Tag Archives: astrology

Canopus: the brightest star you’ve never heard of

Ever since I wrote a post on Polaris, I have been wondering, is there a south pole? Sadly, there isn’t, not really.

There are two candidates for a south pole star. By 14 000 CE Canopus will, because of the wobble in the earth’s axis, be as close as it will ever get to being the South Pole, about 10° from magnetic south. The other, Sigma Octanis in the Octant, is the closest star at present. The Southern Cross points to where a south pole would be, and like Ursa Minor is a circumpolar constellation, so it’s always above the horizon.

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volcano wallpaper

Vulcan: the planet that never was

This blog has frequently lamented the demotion of Pluto. After being expelled from the company of planets, it now resides in the newly-named Plutoids, in the company of Eris, Sedna and other dwarf planets. Another one-time planet suffered a worse, and lonelier, fate one hundred years ago.

The planet Vulcan came into (theoretical) being as a solution to the problem of Mercury‘s orbit, which deviated from the track that Newton’s laws laid down for it. Continue reading

Aldebaran: the Bull’s Eye

As you can see from the picture above, Aldebaran is the bull’s left eye, and the brightest star in Taurus. It appears ruddy through a telescope, suggesting that Taurus is an angry bull. The V-shape of the bull’s face, known as the Hyades, makes it easy to find.

The Arabic name reflects its position: the Follower, since it rises after the Pleiades, the stars that make up the bull’s shoulder. It is primarily a winter star, and by now will be visible in the sky around dawn.

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Fomalhaut: the Fish’s Mouth

Fomalhaut was one of the four year-stars. Since the other three belong to the “fixed” astrological signs Taurus, Leo and Scorpio, Fomalhaut is assumed to be associated with Aquarius, the fourth fixed sign. It can be seen low in the southern sky in the fall, and can be seen due south around 11:00 p.m. in early October.

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Antares: the scorpion’s heart

The main star in Scorpio is the 15th brightest star in the sky. Its name means “Rival of Ares” or “Equal to Ares”, because of its brightness and red colour. And its size – Antares is a red supergiant, 3 000 times the size of our sun. (If we switched our sun for Antares, its bulk would extend out to Mars.) A clould of reddish metallic dust surrounds it, five light years in diameter, which makes it look even larger in the night sky.

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Uranus: the mould-breaker

(excerpted from my book, Sun, Moon and Stars)

The seventh planet dealt a serious blow to old ideas about the universe. From the beginning, Uranus lived up to its association with innovation and technology. When William Herschel found Uranus in 1781, he used an exciting new technology, the telescope.

Galileo had built an early telescope himself, with which he saw the moons of Jupiter in 1610, but by the 1700s the telescope was in use not only in astronomy but also in the shipping industry and the military.

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Asteria: the Night Oracles

Asteria is another Greek star-goddess, but of a rather different type. She was associated with oracles of darkness, such as prophetic dreams, astrology, falling stars, and necromancy. (Her daughter Hecate, the witch’s goddess, would follow in her footsteps.) She was sometimes blended with the night-goddess Nyx, an alternate mother for Hecate.

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