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The constellation Pegasus represents the white, winged horse of Greek
mythology. This beautiful figure can be seen high in the sky starting near the end
of summer and continuing through autumn if you live in the Northern
Hemisphere. If you are below the Equator, look for Pegasus in late winter and
through spring. When looking at the image, it is difficult to see the figure as a
horse. That is because the constellation is actually upside-down! Imagine it
flipped over, and you can see what could be the neck and head of a horse and
two legs sticking out from the famous "Square of Pegasus".
This square represents the front half of the horse's body. Mythologists are still not
sure what happen to the other half of the constellation. The square is very easy
to find in the night sky. The neck and legs of the horse shine brightly on clear
The story behind Pegasus begins with the battle between Perseus and Medusa.
When Perseus severed Medusa's head, drops of blood fell into the sea. They
mixed with sea foam, and Pegasus was born. The white sea foam gave the
horse his brilliant color. Pegasus became friends with the warrior, Bellerophon.
One day, Bellerophon tried to ride Pegasus to Mount Olympus. This angered
Zeus so much that he sent a gadfly to bite Pegasus. When the horse was stung,
Bellerophon fell to the Earth. Pegasus made it to the home of the gods, where he
still remains.
Pegasus is home to several galaxies and even a bright globular cluster.

Perseus was an ancient Greek hero. His mother was Danae, the daughter of
Acrisius, the king of Argos. When a prophecy revealed to Acrisius that his
grandson would kill him, Acrisius imprisoned his daughter Danae to keep her
chaste. Zeus, however, fooled Acrisius' precautions by entering the prison
disguised as a shower of gold. When Acrisius discovered that Danae had given
birth to Perseus, he had the mother and the son thrown into the sea in a chest of
Luckily they reached the island of Seriphos where the king Polydectes offered
them hospitality and protection. Perseus was secretly raised on the island and
became a courageous young man. He was sent to complete a dangerous
Perseus had to fetch the head of the Gorgon Medusa whose head could turn
anyone who looked at it into stone. With the help of Hermes, Perseus
succeeded. On his voyage back to Seriphos, he met the beautiful Andromeda in
Ethiopia and married her. When his triumph became known, he was invited to the
city of Larissa to participate in funeral games in honor of the king.
During the games, Perseus threw a discus and accidentally hit his grandfather
Acrisius, who was watching the games, unaware of his grandson's presence.
Acrisius died fulfilling the prophecy.

The constellation Cetus represents the Sea Monster. It is one of the largest
constellations known.
In classical civilizations, the figure was the giant sea monster that almost ate
Andromeda. King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia were forced leave their
daughter chained to a cliff. When the monster came up to eat her, the hero
Perseus defeated him and later married Andromeda.
Because Cetus is so large, there are only a few months that the complete figure
is visible in the sky. Look for Cetus from October through January. His head is a
circle near the constellation Taurus. His long body stretches towards the
southwest. The larger circle in the constellation is the tail, not the body!
The first variable star ever discovered is in the Sea Monster. It is called Mira, and
was discovered in 1596 by David Fabricius. Mira is located right in the middle of
the body. A few galaxies and one nebula are located near the top of the circle
that makes up Cetus' tail.

In the Northern Hemisphere sky is the constellation Cepheus, king of Ethiopia,
and that of his wife Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia claimed that she and her daughter
Andromeda were more beautiful than the sea nymphs, the Nereids.
Offended, the Nereids complained to the sea god Poseidon, who sent a flood
and a marine monster to destroy Cepheus'land. Cepheus was told that only the
sacrifice of his daughter Andromeda could save the kingdom.
Andromeda was then chained to a sea cliff to be devoured by the sea monster.
At that same moment, Perseus, a famous Greek hero, was traveling along the
coast to the north. Perseus noticed the beautiful Andromeda and immediately fell
in love with her. He decided at once to rescue the young woman.
Perseus used magical sandals that allowed him to fly and the head of the Gorgon
Medusa. Medusa's head had the power to turn anything into stone. Andromeda
and Perseus married and one of their children, Perses, became the king of
Ethiopia when Cepheus died.

According to a Greek legend, the sea god Poseidon placed the figure of
Cassiopeia among the stars. It is said that Cassiopeia has a ridiculous upside-
down position to punish her for having been pretentious. Cassiopeia was very
proud of her beauty. She claimed that she and her daughter Andromeda were
more beautiful than the sea-nymphs, the Nereids.
The nymphs complained to the sea god Poseidon, who threatened to send a sea
monster and flood to destroy Cassiopeia's land. In despair, the king Cepheus
consulted an oracle to prevent the destruction of his reign. The oracle predicted
that only the sacrifice of Andromeda to the monster could appease the wrath of
The king chained Andromeda to a sea cliff. Fortunately, at this same moment,
Perseus, the nephew of the king of Argos, was traveling along the coast. Perseus
noticed the beautiful woman and fell in love with her. Learning of Andromeda's
story, he offered to rescue her if her parents agreed to let him marry their
daughter. With the help of some magical sandals that allowed Perseus to fly, and
a magical sword given to him by the god Hermes, Perseus killed the monster and
married Andromeda.

