Crater – the cup

August 20, 2017

Astronomy

Crater is one of the constellations passed down from the ancients to us via Ptolemy. Its brightest star Labrum, “the lip” (of the cup) is rather dim. The allegorical drawing is usually of the type of cup that has two opposing handles, for serious wine consumption.

In the story, the god Apollo is taking a break from hitching his chariot to the sun and driving it around the earth. He is about to make a sacrifice on an altar but he needs some water to perform this particular ritual, and these things have to be done just so. He sends his trusty raven (Corvus) with the cup (Crater) to fetch some water from the river, but the bird gets distracted by a fig tree. Worse, the figs aren’t ripe yet so he spends a few days hanging out and waiting.

After a few days the figs are finally ripe so raven stuffs himself. Now he’s late with the water, so he catches a water-snake (Hydra) and concocts a whopper about how the snake was guarding the water and it took this long to kill it (burping fig smell). Apollo is not stupid, and, he’s a god, so he easily sees through the raven’s silly lie. Gods may not be stupid but one thing that is almost universal is that they tend to be rather emotional. Apollo throws raven, the cup, and the snake into the sky where they turn into stars.

The Crater-2 dwarf galaxy can be found here. It’s only 380,000 light-years away but it remained undiscovered until 2016 because its stars are spread out and therefore the overall surface brightness is rather faint.

Astronomers have nicknamed the little Crater-2 dwarf galaxy “the feeble giant” because it’s big, as far as small galaxies go. It’s big-tiny, kind of like jumbo shrimp, civil war, adult children, clean coal, creation science, dead livestock, dodge ram, escaped inmate, even odds, firm estimate, free trade, pretty ugly, guest host, loose tights, only choice, original copy, random order, student teacher, totally partial, and congressional ethics.

Carpe Noctem

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