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Mars at the Picnic

April 15, 2018

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In October of 1988 a fellow conspirator (RL.Dietz) and I had the loan of Jewett Observatory at WSU. The Professor Lutz’s (Mr & Mrs) left us a key to the facility where we could pick it up and drop it off while they were off to who knows where. We shot about 300 exposures that […]

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Constellations

March 11, 2018

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The sky is divided into 88 parts. If you play connect-the-dots within these boundaries, some of the patterns resemble the names, but most were never meant to. Just like Washington State doesn’t look like George Washington. Click on the names below for a snarky review of the starlore of the constellations and the stuff we […]

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Andromeda – the princess

March 4, 2018

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The constellation of Andromeda represents a princess. One day her mother Cassiopeia decided that to save the town she would have to feed the lovely princess to Cetus, a hideous squiddly sea creature also known as the Kraken. That’s just how things were done in those days. It paid to have a few spare daughters […]

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Antlia – the air pump

February 25, 2018

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The constellation Antlia represents an air pump. The name just means pump, but it was originally Antlia Pneumatica. Back in the 1700’s Nick Lacaille named several constellations after inventions that changed the world, in his opinion. In the 1670’s a French physicist named Denis Papin had invented the air pump which is a handy device […]

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Apus – the bird of paradise

February 18, 2018

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The constellation Apus represents a Bird of Paradise. It gets its formal name from the Greek word “apous” which means “footless.” That’s pretty weird. The backstory begins with Magellan and his intrepid men. They took the first big trip around the earth in 1522, proving that if you can go far enough in this crazy […]

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Aquarius – the water bearer

February 11, 2018

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Aquarius is a constellation in the zodiac, the field of stars the sun plows through on its yearly trek. Here we have a constellation that is an excellent example of how a group of stars gets a name without connecting the dots. It was named by the Babylonians. In ancient Babylon, which is essentially Iraq, […]

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Aquila – the eagle

February 4, 2018

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Aquila (Latin for eagle) is a constellation that represents the eagle that carried Zeus’ thunderbolts around for him. Whenever Zeus wanted to thunderbolt something he would say “Hey Aquila, bolt me.” Aquila also carried the mortal Ganymede up to the heavens to serve as Zeus’ cup-bearer, so he was kind of an all-purpose personal support […]

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Ara – the altar

January 28, 2018

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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 […]

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Aries – the ram

January 21, 2018

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The constellation of Aries is pretty much just three dim little stars. A small flattened triangle, that’s it. Sorry if you identify Aries with your birthday, but that really is it. If you are looking to get the star pattern as a birth-sign tattoo, this one should be the cheapest. The Babylonians at first decided […]

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Auriga – the charioteer

January 14, 2018

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Auriga is a constellation with a multi-colored past. There are many stories and references here that have braided together over time. One thread is that the star pattern represents a brave charioteer, although precisely which charioteer is in question. If you connect the dots you get a pointy helmet like charioteers use to wear. One […]

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Boötes – the herdsman

January 7, 2018

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The constellation Boötes is usually called the herdsman but sometimes he is the plowman. Herding or plowing, free range cowboy or dirt farmer. It reminds me of the old Cain and Able conflict that depicts the rise of agriculture and the resulting social alternatives that civilization presented to the rural traditions. It’s not entirely different […]

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Caelum – the chisel

December 31, 2017

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Caelum is a constellation that was named in honor of the chisel one uses to chip away all of the stone which is hiding the artsy stuff one wants to reveal. It was introduced in the 1750’s by a guy named Nicolas Louis de Lacaille who was filling in blank spots on his sky maps […]

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