Archive for the ‘Mythology’ Category

02/22/2019 – Ephemeris – Orion is a hard luck hero

February 22, 2019 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Friday, February 22nd. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 6:20, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:30. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 10:19 this evening.

We come back to the central constellation of the winter sky Orion the hunter, holding out in the south-southwest at 9 p.m. with his three stars of his belt in a straight line, with his shoulder stars above and knees below. In one Greek story he was killed by the sting of a scorpion so the gods made sure the rising of the constellation Scorpius would chase him out of the sky to the west. To the Greeks he was a hapless hero. Orion is mentioned in the Bible in the book of Job. The name for Orion in Hebrew is Kesil, meaning “Fool”. To the native peoples around the Great Lakes, the stars here are those of the Winter Maker, who stretches his arms from Aldebaran in Taurus to Procyon in Canis Minor. When he rides high the evening sky it is indeed winter.

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



Orion as he is seen tonight at 9 p.m. February 22, 2019. Created using Stellarium.

Scorpius chases Orion from the skies

Scorpius, rising in the southeast, chases Orion, setting in the west, from the skies. February 23, at 2:44 a.m. any year.


02/11/2019 – Ephemeris – The stars Castor and Pollux

February 11, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, February 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 16 minutes, setting at 6:05, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:47. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 12:57 tomorrow morning.

At 9 p.m. the constellation of Gemini the twins will be seen high in the southeast. The namesake stars of the two lads are the two bright stars at the top of the constellation. Pollux the pugilist, or boxer, is the lower of the two, while Castor, the horseman, is the other star, or rather a six star system. In telescopes two close stars may be seen each is a spectroscopic binary, meaning the lines of two stars can be seen in the spectrum. A faint nearby spectroscopic binary also belongs. Pollux, though a single star, does have at least one planet, over twice the mass of Jupiter orbiting the star at a distance somewhat greater than Mars is from the Sun. Pollux is 34 light years away while Castor is 50 light years away. Not too far away as stars go.

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


Gemini with Castor and Pollux

Gemini with Castor and Pollux. Created with Stellarium.

Castor star system

The Castor star system exploded in this JPL/NASA infographic.

02/04/2019 – Ephemeris – Gemini the twins, or are they?

February 4, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, February 4th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 56 minutes, setting at 5:55, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:57. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

Lets look at another of the winter constellations, and member of the Zodiac. The constellation Gemini, the Twins is visible high in the southeast, above and left of Orion the hunter at 9 p.m. The namesake stars of the two lads, will be at the left end of Gemini, nearly vertically aligned. Castor is on top, while Pollux is below. From them come two lines of stars extending toward Orion that outline the two. In Greek mythology the lads were half brothers, Castor was fathered by a mere mortal, while Pollux was fathered by Zeus in the famous Leda and the swan affair and immortal, but were born together as twins. When Castor was killed during the quest for the Golden Fleece, Pollux pleaded with Zeus to let him die also, so Zeus placed them together in the sky so they could be together forever.

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


Two ways of seeing Gemini

An animated look at two versions of the Gemini outlines. First the way I learned them as an outline of the lads. Second the way H. A. Rey from his popular 1952 book The Stars – A New Way to See Them, where the stars are connected to make stick figures. The Stellarium default for Gemini is that of H. A. Rey. My lines are due to a modification of the constellation lines table for the program. Created using Stellarium.


01/24/2019 – Ephemeris – Taurus the bull

January 24, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, January 24th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 29 minutes, setting at 5:40, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:09. The Moon, half way from full to last quarter, will rise at 10:14 this evening.

Midway up the sky in the southeast at 8 p.m. is the constellation of the giant hunter Orion. Above him, to the right is Taurus the bull. His face is a letter V shape of stars lying on its side, the star cluster Hyades, with the bright orange-red star Aldebaran at one tip of the V as its angry blood-shot eye, but actually about half way between us and the cluster. Orion is depicted in the sky facing, with club in one hand and a shield in the other, the charging Taurus. The Pleiades star cluster is in his shoulder. Taurus in Greek mythology was the form the god Zeus when he carried off the maiden Europa. Europa’s still with him as the intriguing satellite orbiting Zeus’ Roman equivalent the planet Jupiter.

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


Taurus and Orion

Taurus and Europa at 8 p.m. January 24, 2019. Created using Stellarium.

Rape of Europa

The Rape of Europa by Titian. According to the story Zeus as a bull abducted Europa and swam to Crete, where she became the first queen of that island, and bore him three sons. Other paintings of this subject are by Rembrandt and de Troy. This painting belongs to the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston, MA. Click on the image to enlarge.

Jupiter's moon Europa

Jupiter’s satellite Europa, slightly smaller than the Earth’s moon, has a fresh ice surface with very little cratering. The ice floats on a deep water ocean supposedly containing more water than all the Earth’s oceans. Click on the image to enlarge. This is a place NASA will send a spacecraft to look for the chemistry of life. Credit NASA/JPL, Ted Stryk.

01/08/2019 – Ephemeris – The river at Orion’s feet

January 8, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 8th. The Sun will rise at 8:19. It’ll be up for 9 hours exactly, setting at 5:19. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 7:55 this evening.

One of the more obscure constellations around is Eridanus, which depicts a river. The river starts near the lower right corner of Orion, near the bright star Rigel and flows to the right then down near the southwestern horizon, then it meanders along the horizon to the south before turning below the horizon. One has to travel to the far south to see the southern terminus of the river, the bright star Achernar. Writers over the ages have seen here the Nile and the earth circling river Ocean of the flat earth days. Achernar is actually two stars, the brightest was discovered to be the flattest star, due to its rapid spin. The dimensions of Achernar A has been determined to be twice as wide across its equator than from pole to pole. It’s 139 light years away.

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



An animation of the constellation Eridanus which is a river that flows from Rigel in Orion to the star Achernar below our southern horizon at latitude 45 degrees north. Create using Stellarium and GIMP.

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.