February 26, 2017

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Microscopium – the microscope

Having named one southern constellation after a telescope, Lacaille named another after the microscope. The two star groups are beside each other. It seemed only right since each of these inventions expanded our level of consciousness by orders of magnitude, albeit in opposite dimensions of space. From sub-atomics to the multi-verse, the science of optics […]

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February 19, 2017

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Monoceros – the unicorn

The constellation Monoceros was invented to fill in a big gap in the winter sky. The ancient star watchers don’t seem to have been overly concerned about the sky in a cartographical sense, so they recognized Orion and Hydra and associated them with mythical stories, but they left the dim area in between as a […]

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February 12, 2017

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Musca – the fly

The southern constellation of Musca represents a lowly fly. When Johann Bayer added it to his maps he called it “The Bee” and folks liked that name for a couple of hundred years. But then some map maker called it The Fly except there was already a fly up north which was part of Aries […]

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February 5, 2017

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Norma – the carpenter’s square

Norma is a southern constellation and the name refers to the thingy a carpenter uses to make stuff look normal. It’s a good example of how the name for a group of stars can rapidly evolve. It was first named by a French guy, Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, who called it “l’Equerre et la Regle.” […]

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January 29, 2017

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Octans – the octant

The southernmost constellation in the whole sky, Octans, is named after a celestial navigation instrument called an octant, which is better than a quadrant, but not as good as a sextant, and no where as good as GPS. Isaac Newton invented the quadrant which was a handy way of finding your way across an ocean […]

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January 22, 2017

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Ophiuchus – the serpent bearer

The constellation of Ophiuchus represents a big guy who figured out how to kill snakes and then bring them back to life. He figured if it worked on snakes it should work on humans too. The gods killed him of course, because they’re gods and that’s what they do. Here’s a bit of trivia for […]

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January 15, 2017

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Orion and Artemis

Orion – the hunter

After the Big Dipper, Orion is easily the most known and the most pointed out constellation by the people who recognize at least some of them. There is the obvious belt, although Orion lived BP (Before Pants) so he wears a short skirt, or kilt or such, and below that hangs his big, um sword. […]

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January 8, 2017

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Pavo – the peacock

There is a constellation way down in the southern part of the sky named Pavo which means Peacock, and its brightest star is named Peacock. Coincidence? Are there really any coincidences? Twenty four hours in a day, twenty four beers in a case. Okay that one maybe. Although those pesky Romans and the Egyptians both […]

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January 1, 2017

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Pegasus – the winged horse

One of the bigger autumn constellations is in the Perseus group, Pegasus. It’s just the front half of a horse, and the wings of course. These figures in the sky are not always the whole figure, sometimes it’s half. It’s good that they chose to use the front half of the horse because if they […]

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December 25, 2016

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Perseus – the hero

The story behind the constellations of Perseus and those of his group is an ancient tale that is usually told from the perspective of the hero himself. It’s his patriarchal privilege. There were two brothers, Acrisius and Proetus, who always quarreled with each other. Proetus became infatuated with his brother’s daughter, Danaë. The creepy uncle […]

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December 18, 2016

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Phoenix – the mythical bird

Most constellations are a Latin word that translates to some generic thing. But a few are their own translation such as a specific person’s name. The Phoenix is a unique mythical bird that is pretty much only known as Phoenix, the bird that’s hard to get rid of. As we all learned in mythology class, […]

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December 11, 2016

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Pictor – the painter’s easel

Pictor is part of the Lacaille Group, the handful of constellations named after a bunch of 18th century stuff by a 18th century French guy. In this case it is the easel which held the artist’s canvas in the days before Photoshop. Fun fact, the word “easel” is the old german word for “donkey” and […]

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