Delphinus, represents a dolphin, swimming across our celestial ocean east of the bright star Altair in Aquilla. The constellation lies along the southern border of the milky way (north of, but close to the celestial equator.) It is neither large nor bright, but it is a distinctive constellation and once you find it, you will always remember it. It doesn't take much imagination to see a tiny dolphin in this figure. The diamond represents the body and a line to the fifth star forms the tail. Delphinus is visible worldwide except for the Antarctic.
Delphinus was one of Ptolemy's original constellations from around 1200BC. The Greeks may have inherited the dolphin idea from India where it was known as a dolphin even earlier. The Arabs called the constellation Al Ka'ud, "the Riding Camel." Early Christians referred to the four main stars as Job's coffin.
Another story about Delphinus is the story of the beautiful nereid Amphitrite. Ovid writes that Neptune saw her dancing on the island of Naxos, fell in love, and did what any self-respecting god would do: He kidnapped her. One version of the story has her escape and flee to the farthest end of the ocean. One of Neptune's dolphins found her, and persuaded her that the god of the sea wasn't so bad. In gratitude, Neptune placed the dolphin in the sky.
The Chumash tribe of California call this dolphin A'LUL'QUOY. It means "to go in peace and to protect." It is said that when the Chumash migrated to the mainland, their grandmother, Hutash built them a rainbow bridge on which to cross. She warned them not to look down as they were crossing or they would fall down into the sea and die. Some did look down and fall, but because of her great love for her children, she turned them into dolphins before they hit the water.
The Aborigine of Australia have a story about this group of stars. They hold the dolphin as very sacred, the wise, older brother. When a member of the tribe dies, his spirit becomes a dolphin. They believe the dolphins in the ocean span the physical and spiritual world to guide and protect their brothers and sisters who have chosen to go through this life in human form. In their deepest meditation, their "dolphin dreamtime," the dolphins give them the answers to all of their tribal questions and decisions. Also, to kill a dolphin is seen as sacrilege, and will invoke the wrath of the Gornge, the 'executioner.'
The Demeter goddess looked for its Persefone daughter, who had been raptada by Hades. When it passed by the region of Atica, one felt thirsty and it requested water to drink a called woman Misme. The goddess drank with such avidity that caused the laughter of Ascxabalo, a son of Misme. Angered of which they smiled themselves of her threw on him the rest of the water and the boy became lizard or lacerta like Latin nomenclature of the constellation.
Lacerta, is a smallest constellation of the located North hemisphere between the magnificencia of the swan (Cygnus) and Andromeda. One is immersed in the Milky Way but there are no shining stars within her, therefore, it is not easy his identification. Lacerta is visible during the nights of summer and autumn in the North hemisphere and during the month of August in the South hemisphere closely together of the horizon since he is not circumpolar but +50º by the central zone of the same one crosses the parallel, therefore for the inhabitants of the South hemisphere culminates to low height.
Centred on a region of the sky without apparently bright stars, Lacerta was not regarded as a constellation by ancient astronomers. Johannes Hevelius created the constellation in 1687, though Augustin Royer created Sceptrum (the Hand of Justice and Sceptre) to honor Louis XIV in 1670 and Johann Elert Bode created Frederici Honores (Frederick's Glory) to honor Frederick the Great in 1787. Both Sceptrum and Frederici Honores are now obsolete, while Lacerta still survives.
Pegasus is the famous winged horse connected with the legends of Perseus and Andromeda. It is said that the animal was created from the blood of the monster Medusa which Perseus killed. Pegasus lived on Mt. Helicon and was said to have struck his hoof upon the ground and caused a fountain of water to gush forth. He was tamed by Neptune or Minerva and sometimes used by Jupiter to carry thunder and lightning. The symbol of the winged horse is found as far back as 430 BC on coins.
The ancient Hebrews saw this group of stars as a balance. The romans gave it the name of Libra and said it was the balance of Aestraea, the goddess of justice. The Greeks stole some of Libra's stars and used them as the claws of the scorpion, Scorpius.
The story of Ophiuchus and Serpens is also connected with Scorpius and Orion. Orion was a great hunter and although his skills truly were good, he had an ego which exceeded his boasting. One day, Orion, no doubt to impress some fem fatale nearby, made the claim that he could, and might, kill all beasts. Whether or not the female was impressed, we shall never know, but certainly the gods were not. In fact, Orion's boasting annoyed the gods who, in their best tradition decided to set Orion straight. And so the gods sent the Scorpion to Earth to sting Orion on the heel, with the idea that the great hunter would fail to notice such a small animal. They were right and Orion was stung. This act is actually portrayed among the constellations themselves, for, as Scorpius rises in the eastern sky, Orion dies and sets in the western horizon.
