January 1, 2017

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Pegasus – the winged horse

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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December 25, 2016

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Perseus – the hero

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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December 18, 2016

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Phoenix – the mythical bird

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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December 11, 2016

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Pictor – the painter’s easel

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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December 4, 2016

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Pisces – the fishes

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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November 27, 2016

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Piscis Austrinus – the southern fish

The autumn sky includes the constellation of Piscis Austrinus, which is currently distinguished from neighboring Pisces Not-Austrinus with the convenient moniker Austrinus which means “Southern.” At one time many folks referred to these stars as being “The Great Fish” as opposed to being a “Not-So-Great Fish” I guess. The stars of Piscis Austrinus are pretty […]

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November 20, 2016

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Puppis – the stern

The constellation Puppis is part of a whole group of constellations that represents various parts of the good ship Argo, made famous by its crew, Jason and the Argonauts. These particular stars are the ass end of that ship, i.e. the poop deck. Although the poop deck is in back, it isn’t actually where sailors […]

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November 13, 2016

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Pyxis – the compass box

Pyxis is a constellation in the southern sky that honors the mariner’s compass. Short of the Internet itself, few things have shrunk our world like a free-floating magnetized needle. The constellation is basically just three stars in a line and over the centuries star maps have shown it as various things, usually something nautical because […]

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November 6, 2016

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Reticulum – the net

The stars in the constellation Reticulum represent the tiny network of lines in a certain type of telescope eyepiece. They are engineered into a lens element and are akin to the cross-hairs in a rifle scope. In this case they are not only used for aiming, but also for measuring angular separations, and in modern […]

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October 30, 2016

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Sagitta – the arrow

Sagitta is a tiny constellation whose dots actually connect to make an arrow, complete with fletching feathers. It’s one of the older names for a group of stars but then the bow and arrow as a weapon goes way back, probably invented more than 60,000 years ago. So the constellation must have been named sometime […]

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October 23, 2016

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Sagittarius – the archer

The constellation known as Sagittarius is a centaur. Do not confuse it with Centaurus. We have two centaurs in the sky and this one wants to be associated with the fine sport of archery. So ignore the legs and focus on the bow. The name associated with these stars goes way back. It’s one we […]

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October 16, 2016

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Scorpius – the scorpion

The summer sky is dominated by a constellation named Scorpius, the scorpion. It has lots of bright stars in a long swooping curved shape like a fish hook. The brightest star in the line-up is a huge red one smack dab in the heart of the beast, named Antares. The scorpion is formidable. He’s hard […]

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