Ara – the altar

January 28, 2018


The altar that the constellation Ara refers to is the one Zeus and his godly siblings built to swear allegiance to each other. It’s kind of weird, gods building an altar to themselves. But it was a special occasion. This was just before they went to war with Cronus and the other Titans. Earlier, Cronus had killed his father Uranus and taken over as dictator of the universe.

After Cronus killed his dad it was predicted that he would get poetic payback from one of his kids. So he ate his kids. But then mom switched baby Zeus for a big rock, by putting a diaper on it or something, and Cronus ate that by mistake.

Eventually Cronus vomited up the kids, after first puking up the rock. That’s when the kids built the altar and went to war their dad and dad’s buddies, the titans. The final score was gods 1 and titans 0.

Cronus is another name for Saturn, and his son Zeus is Jupiter. The rest of the players are other planets and moons and what not. Naming sky stuff after gods is something we still do today. You might think we would run out of gods but it turns out there are about 30,000 to choose from and people just keep thinking up more. And you don’t have to be a real god, home-made is fine. Earth is the only planet not named after a god, it’s named after dirt.

The brightest star in Ara is called “Choo” which is Chinese for “Pestle” which is a small club for smashing vegetables.

You can find the Stingray Nebula in Ara. It’s an interesting planetary nebula. These objects are basically the thrown off and expanding shell of gas from an aging dying star. This one is the youngest planetary we’ve found so far. It’s really just getting started doing the planetary thing. The cloud is still pretty close to the star that shed it. The colors indicate that there is a lot of oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen in the cloud.

There is also the Water Lily Nebula in the area. It is a pre-planetary nebula, even younger than the Stingray and too young to be considered a full-fledged planetary.

That’s one of the cool things about star-hopping. You can see these sorts of objects and events at all different phases of development in one night. William Herschel spoke of the heavens as a garden with flowers in various stages of bloom.

NGC 6326 is another planetary nebula. It’s in full bloom but it has an odd shape for a planetary. They usually evolve into a sort of bubble shape but then, you have to take into account that the star that belches them out is spinning differentially. It spins faster near the equator and slower near the poles. Those dynamics get baked into the cake. Also, the star is having star-quakes, which are way worse than earthquakes. On top of all that, the star may collapse and expand several times during the time it takes to peel off the layers of material that go into making the nebula. So the kitchen can get rather messy baking that cake.

Carpe Noctem

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