Delphinus – the dolphin

July 30, 2017


Delphinus is a small summer constellation which represents a dolphin. It’s one on Ptolemy’s maps which means it goes way back. It looks like a kite.

At some point in history a few brighter stars, the kite-ish part but disregarding the tail, came to be known as Job’s Coffin. Job you may remember is the guy in the Bible who becomes a game piece in a cosmic competition between the forces of good and evil. God commissions Satan to torture Job, murder his family, and kill his cows in an effort to demonstrate the conundrum of primitive moral dualism.

Three of Job’s friends come to visit, from each of the three most influential neighboring cultures, and thus conveniently provide those three perspectives. The basic cosmology being sorted out here is the one that depends on tiny invisible demons and angels who sit on our shoulders and give us competing advice. But to make a short story shorter, Job gets better and then dies. If the shape of Delphinus is any indication, the craftsman who made his coffin had been drinking heavily.

There are two semi-famous stars in Delphinus because of their mysterious names, Sualocin and Rotanev. The names seem to have their beginning in the Palermo Star Catalogue of 1814. An astronomer named Thomas William Webb eventually figured it out by reversing their letters, Nicolaus and Venator, (Latin for Niccolo Cacciatore), who was one of the directors of Palermo Observatory. There are two galaxies on my own personal maps penciled in as Sucidarb and Suredwons.

NGC 7006 is a globular cluster in Delphinus and like all globulars it looks like a bucketful of diamonds dumped on black velvet. It’s orbiting around the disk of our galaxy and it’s way out there, even by globular standards. At 135,000 light-years away, it sort of defines the outer extent of the halo of the galaxy. If you want the most absolutely spectacular view of the Milky Way possible, catch a flight out to 7006 and then turn around.

NGC 6891 is nice little planetary nebula, a dense spray of goo coughed up by a star on hospice. In larger amateur telescopes you can see the central star and pay your respects. On a good night you can even detect that the goo is blue.

Carpe Noctem

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