But that is not the end to our story, for there are always those who will meddle with the affairs of Earthly beings. On this particular occasion, it was a man known as Asclepius, who was a great legendary healer. Asclepius healed Orion and promptly ground the scorpion under his foot. Again, this is portrayed in the skies as Orion rising in the east as Scorpius, directly under the feet of Ophiuchus, sets in the west.
The name Ophiuchus is derived from the Greek word for "serpent handler." There is no healer or god with the name Ophiuchus, but he has always been associated with Asclepius. Eventually they both became known by Ophiuchus.
Asclepius/Ophiuchus with serpent entwined around his head and arms, has long been a symbol of the medical profession. Ophiuchus was actually raised by the kind centaur Chiron who taught medical skills to the boy. Over time, Ophiuchus became an incredible healer. Indeed, he could even bring the dead back, and Hades, who ruled the underworld, complained to Zeus that his realm was threatened. Finally, Zeus struck Ophiuchus down with a thunderbolt, but placed him in the sky so that he might be remembered.
Scutum is the only constellation that owes its name to a non-classical historical figure. It was created in 1684 by Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius (Jan Heweliusz), who originally named it Scutum Sobiescianum (Shield of Sobieski) to commemorate the victory of the Polish forces led by King John III Sobieski (Jan III Sobieski) in the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Later, the name was shortened to Scutum. Five bright stars of Scutum was a latter designation of 1,6,2,3 and 9 Aquilae
Scutum contains several open clusters, as well as a globular cluster and a planetary nebula. The two best known deep sky objects in Scutum are M11 (the Wild Duck Cluster) and the open cluster M26 (NGC 6694). The globular cluster NGC 6712 and the planetary nebula IC 1295 can be found in the eastern part of the constellation, only 24 arcminutes apart.
The most prominent open cluster in Scutum is the Wild Duck Cluster, M11. It was named by William H. Smyth in 1844 for its resemblance in the eyepiece to a flock of ducks in flight. The cluster, 6200 light-years from Earth and 20 light-years in diameter, contains approximately 3000 stars, making it a particularly rich cluster. It is 220 million years old.
Aquarius the water bearer may have this association with water because the Sun used to pass through it during the rainy season. References to it being associated with water go back to Babylonian times. It is surrounded by other watery constellations, Delphinus, Cetus, Capricornus, Eridanus and others. The traditional figure is seen as a man pouring water from a jar. It has also been shown as a large jar or urn from which water pours.
Babylonians associated the water bearer with the 11th month, Shabatu, the Curse of Rain which was their January and February. The Romans did not see the constellation associated with water, but called it the Peacock, symbol of Juno.
Aquila has been known as the eagle as far back as 1200BC where it was found pictured on an old Euphratean uraanographic stone. The Persians, Hebrews, Arabs, Greeks and Latins all saw this constellation as an eagle. Aquila is supposed to be the eagle, who belonged to Zeus, carried Ganymede to his place in the sky. The Romans tell a story of how this eagle helped Jupiter in his battle with the Titans for control of the universe. In China, Japan and Korea, this group of three bright stars becomes the shepherd in the love story of the princess and the magpie bridge. The remaining stars in the area become the oxen of the herder. See the history and lore of Lyra.
Leo is an impressive and easy to recognize constellation, dominating the spring skies in the northern hemisphere and autumn skies in the southern hemisphere. Leo is the fifth zodiac constellation and the one most easily recognized: the crouching lion facing westward, with a distinctive head and mane marked by a sickle of stars which look like a backwards question mark. The brightest star is Regulus, which lies south of the pointer stars in the Big Dipper and to the northwest of Virgo. Leo's midnight culmination is around March 1.
The lion has been identified with the Sun since the earliest Mesopotamian civilizations. In the formative period of settled civilizations in Mesopotamia and Egypt, some five millennia ago, the Sun's passage at midday through this area of the sky coincided with the midsummer solstice. Leo was therefore the constellation of high summer, which is manifestly the realm of the Sun.
The Dendera zodiac , or planisphere is a large sandstone medallion that shows many ancient constellations and asterisms. It was discovered on a ceiling in 1799 by one of Napoleon's officers in the temple of Isis at Dendera, which is located on the Nile River about 60 km north of Luxor. This star map is believed to date from the time of Cleopatra in the first century BC and to depict sky figures that were known in Egypt at that time, both indigenous as well as those borrowed from Mesopotamia and Greece. The Dendera planisphere shows a lion in the part of the sky that we associate with Leo.
