Monthly Archives: January 2013
Just wanted to let you know that I’ve created a new post for the Astronomy Myths and Legends page, in honor of the Full Wolf Moon that’s going on tonight. That’s right, it’s a Full Wolf Moon according to the Algonquin Native American calendar. Since the name conjures up images of werewolves and howling and Jacob from Twilight, I wrote a new post about the myths and legends surrounding full moons for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
Hello Loyal Readers and Subscribers!
Just wanted to let you know that I’ve added a new page devoted to Astronomy History as well as current developments in the Space Program called “Today in Space History” At least once a week, I’m going to comb the web and the history books and report on new developments in space exploration as they develop. When nothing’s new, I’ll give you some info on history- recalling what happened on this very day in history, with facts on everything from the first chimp in space, to the discovery of gravity by Isaac Newton. In short, This new page is about space exploration- not only what’s going on now, but also the many discoveries, experiments, successes, and failures that made it possible.
My first post is about how NASA is celebrating the inauguration of President Obama, with a week long program of open houses, free stargazing tours, and discussions about the future of NASA with astronomers and astronauts. Here’s a taste of what I found:
For more titillating posts, please visit “Today In Space History”
Also, sit tight, tonight I’ll be coming out with an all new “Astronomy Myths and Legends” post, about the Pleiades, (or the Seven Sisters as it’s also called), one of the most beautiful star clusters in the night sky.
Hope this piques your interest, and see you later!
Today is the beginning of the astrological star sign Aquarius, the sign made popular in the Broadway show “Hair.” Incidentally, the Age of Aquarius might not happen for hundreds of years (but more on that another time). In the meantime, I thought with a new star sign, I’d like to write a little bit about Astrology, and explain generally what it is, and what it means to you.
What is Astrology?
Astrology is the non-scientific study of stars and planets that promises to determine the future, specifically the influence of the planets and stars upon a person’s personality, and the forces that effect their lives.
The central idea rests around the motion of the planets.
- Why is astrology based around the motions of the planets?
Ancient peoples studied the motions of the planets and noticed that, although the stars appear to follow a fixed path, the planets have a very unique path. First, the planets seem to move in two different directions: direct motion where they follow the rotation of the Earth, and retrograde motion, where the
- In fact, the ancient view of the universe was to believe that the whole sky was attached to the earth in a massive Chrystal sphere, and the planets rotated around the Earth in separate spheres above the Earth (see above right).
- Since the planets have a motion all their own, civilizations like the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans believed that they had special powers, which is why our planets are named after Roman gods.
Ancient astronomers discovered that the planets and the sun all move along the same 30 degree line across the sky. The sun’s path is called the Ecliptic, but the planet’s path is called the Zodiac.
- Along the zodiac are 13 constellations that the planets pass through, and twelve of these constellations are the ones that we assign to be a person’s sign at the time they were born. On the left is an ancient image of the 12 astrology signs.
“Stars that smiled at my nativity”
Each star sign has a dominant planet, the planet that passed through the star sign. If you were born under a particular sign, you took on the qualities of the dominant planet. For example, Mars the god of War would give you an aggressive temperament, while Venus, goddess of love would give you a loving mood. Star signs were also thought to predict people’s romantic compatibility, and even what diseases they might have. In fact, the word “influenza” or the flu, comes from the same word “influence,” meaning controlling power. Diseases and planetary influence were linked in the mind of ancient peoples. If you follow the “This Month In Astrology” page, I’ll tell you plenty about the qualities that people born under Aquarius were supposed to have.
So you can see that astrology is more than just a pseudo-science you read about in the newspaper, it’s also a window into understanding the ancient world.
So there’s a short background on the purposes of Astrology. I’ll be bringing you more in-depth info later this week. Hope you enjoyed this post, and look forward to many more!
I’ve added a new page called “Astronomy Myths and Legends,” where I give you some research on the myths and stories associated with a particular planet, star, or constellation. Today I’ve posted a few myths and legends on Sirius, in the constellation Canis Major, the brightest star in the sky! Hope you enjoy it: https://memiorsofanastronut.wordpress.com/astronomy-myths-and-legends/
January Sixth is the date where Christians traditionally celebrate the Three Wise Men or Magi finally reaching the Christ child in Bethlehem after following a new star in the east. Since this date is so closely associated with astronomy, I thought I’d examine some of the theories surrounding this story. A few weeks ago, Primland Astronomy hosted Father Chris Corbally from the Vatican Observatory, who came and gave his theories as to whether the Star of Bethlehem could have been a scientific phenomenon. The three prevailing theories are that the star was either a comet, a supernova, or a planetary conjunction which would have given the appearance of a new star, since it gave off the combined light of several planets.
The Comet Theory
Comets have long since been portents in the lives of kings. For example Julius Caesar was killed the same year as comet, and William the Conquerer assumed the throne on Christmas Day in 1066, the same year that Halley’s comet appeared over England. Furthermore the description of the star of Bethlehem moving across the sky and hanging over the manger sounds the most plausible with a comet, as opposed to a fixed star. Thus, there is a lot of symbolic evidence to support the claim that the star was really a comet, which is one reason why it was immortalized in this painting by the early renaissance artist Giotto (right). However, the problem with this theory is that comets are equally associated with ill omens, and that the closest comet visible in Bethlehem appeared sometime in the period 9 March to 6 April 5 BC and lasted over 70 days (Source: Colin Humphreys, “The Star Of Bethlehem” From Science and Christian Belief , Vol 5, (October 1995): 83-101. Accessed January 5th from http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Astronomy-Cosmology/S&CB%2010-93Humphreys.html).
). If you take this date as the literal truth, this would mean revising the date and year of Christmas.
The Supernova Theory
A supernova is an exploding star, that becomes millions of times more bright than its entire life cycle, and then burns away into space. The advantage of going with supernovas instead of comets as a candidate for the Star of Bethlehem, is that they are so bright that they are visible in broad daylight, which would explain why the shepherds and King Herod saw the star too (Humphreys). As you can see in the photo on your left, the In addition, since comets generally follow a pretty predictable path, astronomers like the Magi might be less impressed with a comet than with a supernova, which only occurs once every 500 years, and was not well-known to ancient astronomy. Chinese astronomers record a supernova that happened around 5BC, but unfortunately, western records to not confirm it (Corbally). This could just mean that the supernova occurred too fast for most astronomers to observe it, except for the Magi, who were part of a religious sect that specifically went after heavenly signs. If you watch the documentary above, it mentions that there really were a small group of astronomers who called themselves the Magi out of Persia, and they followed astronomy closely as portents of the future.
One of the big hoaxes of 2012 was the theory that the planets were all going to align and throw the gravitational constant of the universe out of balance and destroy the Earth. Real planetary alignments or conjunctions can lend unusual light to the planets as they share the same space in the night sky. In fact, if you peruse Dr. Corbally’s website, he suggests that the triple conjuction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7BC that made a beam of light appear to fall from the two planets down onto Bethlehem, just like some Christmas cards depict.
Ultimately, this is an article of faith. Dr. Corbally also suggests that the Star could have been a divine intervention, which is neither provable or disprovable to science. However, it has captured the imagination of a great deal of artists, philosophers, theology scholars, and of course, astronomers. As I said before, the stars are a rich territory for myth and legend and when we look at questions like this we re-connect with what makes us human.
Happy Twelfth Night everybody! I hope this post gave you some epithany’s of your own.