Behind the Constellations (This Side of the Pond)

In astronomy, mythology on July 18, 2013 at 17:40

From: Behind the Constellations, This Side of the Pond, Cambridge Blog,

The Roman astronomer Ptolemy identified 48 constellations in the Almagest around 150 AD. Today, there are 88 on the official list of the International Astronomical Union. Since the days of ancient civilizations (think Homer, the pyramids, etc.), people have been watching the stars and telling stories about them. As a result, there are many varying and contradictory myths for different clusters of stars.


Scorpius, the scorpion

Orion, the Hunter

Orion, the Hunter

In Greek antiquity, Orion was a strong hunter, the son of Poseidon, who claimed he could hunt any animal. A jealous Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, sent a scorpion after Orion. After a vicious battle, Orion was stung by the scorpion, and Zeus immortalized them both in the night sky. Orion can be seen hunting in the winter, but is chased away when Scorpius emerges in the summer sky—the two constellations never appear in the sky together.

Orion is one of the most famous constellations, and an easy one to identify with the naked eye. The hunter stands with his bow and arrow drawn. A row of three stars form Orion’s belt in the center of the constellation, from which hangs his sword, where one can begin to make out the Orion nebula, or star nursery. Orion’s right shoulder and left foot are the stars Betelgeuse and Rigel, respectively, two of the brightest stars in the night sky. Both of these stars are supergiants nearing the end of their lives. When it dies, Betelgeuse will explode in a supernova.

On the opposite side of the sky, the tail and claws of Orion’s nemesis, the scorpion, is visible. Scorpius, or Scorpio, is one of the twelve constellations of the zodiac, the path through which the planets pass in Earth’s annual orbit. Adapted from Babylonian astrology over 4000 years ago, the zodiac is a celestial coordinate system that has been used since ancient times to predict events on Earth. Your astrological sign is one of the twelve zodiac constellations the Sun was passing directly through on the day you were born.

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Reposted with permission from: This Side of the Pond, Cambridge Blog


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