Gemini – the twins

June 18, 2017


The constellation of Gemini represents the twin sons of Jupiter, whose names are Castor and Pollux. Those two boys are also represented by the bright stars that are drawn as the heads of the figures when you connect the dots. Ptolemy added Gemini to his maps a couple of thousand years ago when he was the head honcho of the university in Alexandria, Egypt during its heyday.

The association of these stars with twins goes way back before that, at least to the Babylonians except they called them Meshlamtaea and Lugalirra. To the Babylonians they were a couple of mischievous gods but to the Greeks they were twin sons, same mother, different fathers. Like a lot of Greek stories, the details of just how that worked are kind of sketchy.

Castor is designated as alpha which means it’s the brightest except it’s clearly not. That’s kind of messed up but best not to dwell on such things. On closer examination and analysis Castor is shown to be six stars all buzzing around each other in complicated and chaotic orbits, a whole family unto itself. Don’t tell that to your astrologer or I’m guessing they’ll work it into your chart and charge you extra. Pollux, which is designated beta although the brighter of the pair, is an only child and an orange giant.

M35 is a pretty decent open cluster, a group of newly born stars whose mother is a nebula of mostly hydrogen. The cluster is about a half of a degree wide which is a lot more degrees than it sounds. You’ll need a low power eyepiece to fit it all into one view. In my log book I describe it as “a bunch of stars.” Look for it just off of the toes of Castor’s foot. It’s like he’s kicking a soccer ball, or a foot ball, or volley ball, or I don’t know, some kind of sportly ball which has been decorated with a bunch of stars.

The Eskimo Nebula should probably be renamed the Inuit Nebula out of respect for those peoples because Inuit is what they are. It is also known as the Clown Face Nebula so not a whole lot of respect there for either the Inuit or for Clowns.

The Jellyfish Nebula is a supernova remnant. There is something weird about it, besides looking like a jellyfish. It is a bubble split into two halves, and they are different sizes. What’s the deal there? If you splash around in the bath the bubbles can split into two bubbles of different sizes, but that’s not what is happening here. There are two half-bubbles. In the middle of the mess is a neutron star and those things are known for pulling pranks like this so I would start the investigation by calling it in for questioning. On the other hand there is a suspicious wall of hydrogen in the vicinity of one of the sides that is likely hampering the full bubblization process. So I would definitely send a forensic team over there to gather evidence as well. Then probably let the neutron star go with a warning.

Aristotle reported seeing Jupiter occult a star in Gemini which is interesting because we can pinpoint that event as December 5, 337 BCE. I once saw an eclipse of the sun in Gemini and we can pinpoint that event as July 11, 1991 CE.

William Herschel discovered Uranus in Gemini and Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in Gemini. We can pinpoint both of those events if you feel pinpointing things is really necessary.

Geminid Meteors arrive to joyous acclaim each year around December 14. The shower is somewhat unique in that it is caused by the debris of a passing asteroid as opposed to a comet. Some asteroids have identity issues and behave like comets, not that I’m judging. Be who you are, or be who you think you are. Let society deal with the debris.

People born under the sign of Gemini are sometimes twins but usually not.

Carpe Noctem

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