I took 11:23 p.m. January 4, 2016.

Named Pleiads

The named stars of the Pleiades. This is also showing more stars than can be seen with the naked eye. This is the number of stars that can be seen in binoculars, which is the best way to observe them. Most telescopes offer too much magnification to fit all the stars in. A thirty power wide angle eyepiece can just fit all the stars in. Created using Stellarium.  Note that this view is the orientation of the cluster at 8p.m. tonight.

 

10/20/2016 – Ephemeris – Perseus: Is it a hero or a chicken?

October 20, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, October 20th.  The Sun will rise at 8:05.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 43 minutes, setting at 6:48.  The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 10:54 this evening.

Positioned below the W shaped constellation of Cassiopeia half way up the sky in the northeast at 9 p.m. is the constellation of Perseus the hero of Greek myth who slew Medusa and rescued and married Andromeda represented in the constellation above and right of him.  Rather than a hero the star pattern seems to look like a chicken or perhaps Big Bird.  At least, that’s how I see it.  In the back of the chicken is its brightest star Mirfak (Mirphak).  Binoculars will show a beautiful group of stars near Mirfak just below unaided eye visibility called the Alpha Persei Association.  Tomorrow morning will see the peak of the Orionid meteor shower, though all but the brightest meteors will be overwhelmed by waning gibbous Moon.

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

Addendum

Perseus with Cassiopeia and Andromeda in the northeast at 9 p.m. October 20, 2016. Created using Stellarium and GIMP

Perseus with Cassiopeia and Andromeda in the northeast at 9 p.m. October 20, 2016. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.