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Archive for the ‘Mythology’ Category

06/14/2018 – Ephemeris – The mighty hero Hercules in the sky

June 14, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Flag Day, Thursday, June 14th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 33 minutes, setting at 9:29, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:56. The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 10:27 this evening.

Orion, the hard luck Greek hunter gets a splashy constellation in the winter sky, but the greatest hero of all, Hercules, gets a dim group of stars on the border between the spring and summer stars. At 11 p.m. Hercules is high in the southeast. It is located above and right of the bright star, Vega in the east. Hercules’ central feature is a keystone shaped box of stars, called the Keystone, which represents the old boy’s shorts. From each top corner extend lines of stars that are his legs, from the bottom stars, the rest of his torso and arms extend. So in one final indignity he’s upside down in our sky. Some see him crouched down, club upraised holding the Hydra about to throttle it. For those with a telescope it contains the beautiful globular star cluster M13.

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

Addendum

Hercules

Hercules animation showing neighboring stars, constellation outlines, deep sky objects, and constellation art for Hercules. Created using Stellarium. Click on image to enlarge.

M13

M13, the Great Globular Star Cluster in Hercules. Credit: Scott Anttila

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06/12/2018 – Ephemeris – Virgo the virgin

June 12, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, June 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 9:28, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:56. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 6:02 tomorrow morning.

Tonight in the sky: to the south, is bright Jupiter. The brightest star to the right of Jupiter is Spica. It is in the constellation and member of the 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, which she is associated with, is found just east of her low in the southeast.

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

Addendum

Virgo finder chart

Virgo finder animation for 10:30 p.m. June 12, 2018. Click on image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

06/04/2018 – Ephemeris – Ariadne’s crown

June 4, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, June 4th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 24 minutes, setting at 9:23, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:58. The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 1:47 tomorrow morning.

High in the southeast at 11 p.m. can be found a small but easily spotted constellation of Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. It is located just east or left of the kite shaped constellation of Boötes, with its bright star Arcturus at the base. The Northern Crown is a semicircle of stars, like a tiara, with a brighter star Gemma at the bottom. Despite the obvious allusion of stars to diamonds and the sound of one of the star’s name, this is not a gem studded crown. Gemma means blossom, so Corona Borealis may represent a floral crown. According to Greek mythology it belonged to Princess Ariadne, daughter of King Minos of Crete. She was abandoned by Theseus, whom she helped out of the Labyrinth of the Minotaur.

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

Addendum

Corona Borealis finder chart

Animated Corona Borealis Finder Chart looking to the southeast at 10:30 p.m. June 4, 2018. Corona Borealis is  a small constellation, so I added its neighbors for context.  Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

05/11/2018 – Ephemeris – Corvus, Crater, Hydra and a fig

May 11, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, May 11th. The Sun rises at 6:19. It’ll be up for 14 hours and 40 minutes, setting at 8:59. The Moon, half way from last quarter to new, will rise at 5:09 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 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 above the southern horizon. In Greek mythology Corvus, then white, was the god Apollo’s pet. He once bid Corvus to take a cup and fetch him some water. Corvus however dallied and waited for a green fig to ripen. Corvus then grabbed a snake and returned with a story on how the snake had delayed him. The angry Apollo turned the crow and all crows black to this day.

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

Addendum

Corvus, Crater, and Hydra

Corvus, Crater and Hydra finder chart for 10:30 p.m. May 11, 2017. Apollo is not in the night sky, and is presumably resting after guiding the Sun’s (Helios) chariot across the daytime sky. The fig? Corvus ate it. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

04/10/2018 – Ephemeris – How Boötes and the Great Bear got into the sky

April 10, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 10th. The Sun will rise at 7:07. It’ll be up for 13 hours and 14 minutes, setting at 8:21. The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 5:14 tomorrow morning.

Appearing mid way up the sky in the east at 10 p.m. is the kite shaped constellation of Boötes the herdsman. The bright star Arcturus is at the bottom-right of the kite, pointed to by the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper, above it. In one Greek myth 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, unaware of the events surrounding his mother’s disappearance in his youth was about to kill the bear when Zeus intervened and placed them both in the sky to save her. To this day Boötes continues to chase the great bear Ursa Major around the pole of the sky each night.

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

Addendum

Arcas and Callisto woodcut

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

Arcas and Callisto

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

03/05/2018 – Ephemeris – Spring is coming: Leo is rising

March 5, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, March 5th. The Sun will rise at 7:13. It’ll be up for 11 hours and 22 minutes, setting at 6:35. The Moon, half way from full to last quarter, will rise at 10:53 this evening.

The constellation Leo the lion is now rising in the east at 9 pm. It’s below and left of the Big Dipper higher up in the east-northeast. Leo is marked by two sets of easily recognizable stars. The front of him is a backward question mark of stars, also known as the Sickle that mark his head and mane, along with the front part of his body. Regulus is the star at the bottom of that backwards question mark. It’s the Little King Star. The hind end of him is a triangle of stars ending with another bright star, but not as bright as Regulus. It’s Denebola which means Lion’s tail. It is thought when the Sun was in this constellation long ago that the lions were driven by the heat to quench their thirst in the Nile river. Ancients physicians thought medicines were poison when the Sun was here also.

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

Addendum

The constellation Leo animation

The constellation Leo animation. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Algieba is a binary star, which should be able to be split with any good telescope.  The magnitude 2.4 and 3.6 components are separated by 4.6 arc seconds.  Binary stars are one type of object that benefit from using high power to resolve.  The stars are very close in temperature, so each appears a yellow-orange color offering no color contrast.

01/16/2018 – Ephemeris – More thoughts about Orion and the Wintermaker

January 16, 2018 1 comment

Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 16th. The Sun will rise at 8:15. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 13 minutes, setting at 5:29. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

We come back to the central constellation of the winter sky Orion the hunter, now in the southeast at 9 p.m. with his three stars of his belt in a straight line, with his upper 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 Wintermaker, who stretches his arms from Aldebaran in Taurus to Procyon in Canis Minor. When he is in 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.

Addendum

As the scorpion approaches Orion makes a hasty exit

When the scorpion (Scorpius) crawls over the southeastern horizon, Orion takes a powder to the west. This is about 5 a.m. in mid January. Created using Stellarium.

Orion-Wintermaker finder animation

Orion-Wintermaker finder animation for 9 p.m., January 16. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.