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Monoceros – the unicorn

February 19, 2017

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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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Musca – the fly

February 12, 2017

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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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Norma – the carpenter’s square

February 5, 2017

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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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Octans – the octant

January 29, 2017

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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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Ophiuchus – the serpent bearer

January 22, 2017

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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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Orion – the hunter

January 15, 2017

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Orion and Artemis

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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Pavo – the peacock

January 8, 2017

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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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Pegasus – the winged horse

January 1, 2017

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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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Perseus – the hero

December 25, 2016

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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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Phoenix – the mythical bird

December 18, 2016

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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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Pictor – the painter’s easel

December 11, 2016

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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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Pisces – the fishes

December 4, 2016

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piscesfishes

The Autumn constellation of Pisces is a good example of how a group of stars can get a name without being a connect-the-dots sort of thing. It appears to have been started in ancient Mesopotamia by astronomers in the easternmost region of the fertile crescent, or in biblical terms, the Whores of Babylon. Ancient Babylon, […]

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