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Introduction to Constellations
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Ursa Major

Ursa Major

Slide 26

Draco

Draco

Draco the dragon, 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, eventually ending between the Big and Little Dippers. It can be difficult to trace Draco in the night sky. From the head, follow the body north towards Cepheus. It suddenly shifts south and west, ending up between the two dippers. The end of the constellation is held by Thuban, which was the pole star over 4,000 years ago.

Slide 27

Draco

Draco

Slide 28

Orions Belt

Orions Belt

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Signs of the Zodiac

Signs of the Zodiac

Common Constellations

Slide 30

Aquarius: The Water Bearer

Aquarius: The Water Bearer

In Greek mythology Aquarius was Ganymede, "cup-bearer to the gods". Alpha Aquarii ("Sadalmelik") and beta Aquarii ("Sadalsuud") are twin supergiants with nearly identical names. The names mean, respectively, "The Lucky One of the King" and "The Luckiest of the Lucky". Gamma Aquarii shares in the good fortune: "Sadachbia": "The Lucky Star of Hidden Things" Incidentally, if the "Age of Aquarius" was celebrated in the 1960s, the real event is still some 600 years off: at that time Aquarius will contain the vernal equinox, marking the return of the Sun into the northern celestial hemisphere.

Slide 31

Aquarius: The Water Bearer

Aquarius: The Water Bearer

Slide 32

Aries: the Ram

Aries: the Ram

Aries, "The Ram", is an ancient constellation which was of considerable importance since the sun passed through it at the vernal equinox.

This point has now moved into Pisces, but the vernal equinox is still known as the First Point of Aries. In another six hundred years the point will have moved into Aquarius.

The Ram in question may have been the one whose golden fleece was the object of Jason's quest.

There is some reason to believe that the Greeks just took over a much older horned animal at this time of the year; the horn being a symbol for fecundity, renewal, and so on. As the Sun came into this constellation, at the vernal equinox, the year itself was being renewed.

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