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Archive for the ‘Mythology’ Category

05/19/2022 – Ephemeris – Spring constellations: Virgo

May 19, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, May 19th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 58 minutes, setting at 9:08, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:09. The Moon, halfway from full to last quarter, will rise at 1:40 tomorrow morning.

Tonight at 11 p.m. in the south is the constellation and member of the zodiac: Virgo the virgin. Virgo is a large constellation of a reclining woman holding a stalk of wheat. Spica, the bluest of the first magnitude stars, is the head of that spike of wheat; and as such it ruled over the harvest in two of Virgo’s guises as the goddesses Persephone and Ceres. Virgo is also identified as Astraea the goddess of justice. The constellation of Libra, the scales, which she is associated with, is found just east of her low in the southeast. Early Christians who sought to de-paganize the heavens saw Virgo as the Virgin Mary. Virgo is the host to a great cluster of galaxies seen far beyond its stars, which belong to our galaxy.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Virgo finder animation

Virgo finder animation with Libra added for 11 p.m. tonight, May 19th. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Virgo

Virgo as depicted in Urania’s Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c.1825. From the Library of Congress. H/T Wikipedia.

Brighter members of the Virgo Cluster. Created using Stellarium.

Brighter members of the Virgo Cluster. Created using Stellarium. Open circles are galaxies, circles with crosses are globular star clusters, outlying members of our Milky Way galaxy.

04/28/2022 – Ephemeris – The story of Arcas and Callisto

April 28, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, April 28th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 6 minutes, setting at 8:44, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:35. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:16 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 which is horizontal to the left, pointed to by the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper, higher in the east. The Big Dipper is the hind end of the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear. In one story, Boötes represents a young hunter named Arcas, son of Callisto, a beautiful young woman who had the misfortune of being loved by god Zeus. Zeus’ wife, Hera, found out about the affair, and since she couldn’t punish Zeus, turned the poor woman into a bear. Arcas, many years later, unaware of why his mother disappeared, was about to kill the bear when Zeus intervened and placed them both in the sky, where he continues to chase her across the sky nightly.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Arcas and Callisto

Boötes 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

04/19/2022 – Ephemeris – A constellation memorializing a real person

April 19, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 19th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 41 minutes, setting at 8:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:49. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 12:37 tomorrow morning.

High in the southeast at 10 p.m. is a tiny and faint constellation of Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s Hair. In it are lots of faint stars arrayed to look like several strands of hair to the naked eye. The whole group will fit in the field of a pair of binoculars, which will also show many more stars. The story behind it was that Berenice was a real Queen of Egypt, whose husband was away at war. This was in the days when the Greeks ruled Egypt after Alexander conquered it. 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 then, the constellation of Coma Berenices has been seen to commemorate the queen’s sacrifice.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Coma Berinices

Coma Berenices and neighboring constellations at 10 p.m. in mid-April. Note that only the upper right star of the upside down L shape actually belongs to the cluster. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium.

Coma Berenices

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

03/28/2022 – Ephemeris – Finding the Great Bear

March 28, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, March 28th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 8:05, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:29. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 6:47 tomorrow morning.

The Big Dipper is now reaching for the zenith in the northeast at 10 p.m. The seven bright stars are second to Orion in the west as the seven brightest stars in a constellation. If you looked up a list of constellations, you’d find that the Big Dipper isn’t there. Ursa Major or the Great Bear is the constellation of which the Big Dipper is a part. The seven bright stars of the dipper are the rump and long tail of this constellation. The rest of the bear, including his head and legs, are delineated by dimmer stars. An anatomical problem is its long tail, which was drawn in by the ancients of the old world. Their explanation was that a god had grabbed the bear’s stubby tail, whirled the bear around his head, and threw it into the sky, thus stretching its tail.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Great Bear Finder animation

The Great Bear (Ursa Major) finder animation. It shows the stars only, then the Big Dipper, Then the lines of the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (Lesser Bear and Little Dipper) as a bonus, and finally the constellation artwork. The orientation is for about 9:30 pm on the latter days of March. We are looking high in the northeast. In Northern Michigan, the bear’s front paw is near the zenith at that time. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

03/07/2022 – Ephemeris – The Fisher announces the beginning of the Maple sugaring season

March 7, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, March 7th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 28 minutes, setting at 6:38, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:07. The Moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 12:19 tomorrow morning.

March is a month of transitions. The stars of the winter skies, that is Orion and his merry band of bright stars, move to the west as those of spring rise in the east. The Big Dipper is ascending in the northeastern sky, after lying low in the north during the long dark evenings in the heart of winter. The dipper is the hind end of the Great Bear, officially Ursa Major. The Anishinaabe peoples of the Great Lakes region saw the Big Dipper as the hind end and tail of a magical creature called Fisher, or in their language Ojiig, who brought summer to the Earth. Its position in the sky around the pole announces the seasons. The Fisher’s ascension high into the northeastern sky signals this month’s maple sugaring season.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Fisher announcing maple sugaring season - animation

The Fisher announcing maple sugaring season – animation. Star positions for about 2 hours after sunset, near 45 degrees north latitude, for a week into March. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

For the story of how the Fisher brought summer to the earth, and why he’s got an arrow sticking into his tail, click here.

