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Hydra – the water snake

May 21, 2017

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The largest of all 88 constellations is called Hydra, the water snake. It’s huge. It forms a line that wraps around the sky all the way from the stars of Cancer to those of Libra. If you go out and see the toothy business end just starting to rise in the east, you will wait […]

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Hydrus – the male water snake

May 14, 2017

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There is a southern constellation called Hydrus which is not to be confused with the constellation Hydra. They are both water snakes but Hydrus it the lesser water snake in both size and mythical importance, and also it is male. Having two slithering sky serpents confirms the old adage that “snakes travel in pairs” which […]

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Indus – the indian

May 7, 2017

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The source of the name for the constellation Indus is a bit confusing. Many say it celebrates the indigenous tribes of the Americas. But there is some indication it originally referred to tribes in Madagascar. There are also indications it’s about the tribes of the East Indies, or maybe Africa. Petrus Plancius added it to […]

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Lacerta – the lizard

April 30, 2017

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There is a small constellation near Cassiopeia which looks like her but is a smaller “W” shape. It is Lacerta, which means lizard. It is considered part of the Perseus Group even although there is no lizard in that story. Johannes Hevelius named it in the late 1600’s, I guess because it just sounded cool […]

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Leo – the lion

April 23, 2017

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The constellation Leo shows up in the early spring, when frogs wake up, the crocuses start blooming, and pudgy old guys begin meandering around Lowes in cargo shorts and birkenstocks. These stars dominate the spring sky the way Orion dominates the winter. In the weeks before the equinox Leo begins leaping up from the eastern […]

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Leo Minor – the smaller lion

April 16, 2017

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There is a constellation called Leo Minor that represents a lesser lion, just north of regular Leo. Johannes Hevelius added it in 1687. He sort of squeezed it in between Leo and the Big Dipper where there was a bit of unoccupied interstitial space. It’s like how Idaho was formed from the leftover region created […]

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Lepus – the hare

April 9, 2017

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Lepus is a constellation that represents a hare, which is basically a rabbit with longer legs and ears. It’s located right beneath Orion, dangerously close to being stepped on, and dangerously close to his two dogs. The brightest star in Lepus is named Arneb, which means “hare” (no surprise there). It’s expected to explode at […]

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Libra – the scales

April 2, 2017

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The constellation of Libra represents a set of scales and it is by far the newest of the zodiacal membership. It may seem odd that there is a machine for weighing stuff in the weird line-up of monsters and zoo critters. On the other hand its two brightest stars have my most favorite star names; […]

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Lupus – the wolf

March 26, 2017

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The constellation Lupus is way down south. It was even recognized as the wolf by Claudius Ptolemy a couple of thousand years ago, which is notable because Ptolemy was mostly concerned with the stuff more to the north. On the other hand the stars in this area are near Centaurus and they do in fact […]

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Lynx – the lynx

March 19, 2017

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The constellation Lynx is one of a few that is its own translation. It means “lynx” so no fancy steps are required to explain it. In the late 1600’s Johannes Hevelius named it after the wild cat because those animals have eyesight good enough to see the stars here and humans don’t (true story). I’ve […]

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Lyra – the lyre

March 12, 2017

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High in the summer sky you’ll find Lyra, the lyre, which is a small harp-like musical instrument. On some old-timey maps it is depicted as a eagle, or sometimes a vulture, with a small lyre in its mouth. Clearly this one was designed by an astronomy club committee. Orpheus is the mythical guy who started […]

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Mensa – the table

March 5, 2017

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Mensa means “table.” It is also the name of a southern constellation mapped out by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille. Originally Lacaille meant for this area of the sky to be named “Table Mountain” after a place in Africa near Cape Town. People casually shortened the name to just Table and also shortened Nicolas Louis de […]

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