The gates of the Egyptian canals irrigating the Nile valley were often decorated with a lion's head.
This portion of the sky lies in the direction of the great Virgo Cluster of galaxies, the nearest large galaxy cluster to the Milky Way. The Virgo Cluster is centered about 50 million light years from Earth, about 700,000 times farther from us that are the bright stars of Leo.
Around 240 B.C., Leo was robbed of his splendid tail. The astronomer-priest under Ptolemy III chopped of the tail of Leo when they invented the new constellation Coma Berenices (Berenice's Hair).
In Roman mythology, Leo is identified with the Nemean lion that Hercules was required to skin a huge lion whose pelt was impervious to stone of metal. Having wrestled it with his bare hands and choked it to death, he used the beast's own claws to skin it. He then took the pelt as a cloak if invulnerable armor and donned the lion's head as a helmet.
Leo is also said to be the lion in the tragic tale of the lovers Pyramus and Thisbe. In his Metamorphoses, Ovid tells how their parents forbade them to marry. The two talked secretly through a chink in the wall between their houses and one day made a plan to meet outside the city beside a certain mulberry tree with white berries. When Thisbe came to the meeting place, Pyramus was not there, but she was startled by a lion, bloody from a kill. As she ran away, her veil slipped and fluttered past the lion which snatched it with it's paw. When Pyramus arrived he saw Thisbe's torn veil, bloody from the Lion and assumed that his love had been killed. In anguish, he killed himself with his sword but at that moment, Thisbe ran back and flung herself on her dead lover's body before taking the sword and thrusting it into her own flesh. Their blood colored the white mulberries red and they have remained this way ever since. Zeus placed the veil in the sky as Coma Berenices, floating down by the lion.
The name Regulus is believed to have originated with the astronomer Copernicus and means "the little king." In the ancient Sumerian civilization, Regulus was known as the Star of the King. Along the Euphrates, Regulus was known as "The Flame," or the "Red Fire." In the Ancient World, it was believed that this star made a contribution towards the heat of summer. Around 2300BC, the summer solstice was located near Regulus, meaning that around that period, the Sun was located near Regulus at the start of summer, and the combined heat of the Sun and Regulus was believed to produce the excessive heat of that season. This role later became that of Sirius from the precessional shift of the Earth's axis.
In the ancient Chinese zodiac, these stars were said to represent a horse.
Regulus is one of the four Royal Stars of the ancient Persians. The other three are Aldebaran, Antares and Fomalhaut.
The constellation Virgo represents Astraea. She is the daughter of Jupiter and Themis. Astraea was most beautiful and revered by all those upon the Earth. She is said to be the goddess of justice. When wickedness spread through mankind, Astraea was offended and went to the sky where she would no longer have to tolerate what she despised so much.
Legend tells us that Hydra was a terrible monster that lived in the marshes of Lerna. The beast has numerous heads with the added horror that if a head was cut off, two would instantly grow back in its place. Hercules and his nephew Iolaus decided to hunt down Hydra and kill it. Hercules would cut off a head and Ioleus immediately burn the wound to prevent the heads from growing back. The central head of the monster was immortal, but Hercules overcame this obstacle by burying it under a rock. The Egyptians said this group of stars was the river Nile's starry counterpart.
Boötes has a variety of myths and legends connected with it. One of the oldest says it represents the son of Zeus and a nymph, Callisto. Boötes was sent away and penniless by his brother. Left to pick his own fate, Boötes invented a plow which was pulled by oxen. He farmed the land and made a decent living. Callisto was so pleased she convinced Zeus to place their son and his plow in the sky. Boötes was known as the female wolves by the Arabs, and the Hebrews called it the barking dog. Homer referred to Boötes in the Odyssey so it is an ancient constellation and may be one of the first recorded. In another early chart, Boötes is shown running and holding a spear. He is accompanied by two hunting dogs, Asterion and Chara that form the constellation Canes Vanatici. Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation has a great deal of information connected with it. it was known as the "Watcher" and by the Arabs and the "Keeper of the Heavens." To the Shawnee Indians of the southeast US, Arcturus represented a great hunter known as White Hawk.