01/28/2022 – Ephemeris – Auriga the charioteer without a chariot

January 28, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, January 28th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 39 minutes, setting at 5:45, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:05. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 6:10 tomorrow morning.

The constellation Auriga the charioteer is nearly overhead at 9 p.m. It is a pentagon of stars, with the brilliant star Capella at one of its upper corners. Capella represents a she-goat he’s carrying. A narrow triangle of stars nearby Capella represents her three kids. The chariot, or by some a wagon is not seen in the stars and is supposed to be pulled by four horses, abreast. Or four oxen, or two oxen, a horse, and a zebra. None of these are depicted in the stars. The only constellation art I’ve seen is a man holding a large goat and three baby goats. There’s no chariot, no wagon and definitely no horses, oxen or zebras. What I see is a distinctive pentagon of stars, with one, Capella, brighter than the rest, and a nearby small triangle of stars.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Auriga and surrounding constellations

Auriga and surrounding constellations at 9 pm in late January. Created using Stellarium.

Auriga finder animation

Auriga star field, constellation lines and art. Auriga seems to be missing a kid, he’s supposed to have three, I think. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

I checked other constellation art, and it appears that there are only two kids. I may have been wrong all these years. Yet the asterism of The Kids has three stars.

01/27/2022 – Ephemeris – Looking at the constellation of Gemini the twins

January 27, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, January 27th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 37 minutes, setting at 5:44, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:06. The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 4:56 tomorrow morning.

Another famous winter constellation is Gemini. The constellation of 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, are the two bright stars at the left end of Gemini, and are high and nearly in the east. Castor is on top, while Pollux is below. From them come two lines of stars that outline the two, extending horizontally toward Orion. In Greek mythology the lads were half brothers, Castor was fathered by a mere mortal, while Pollux was fathered by Zeus, 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.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Gemini finder animation

Gemini finder animation for 9 pm January 27th, showing just stars, constellation lines and star names, and figures of the lads. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

01/21/22 – Ephemeris – A river in the sky, but not the Milky Way

January 21, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, January 21st. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 23 minutes, setting at 5:36, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:11. The Moon, halfway from full to last quarter, will rise at 9:31 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. And the brightest was discovered to be the flattest star known, 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 astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Eridanus

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.

Achernar

A model of Achernar by the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

01/20/2022 – Ephemeris – Taurus and the half sisters of the Pleiades

January 20, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, January 20th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 21 minutes, setting at 5:34, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:12. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 8:23 this evening.

High in the south-southeastern sky, and above-right of Orion, is the bright star Aldebaran. It’s at one tip of a letter V of fainter stars. The group of stars is the face of the constellation of Taurus the bull. Aldebaran is the angry bloodshot eye of the bull that’s charging Orion, whose defending himself with a lion skin shield and an upraised club. The stars in the V, and many more visible in binoculars, except for Aldebaran, belong to a star cluster called the Hyades. In Greek mythology, these are the half sisters of the Pleiades, visible as a tight group of stars above them. The V of stars is actually an upside down letter A, or Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew and Mesopotamian alphabets. This was invented when Taurus, not Aries, was host to the Sun at the spring equinox.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Hyades and Pleiades

The  Hyades (left) and the Pleiades (right) in this photograph I took January 4, 2016. Aldebaran is the bright star at the left tip of the Pleiades (right)  of the Hyades.

Orion-Taurus animation

Orion and Taurus finder animation for mid-January. Created using Stellarium

11/26/2021 – Ephemeris – Native American Heritage Day

November 26, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Native American Heritage Day, Friday, November 26th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 11 minutes, setting at 5:05, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:55. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 11:33 this evening.

It’s also Black Friday, the day retail stores theoretically make it into the black, profit-wise. When looking at the sky and the few constellations of the native Anishinaabe people of our area, I am saddened there aren’t more of them. There were heroes, warriors, animals, fantastic and real, just like the Greek ones we learned of the European world. But they were lost in the attempted assimilation of these people into white society. It’s like the Borg of Star Trek: “You will be assimilated”. The atrocities of the Indian boarding schools are slowly coming to light, while certain powerful people want all the racial unpleasantness swept under the rug.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Anishinaabe November Sky

The Anishinaabe November Sky. Clockwise (sort of) from the top or North. The Fisher (Big Dipper); Loon (Little Dipper); Exhausted Bather (Hercules), in the northwest; high in the west, the Crane (Cygnus); nearly overhead, the Moose (Pegasus); and in the east the Wintermaker (Orion). Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium. The Anishinaabe constellation drawings are from Ojibwe Sky Star Map Constellation Guide by Annette S. Lee, William Wilson, Jeffrey Tibbets and Carl Gawboy available locally and online. They are part of the latest editions of Stellarium, a free planetarium program. Links to it are on the right. Other information and links are available within Stellarium.