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05/10/2021 – Ephemeris – The story of the constellations Boötes and Ursa Major

May 10, 2021 Leave a comment

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, May 10th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 38 minutes, setting at 8:58, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:18. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 6:25 tomorrow morning.

Seen in the east 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. It is pointed to by the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper, higher in the east. 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 it, and since she couldn’t punish Zeus, turned the poor woman into a 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 Arcas still pursues her across the sky nightly.

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

Addendum

Arcas and Callisto as Boötes and Ursa Major
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

05/06/2021 – Ephemeris – Corvus, Crater, Hydra and Apollo

May 6, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, May 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 28 minutes, setting at 8:54, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:24. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 5:04 tomorrow morning.

The small constellation of Corvus the crow is located low in the south at 10:30 this evening. It’s made of 5 dim stars, but the pattern is a distinctive but distorted box with two stars at the upper left marking that corner. To the right is a fainter constellation of a thick stemmed goblet called Crater. Both appear above the long constellation of Hydra the water snake who is slithering just above the southern horizon. In Greek mythology Corvus, then white, was the god Apollo’s pet. Apollo once bid Corvus to take a cup and fetch him some water. Corvus however dallied and waited for a green fig to ripen. He grabbed a snake and returned with a story as to how the snake had delayed him. The angry Apollo turned the crow and all crows to this day black.

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

Addendum

Corvus-Crater-Hydra finder animation
Corvus-Crater-Hydra finder animation for 10:30 pm May 6. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

05/03/2021 – Ephemeris – The constellation of Virgo

May 3, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, May 3rd. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 21 minutes, setting at 8:50, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:28. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 3:52 tomorrow morning.

Tonight in the sky: to the southeast is the bright star Spica. Another way to find the star is to find the Big Dipper high overhead and follow the arc of the handle to the bright star Arcturus, and straighten the arc to a spike to meet Spica. It is in the constellation and member of the zodiac: Virgo the virgin. Virgo is a large constellation of a reclining woman holding a stalk of wheat. The bright star in the center of the constellation, Spica, 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. Ceres is now a dwarf planet and the root of the word cereal. Virgo is also identified as Astraea the goddess of justice. The constellation of Libra, the scales of justice, lies at her feet.

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

Addendum

Finding Virgo
Star hop from the Big Dipper through Arcturus to Spica and Virgo. Orientation for 10:30 pm. Created using Stellarium.

03/09/2021 – Ephemeris – A celestial warning to keep off thin ice

March 9, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, March 9th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 35 minutes, setting at 6:41, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:03. The Moon, halfway from last quarter to new, will rise at 6:12 tomorrow morning.

The native Anishinaabe peoples of the Great Lakes Region, which includes the tribes of our area, have one constellation of winter I know of. It is The Wintermaker which uses many of Orion’s stars and whose arms stretch from Aldebaran in Taurus the bull to Procyon the Little Dog Star, embracing the whole of the winter sky. Now that spring is nearly here he is sinking into the west, losing to the heat of the Sun. The first constellation of spring is Curly Tail, or the Great Underwater Panther. It uses the stars of Leo the lion’s backward question mark as its curly tail and the small knot of stars that are the head of Hydra the water snake below Cancer the crab as its head. His warning: Keep off the thinning ice or break through and be snatched by the great panther that lives below.

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

Addendum

Great Underwater Panther finder animation

The Great Underwater Panther finder animation. Three frame animation of Unannotated sky, International Astronomical Union constellations, and Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) constellations of Curly Tail and Wintermaker. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP. Additional credits below.

The time is set for the above image is 10 pm on March 9th.

The constellation art is part of the latest versions of Stellarium. Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) constellation art by Annette S Lee and William Wilson from Ojibwe Sky Star Map Constellation Guide, ISBN 978-0-615-98678-4. There is also an Ojibwe Sky Star Map poster suitable for framing.

02/08/2021 – Ephemeris – A look at Gemini the twins

February 8, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, February 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 9 minutes, setting at 6:01, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:51. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:49 tomorrow morning.

Let’s look at another of the winter constellations, and a member of the Zodiac. 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, will be at the left end of Gemini, are nearly overhead and vertically aligned. Castor is on top, while the slightly brighter Pollux is below. From them come two lines of stars that outline the two extending 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, so they could be together forever.

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

Addendum

Gemini Finder animation

Gemini finder animation for early February at 9 pm (about 3 hours after sunset). Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

12/08/2020 – Ephemeris – Finding Taurus the bull

December 8, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, December 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 54 minutes, setting at 5:02, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:08. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 1:39 tomorrow morning.