The Chaldeans first gave the name Cancer to this group of stars which they claimed represented a crab. They felt that a crab, which walks backwards, typifies the sun's motion when it is in this area of the zodiac. During this time. We refer to the 23.5 N latitude as the Tropic of Cancer as it marks the northernmost point at which the sun is directly overhead at noon. The Greeks refer to Cancer as being the crab sent by Hera to attack Hercules while he was battling the nine-headed monster Hydra. The little crab bit Hercules' toes and was crushed in the end. In honor of its bravery, Hera placed it in the sky. M44, the Beehive cluster in the center of Cancer has an interesting history in weather forecasting. Pliny the Elder wrote that "if Praesepe is not visible in a clear sky, it foretells the coming of a violent storm." This simply meant that a turbulent atmosphere makes seeing dim objects more difficult, and such an atmosphere often precedes a storm.
Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown is, according to legend, a crown given to Ariadne in honor of her loyalty to Theseus. In ancient Athens there lived the Minotaur, a monster half man half bull. The Athenians were supposed to offer some of their young men and women each year to the beast, otherwise, he would terrorize the city. The Minotaur resided in the labyrinth of Crete. One year, Ariadne's lover Theseus was chosen as one of the unfortunate to be offered to the Minotaur. Theseus was determined not to die and vowed to kill the monster. Ariadne gave him a sword and a spool of thread and Theseus entered the labyrinth. He unwound the thread as he progressed into the labyrinth and when he came upon the Minotaur he slew the monster. Theseus used the thread to find his way back out where his loved one waited. Though he married Ariadne , he later deserted her. The gods felt pity for her and gave her a beautiful crow n which after her death, was placed in the sky.
Centaurus is one of the brightest of the southern constellations. There are actually two centaurs in this constellation, Chiron and Pholus. These mythical half man half horse lived in the southern Peloponnesus. Hercules journeyed through their area and spent time with Pholus. Over dinner, Hercules opened a cask of wine which belonged to all the centaurs. Pholus tried to warn Hercules, but when the cask was opened, all centaurs stormed in and Hercules had to defend himself. Hercules fought the Centaurs who eventually fled to cower at the feet of the immortal Chiron. During the battle, Chiron was accidently hit with one of Hercules arrows. Hercules was devastated at this because Chiron was his former teacher. Chiron's wound would not heal, but he could not die. Chiron was in agony and finally Prometheus felt sorry for the centaur and took his immortality. Chiron died and was placed in the sky. Pholus was also killed accidentally when he dropped one of Hercules poisoned arrow shafts on himself. Pholus too was placed in the sky with Chiron.
Corvus the crow is a small constellation situated beside Crater the cup and Hydra the water snake. One legend connects them all. According to this story, Apollo sent the crow to fetch water for a sacrifice to Jupiter. The crow flew off but got waylaid by a fig tree waiting for the fruit to ripen. Much later, the crow returned to Apollo with a water snake in his claws, claiming it was the snake's fault for the delay. Apollo knew better and for punishment placed the bird in the sky, beside the cup of water. Then Apollo placed the water snake beside them with the task of preventing the crow from drinking.
Aries the ram was known to the Arabs as "Al Hamal" the sheep. It has also been called the Leader of the Zodiac. Legend tells us that this is the ram that Zeus changed into when he was being pursued by the giants. It is also the source of the golden fleece connected with the Argonauts quest. This ram, was sent by Hermes to rescue the prince, Phrixus. The ram carried the prince to safety on the other side of the Black Sea. The ram was then sacrificed and the fleece was given to the King and later recovered by the Argonauts including Hercules, Castor, Pollux and Orpheus. Aries was probably first added to the zodiac by the Babylonians when the constellation marked the position of the vernal equinox during the period between 1800 BC and AD 1. China knew these stars as both the dog and the white tiger.
The constellation of Auriga the Charioteer appears in the Greek charts by Eudoxus in the 4th century BC. In one Greek legend, Auriga represents Erichthonius, a King of Athens and the son of Vulcan and Minerva. Auriga was deformed and his difficulty in walking led him to invent the four horse chariot. This invention brought him a place of honor in the sky. In another legend, Auriga was the son of Mercury. He trained chariot horses and his animals were said to be the fastest there were. The bright star Capella also has some legend about it. It is reputed to represent the goat that suckled Jupiter. At some point Jupiter accidentally broke off a horn. Jupiter made this piece of horn magical in that it could be filled with whatever the possessor wished for. It was given the name Cornucopia, or "horn of plenty." In India, Capella was worshipped as the heart of Brahma. English poets have called Capella the shepherd's star.
