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

Sagittarius

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

antares_01

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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October 9, 2016

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Sculptor – the sculptor’s studio

The southern constellation Sculptor represents a sculptor’s studio/workshop. It is one of fifteen designated to honor random 18th century crap by Abbé Nicolas Louis de Lacaille. When Lacaille got married and his bride said her vows, she probably ended with “…and I’ll be naming our kids and pets.” But hey, it was a simpler time. […]

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October 2, 2016

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Scutum – the shield

There is a small rectangular region in the summer sky known as Scutum, the shield. It represents a typical shield ranging from the Roman legionnaire sort to one that ye olde knight of chivalry might carry along with so much armor he needs a crane to get on a horse. The medieval warriors of Europe […]

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September 25, 2016

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Serpens – the serpent

There is a rather unique constellation in the summer sky called Serpens, the serpent. What makes it special is that it is the only constellation that is divided into two parts. That is, the region of sky assigned to it is not contiguous. In between Serpens Caput (the head) and Serpens Cauda (the tail) is […]

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September 18, 2016

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Sextans – the sextant

There is a small constellation smack dab on the celestial equator called Sextans. Don’t worry, it’s safe for work, although the sex part might get it snagged by parental filters, I wouldn’t know. It’s part of a group of constellations named in the 17th century in order to fill in some of the holes in […]

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September 11, 2016

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Taurus – the bull

altamirabull

The constellation Taurus is one of the oldest and most famous of the sky-critters. There are indications that folks associated these stars with a bull all the way back to the copper age, which is really just the bronze age before the upgrade. But great starlore doesn’t typically happen all of a sudden because things […]

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