Taurus is commonly known as The Bull. It passes through the sky from
November through March. Taurus was a very popular constellation in ancient
times, so there are many myths about it.
The Greeks thought the stars represented Zeus in disguise as a white bull. He
tricked Europa into climbing on his back. He then swam out to sea and carried
her to Crete. In Egypt, the constellation was a reminder of Apis, the Bull of
Memphis. He served as a servant to Osiris, god of the Sun.
Just as famous as Taurus is the group of stars within it. The Pleiades are a group
of seven stars that lie on the Bull's shoulder. The Greeks believed these were the
Seven Sisters, daughters of Atlas and Pleione. It was told that they asked Zeus
to place them in the sky to escape Orion, who was desperately pursuing them.
Little did they know that Orion would be placed right next to Taurus in the night
The brightest star in Taurus is Aldebaran. It serves as the eye of the bull and is
near the Hyades, a lesser known but still visible group of stars. The beautiful
Crab Nebula is located above the tip of the bottom horn.

Gemini is one of the more famous constellations. The Twins are best seen during
the winter and spring in the Northern Hemisphere. If you live in the Southern
Hemisphere, look for Gemini in the summer. Gemini is a part of the Zodiac,
which is a group of stars which the Sun travels through each year.
Gemini is very easy to find, just look for the two bright stars called Castor and
Pollux. They represent the heads of the twins, while fainter stars sketch out two
bodies. Gemini is right between Cancer and Taurus. Gemini is one of the few
constellations that actually looks like the figure it represents.
Many different civilizations saw this pair in the sky. Ancient Greeks saw the twins
Castor and Pollux, sons of Leda and Zeus. The Romans saw the brothers
Romulus and Remus, two heroes that founded Rome. Both the Greeks and the
Romans believed the twins were raised by the centaur, Chiron.
There are a few interesting objects to look at around Gemini. There is a cluster of
stars near the foot of the twin on the right, and a nebula near the arm of the twin
on the left.

Orion, the Hunter, is by far the most famous seasonal constellation. No other is
more distinct or bright as this northern winter constellation. The famous Orion's
Belt makes the hunter easy to find in the night sky.
Orion looks very much like a person. First, you should spot Orion's Belt, which is
made of three bright stars in a straight line. One of Orion's legs is represented by
the bright star Rigel, one of the brightest stars in the night sky. His two shoulders
are made of the stars Bellatrix and Betelgeuse. You can see Betelgeuse's
reddish color without a telescope. Other bright stars make up the two arms, one
which holds a shield, and another that carries a club.
Many different civilizations saw this constellation in the sky. The most famous
stories come from Greek and Roman myths. Orion was a famed hunter, and in
one story boasted that no creature could kill him. Hera then sent a scorpion to
sting the hunter. Orion smashed the animal with his club, but not before he was
poisoned. Both are now on opposite sides of the sky. They cannot be seen at the
same time.
A different story tells of the love between Orion and the goddess, Artemis. One
day, Orion was swimming out in the sea. Apollo, who very much disliked the
man, bet his sister that she couldn't hit the object in the sea with her bow.
Artemis didn't realize it was her lover, and shot Orion with an arrow. When she
later found out what she had done, she honored the hunter by putting him in the
There are several clusters and nebulae to view in this awesome constellation.
The famous Orion Nebula is located in Orion's sword, which hangs from the belt.
It is so bright, that even the naked eye can see the fuzzy patch. It looks
spectacular even with a small telescope or binoculars. There are numerous other
objects in Orion, so scan the constellation with a telescope or binoculars on a
clear night!

Draco the dragon is a circumpolar constellation, which means it revolves around
the North pole. It can be seen all year round. Draco is only present in the
Northern Hemisphere, so those living in the Southern Hemisphere will never see
this long constellation.
The easiest way to spot Draco is by finding his head. It consists of four stars in a
trapezoid, burning brightly just north of Hercules. From there, the tail slithers
through the sky, ending between the Big and Little Dippers. The end of the
constellation is held by Thuban, which was the pole star over 4,000 years ago.
Several galaxies and even one nebula is found within the constellation. The Cat's
Eye Nebula is a favorite among astronomers.
Many myths revolve around this chaotic dragon. It is said in Greek myth that a
serpent named Ladon guarded the golden apple tree. One of the twelve labors of
Hercules was to steal apples from this well-guarded tree.

Hercules, the great Greek warrior, can be seen kneeling in the sky for northern
latitudes throughout the Spring months. Hercules first becomes visible in the east
in April, and works his way high across the night sky through October. From the
southern hemisphere, he appears low in the north. Four relatively bright stars
form what is commonly known as the Keystone. Hercules' arms and legs extend
from this central square.
By far the most exciting object to see in Hercules is the magnificent globular
cluster M13, which is visible in dark night skies even without binoculars or a
telescope. This cluster of 300,000 stars appears as a faint fuzzy spot to the
naked eye. It is located between the stars which form the western side of the
Many other constellations, like Leo, the Lion, Hydra, the nine-headed Serpent,
and Draco, the Dragon, were unfortunate victims of Hercules, and thus were also
placed in the sky. Cancer, the Crab was sent by Hera to annoy Hercules in his
battles, and became yet another victim of the hero.