Cetus is the legendary whale, or sea monster. Often it is the sea monster that was sent to devour Andromeda in the Cassiopeia ordeal. The Babylonians referred to this area of the sky as the chaos of the deep and Aratus called this group of stars the dusky monster.
From ancient times, the two brightest stars in this constellation have been known as twins of one form or another. Castor and Pollux have been called twin peacocks by the Arabs, twin sprouting plants by the Egyptians, and twin deities by the Hindus. From classic times the groups of stars have been known as the twins Castor and Pollux, sons of Jupiter and Leda. Castor raised exceptional horses, and Pollux was a warrior. The two joined the Argonauts on their search for the golden fleece, and joined the Roman soldiers in battles. The twins were also favorites of sailors. The effect known as St. Elmo's fire (the electrical charges seen around ships riggings in storms) was known as Ledean lights.
Monoceros is a relatively new constellation, as opposed to many which date back as old as a few thousand years. It is believed to have been invented by the astronomer Bartsch, though there are some reports that it dates back to 1564. The four stars which make up the "body" of the unicorn are also the 4 stars which the Chinese call the 4 great canals. As a unicorn, it resembles a horse with a long horn protruding from its forehead. Legend states that if the unicorn is pursued it leaps from a high cliff and lands horn first. The horn breaks off, cushioning the fall and leaving the unicorn unharmed to escape.
Orion is one of the oldest and best known constellations. It is also one of the easiest to pick out. Orion is the legendary great hunter of the Greek mythology. It was said he was the most beautiful of men and the most skillful of hunters. Unfortunately Orion accepted this praise with utter confidence it was true, and then some. He began boasting of his skills, claiming to have total superiority over all creatures. Quite naturally, this annoyed the gods that be and they decided to punish him for his greatly inflated ego. Firmly believing in capitol punishment, the gods sent Scorpius, the scorpion was to earth to sting Orion's foot, and kill him. Diana, an admirer of Orion (and his ego) implored the gods to place the great hunter in the sky to remember him by. This they agreed to, so long as they also placed the scorpion there to warn against such nasty crimes as ego. In Orion's last dying breaths he begged not to be placed near the scorpion. And so, Orion dominates the winter skies while Scorpius' domain is the summer skies.
Perseus is said to be the son of Zeus and Danae. His grandfather King Acrisius was told by a cleric that his daughter's son would kill him. Acrisius decided to take no chances and set Danae and Perseus adrift in a wooden chest, hoping the sea would carry them away and they would perish. Fate was kind to the two however, and only the next day they were blown ashore on an island where they befriended the fisherman and soon had a happy home. Then the King Polydectes fell in love with Danae, but did not want Perseus in the picture. And so Polydectes let it be known that, above all else, he wished for the head of Medusa as a wedding present. Eager to please, Perseus set off to win the prize. With some magical items given him by some of the other gods, Perseus was able to slay Medusa. Flying home aboard Pegasus, the winged horse, Perseus made a detour to accommodate the rescue of Andromeda.
Taurus is one of the ancient constellations. There are many stories from many cultures about this group of stars and the smaller asterisms, the Hyades and Pleiades.
Many cultures saw this constellation as a bull, including the Greeks. In their story, Jupiter developed romantic intentions toward Europa, who was not impressed and would have nothing to do with the god. Pulling a slight of hand, Jupiter changed himself into a white bull and wandered towards Europa who was picking flowers in a nearby field. Europa was impressed and petted the snowy white coat and finally got on the bull's back. Immediately the bull dashed away and bore the helpless Europa back to Crete. There, Jupiter revealed himself. Whether Europa was impressed by Jupiter's shape shifting abilities or Jupiter himself, she married him. Taurus is said to represent that bull.
The Pleiades are said to represent seven sisters. There are countless stories about how they came to reside there. One story tells that they were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. When Atlas was given the task of holding the world on his shoulders, the daughters were so grief stricken that the gods felt sorry for them and transformed them into the stars. In another story, the great hunter Orion took a liking to all of the sisters and pursued them incessantly. In an apparent attack of conscience, and seeing as it was not himself doing the chasing, Jupiter felt sorry for the girls and placed them in the sky to allow them to escape Orion.
The Hyades have long been associated with rainy weather, no doubt because they rise in the fall, often a rainy season. The Arabs referred to this group of stars as the "Little she-camels." According to the Greeks, the Hyades were five sisters who belonged to Atlas. The Hyades were said to be half sisters to the Pleiades, apparently Atlas got around! In any case, the five sisters were changed into stars because of grief over their brother Hyas who had been killed by a wild boar.