Orion is the big splashy constellation in the east southeast by 9 in the evening. Above it is another famous constellation Taurus the bull. Its face is a letter V shape of stars on its side with the open end of the V to the left. The bright star at the lower left end of the sideways V is the ruddy star Aldebaran, the Bull’s angry bloodshot eye. The bull is charging down at Orion. The Pleiades, also known as the seven sisters, is the cluster of stars in his shoulder, above the V. The stars in the face of Taurus, except for Aldebaran belong to a star cluster like the Pleiades, but closer and older, called the Hyades. In Greek mythology the Hyades are half sisters to the Pleiades, all fathered by the god Atlas.

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

Addendum

Taurus and Orion

Three views of Taurus the bull and Orion the hunter for 9 p.m. on December 8th. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Hyades and Pleiades

The Pleiades (right) and the Hyades (left) in this photograph I took January 4, 2016. The orientation is a bit different from how it appears in early December.

11/17/2020 – Ephemeris – The Pleiades in legends from different cultures

November 17, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, November 17th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 29 minutes, setting at 5:12, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:44. The Moon, 2 days past new, will set at 7:23 this evening.

Let’s look at how some other cultures saw the Pleiades, the star cluster that is seen in the eastern sky these evenings. To the Anishinaabe 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 it seems the appearance of the Pleiades in the morning sky saw the best sailing weather in the Mediterranean.

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

Addendum

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, https://www.nps.gov/deto.

The Pleiades, about what you'd see in binoculars.

The Pleiades, about what you’d see in binoculars, more than the 6 or 7 stars visible to the naked eye. The brighter stars are Freya’s Hens and also the Seven Sisters and Indian maidens. Credit Bob Moler.

Pleiades finder animation

Pleiades finder animation looking east about 8 pm in mid-November. Created using Stellarium.

10/08/2020 – Ephemeris – A lady with a not so hidden jewel

October 8, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, October 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 7:09, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:51. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 11:09 this evening.

The stars of the constellations Andromeda the chained princess look like they’re supposed to be the hind legs of Pegasus the flying horse which is high in the southern sky above Mars at 9 p.m. Andromeda is high in the southeast She is seen in the sky as two diverging curved strings of stars that curve to the left and up from the upper leftmost star of the Great Square of Pegasus. Her predicament was caused by her boastful mother Cassiopeia, and the wrath of the god Poseidon. She was rescued by the hero Perseus, a nearby constellation, riding his steed Pegasus. Andromeda’s claim to astronomical fame is the large galaxy barely visible to the unaided eye just above the upper line of stars, the Great Andromeda Galaxy 2.5 million light years away.

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

Addendum

Andromeda and M31 animated finder

Andromeda animated finder, including the Great Andromeda Galaxy. I’ve added Cassiopeia that some folks use to find the galaxy. I start with the leftmost star of the Great Square of Pegasus that connects to Andromeda. I count off two star on the lower curve because they are brighter than the upper curve. Then count two stars up. Next to that top star is a little smudge. That is the core of the Great Andromeda Galaxy. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

The Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Image taken by Scott Anttila.

The Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and two of its satellite galaxies M31 (left) and M110. Image taken by Scott Anttila.

 

09/17/2020 – Ephemeris – Finding Cassiopeia the queen and Cepheus the king

September 17, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, September 17th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 24 minutes, setting at 7:48, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:25. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

The stars of the autumn skies are slowly replacing the summer stars from the east. Look midway up in the northeastern sky in the evening and you can find the W shaped constellation of Cassiopeia the queen. Cassiopeia is so far north that it never sets for us in Michigan. It is opposite the pole star Polaris from the handle of Big Dipper. There’s a dim star that appears above the middle star of the W which turns it into a very crooked backed chair, Cassiopeia’s throne. Above and left of Cassiopeia is a dim upside down church steeple shaped constellation of Cepheus the king, her husband. The Milky Way flows through Cassiopeia toward the northeastern horizon. She is a character in an autumn star story with five other constellations.

For my retelling of the Greek myth that links these autumn constellations click here.

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

Addendum

Cassiopeia and Cepheus finder animation

Cassiopeia and Cepheus finder animation looking in the northeast at 9 pm or about an hour after sunset in mid-September. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

 

09/15/2020 – Ephemeris – The dolphin and the arrow, small summer constellations

September 15, 2020 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, September 15th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 30 minutes, setting at 7:52, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:23. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:01 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 event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Delphinus and Sagitta finder animation

Delphinus and Sagitta finder animation. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.