Ursa Major

Ursa Major is probably the most famous constellation, with the exception of
Orion. Also known as the Great Bear, it has a companion called Ursa Minor, or
Little Bear. The body and tail of the bear make up what is known as the Big
Dipper. Also called names such as the Plough, the Wain and even the Wagon,
this constellation has a lot of history behind it.
Several different cultures saw a big bear in the sky. The ancient Greeks had a
few different stories to explain how the animal ended up there. In one story, Hera
discovered Zeus was having an affair with Callisto and turned her into a bear.
Zeus put her in the sky along with her son, Arcas, who became the Little Bear.
Ursa Major is full of unique celestial objects. Two of the stars, Dubhe and Merak,
are pointer stars. If you are looking at the Big Dipper, the outer edge stars that
make up the "bowl" of the dipper are the two stars, with Merak being the one on
top. Connect a line between the two, and extend it north a distance about five
times the distance between them. It will connect with the North Star, Polaris.
If you connect the handle of the dipper with a line, it will lead to the star, Arcturus,
in the constellation, Bootes. In one Greek myth, the star represented the
guardian, Arcturus, who kept the bears from straying from their path. Above the
head of the bear are two galaxies, M81 and M82. Both are 12 million light years
away, but M81 is one of the brightest galaxies in the sky. Finally, the Owl Nebula
is located to the lower left of Dubhe. It is so named because some photographs
reveal what looks like a pair of eyes.
Most of the constellation is circumpolar, which means it can be viewed all year
long. However, parts of the legs will disappear from the sky in the fall and
reappear in the winter.

Ursa Minor
Ursa Minor, also called the Little Dipper, is a circumpolar constellation. This
means it never sets in the northern sky. The true figure represented by the stars
is the Little Bear. Its counterpart is Ursa Major, or the Great Bear.
There are several mythological stories behind these famous constellations. In
Greek myth, Zeus was having an affair with the lovely Callisto. When his wife,
Hera, found out she changed Callisto into a bear. Zeus put the bear in the sky
along with the Little Bear, which is Callisto's son, Arcas. In other myths, the
constellation is not a bear at all, but is in fact a dog.
Unfortunately, there aren't as many interesting objects in Ursa Minor as there are
in Ursa Major. Probably the most important of all is the last star in the tail. This
spot is held by the North Star, Polaris. Many think it is called the North Star

because it is very bright. But actually, it is quite dim. Instead, the name comes
from the fact that it doesn't move from its spot in the night sky.
There aren't any nebulae or star clusters present in Ursa Minor. There is a
unique circle of stars called the "engagement ring" slightly below Polaris. They
can be viewed with binoculars or a telescope. An easy way to find Polaris is by
using the pointer stars. Dubhe and Merak make up the right edge of the "bowl" in
the Big Dipper. Connect them with a straight line and continue north. You will run
right into the North Star.

Cygnus, the Swan, is also known as the Northern Cross because of its shape.
The tail of the swan is marked by the bright star Deneb, Arabic for "tail". Three
fainter stars cross the line between Deneb and the head of the swan, Albireo.
Cygnus flies southward along the summer Milky Way, and into the Summer
Deneb is a bright, blue supergiant star, very young as stars go. Albireo, the bill of
the swan, is actually two stars which show a spectacular amber and blue
contrast. Cygnus is also sprinkled with a variety of nebulae, including the North
American Nebula and the Veil Nebula.
The identity of Cygnus is uncertain. He could be Zeus in the guise in which he
seduced Leda, the mother of Helen of Troy. In one myth, Cygnus is a friend of
Phaethon, the son of Apollo, the sun god. Phaethon fell into the river Eridanus,
trying to drive the sun-gods chariot. Cygnus dove repeatedly into the water to
search for Phaethon. Out of pity, Zeus turned the boy into a swan

Canis Major
Canis Major is known as the Great Dog. In Greek myth, it is said that this
constellation, along with Canis Minor, are Orion's hunting dogs. Canis Major was
one of the most important constellations in ancient times because the brightest
star in the sky is part of it.
Sirius, the Dog Star, is one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Only the
Moon, Venus, Jupiter and Mars are brighter. Those that lived near the Nile River
used the star to signal the flooding of the Nile. This special occasion represented
the return from the dead of the Sun god Osiris.
Canis Major is very easy to find during the months of November through March.
First locate Orion the Hunter, and imagine a straight line through his belt. Follow
the line to the southeast, and you will see Sirius perched right below it. Sirius is
the nose of the dog. His body stretches to the southeast, and his front leg is to
the west of Sirius.


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