Category Archives: Astronomy Myths and Legends
For this Throwback Thursday, I’d like to open with a classic movie scene:
Well, don’t worry, the world won’t end, but I can promise you an epic, blood red moon! There will be a super moon, a blood, moon, and a lunar eclipse all on the same day on September 27th, and I can’t wait to see it!
Read more about it here at Space.com http://www.space.com/30546-supermoon-blood-moon-total-lunar-eclipse.html
If you want to read more about and red moons, click on some of my previous posts below.
I’m working on how to cast your own horoscope, so I found this incredible online exhibit post from the Mutter Museum in Philly. They specialize in all kinds of weird medical stories and abnormal skeletons and things like that. Fortunately, they also specialize in Astrology! Check out this post: http://www.cppdigitallibrary.org/exhibits/show/astrology
Here are my best posts on Halloween:
- History of Halloween, NEW
- My exploration of the myths of Werewolves! https://memiorsofanastronut.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/new-page-astronomy-myths-and-legends-new-wolf-moon-hooowl/
- Harvest Moons: https://memiorsofanastronut.wordpress.com/2013/09/
Tonight is the second night of the Harvest Moon, the time when the Moon rises earlier than ever before, right before the Autumnal Equinox.
As I mentioned in “The Tale of the Lucky Red Moon,” Harvest Moons have a profound cultural significance. China has its own Mid Autumn Moon Festival that tries to unite cultures under one Moon. You can read about this in a wonderful article at Earthsky.org
So get out tonight and enjoy this rare Harvest Moon! I plan to take a few pictures with the telescope if it’s not too cloudy here at Primland.
Hello fello triscadecaphobs! In case you wonder what that big word means, it means “fear of Friday the 13th.” An estimated 17 million people fear this very day. There is actually a long and complicated history to the fear of this day, especialy in our own culture, and I set about trying to lay this fear to rest using my knowledge of history, mythology, and of course, astronomy.
Cultural/ Historical significance of Friday the 13th.
The number 13 itself is considered unlucky for a number of reasons, especially in Western Christianity- in the Bible the disciples and Jesus add up to 13, which eventually led to the betrayal and death of the leader, (which occured on a Friday). In addition, on October 13, 1307 the Pope ordered for the murder of the hallowed Knights Templar, the most powerful Christian knights in the world.
The fear of Friday the 13th itself might have formally begun in the 19th century, with the death of Rossini, the celebrated composer of “The Barber of Seville.” On his death bed, the composer remarked that he always regarded Fridays and the number 13 as unlucky. As is often the case, this quote probably got repeated over and its influence multiplied into a whole superstition. By the way, wikipedia lists a number of famous people who have died on Friday the 13th, including Julia Child and Tupac Shakur.
So, what does this have to do with Astronomy?
Richard Beveridge, in his paper “Friday the 13th and the Mathematics of the Gregorian Calendar,” points out that there is an innate fear of Friday the 13th built into our culture from the fact that we base our time tables around the number 12- the 12 months of the year, the twelve signs of the zodiac, etc. This creates a feeling of otherness and other worldliness to the number 13. In addition, with the way we add leap years every four years, Friday the 13th occurs at random intervals, and it is very difficult to predict. Again, we fear things we can’t predict or control, which is why we fear even a date on the calendar.
Good news about Friday the 13th.
NASA recently predicted an asteroid would pass harmlessly over the Earth on Friday, April 13th, 2029. If this asteroid would pass too close, it could destroy an area the size of Texas! So I suppose you could say that some good things can come on Friday the 13th, even if they are things that don’t happen.
Well, that’s what I know about Friday the 13th. Hope some of your fears are allayed.
Not only is this the biggest Moon of the year, it’s also one of the most interesting. June 23rd’s full moon is classified as a “Strawberry Moon,” or “Rose Moon” It was called Strawberry by the Algonquin Native Americans because they knew this full moon was an ideal time to gather fruit. To learn more about this particular full moon, I’ve posted a link to a video created by the good folks at “The Farmer’s Almanac”, a trusted astronomy resource for over 100 years.
So I hope to see some of you down at Primland to look at this beautiful full moon. I know I’ll be training the telescope on it!
Today, I’d like to switch hats for a little while from Astro-nut to Shakespeare Geek. I’ve been studying Shakespeare for a long time and since today is his birthday, I thought I’d take some time to celebrate it. Like a lot of Elizabethans, Shakespeare believed that the stars and planets helped to influence a person’s destiny. Of course, he lived in the time of Galeleo and Copernicus who questioned these established opinions, and you can hear this changing tide of ideology in the dialogue of his plays. Plus, Shakespeare frequenly uses stellar images to add some extra spice to his love poetry. After all, who doesn’t want to be compared to the radient Venus, the brilliant stars, or the kingly Jupiter?
So today, I’d like to sojurn with you for a while away from the shores of science, and into the sweet waters of music and poetry related to the stars, with Shakespeare as the pilot for our vessel. Hope you enjoy it!
The Facts Are These:
- Shakespeare lived from 1564 to 1613, and died at the age of 52.
- He wrote 37 surviving plays, 154 sonnets, and four epic poems.
- The word “Stars” appears 77 times in Shakespeare’s work.
- The god Jupiter appears as a character in one of his final plays, “Cymbeline”
- In his tragedy “King Lear” an old lord worries about disasters called by eclipses and comets.
- One of Shakespeare’s greatest characters, Prospero, is a magician who uses the powers of astrology to control the elements.
- Shakespeare was called “Sweet Swan Of Avon” by his contemporary Ben Johnson. The river Avon flowed through his home town of Stratford in Warrickshire. You can still see the swans today!
Some Famous Quotes From Shakespeare About Stars:
Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love. – Hamlet
Take him and cut him into little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun -Romeo and Juliet
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves – Julius Caesar
FOOL: The reason the seven stars are only seven is a pretty reason,
KING LEAR: Because they are not eight?
FOOL: Yes, indeed: thou wouldst make a good fool.
Shakespeare and Astrology
As I’ve mentioned in the “This Month In Astrology” posts, people of Shakespeare’s day believed that the planets and stars could influence a person’s desitny and their character. They believed that the universe contained four basic elements called humours, that were the forces behind the planets, the stars, and our bodies. The four humours corresponded to the four basic elements- Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. These humours reflected aspects of people’s personality- the cold and dry meloncholy, the warm and airy blood, the hot and fiery cholor, and the slow and temperate phlegm (the humour of water). Living in ballence with the planets, stars, and your own bodily humours was the best way to live a healthy life, so Shakespeare and his contemporaries studied the stars to figure out how to control and understand their lives. Queen Elizabeth herself had a pesronal astrologer who helped her get through the invasion of the Spanish Armada. A lot of Shakespeare’s tragedies focus on people whose destinies seem to be influenced by bad stars or planets. As I mentioned in “The Ides Of March” post, a bad planet or a comet could influence the fates of powerful people. Meanwhile, the comedies focus on people who let their humours take over them; from the melancholic Jaques to the foolish constable Dogberry, to the brave but idiotic Orlando, Shakespeare’s characters are at their funniest, when they are at their most “humourous.” In short, Shakespeare’s understanding of the humours and the stars allowed him to classify and examine different types of people, and how they deal with extrodinary situations. This is one reason we continue to read his work 400 years later.Finally, a little poetry reading. Here is one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a short poem that’s only 14 lines long.
In this poem, the speaker rejects the doctrine of Astrology when looking into the face of his beloved, and instead claime that the only celestial light he needs is in the bleoved’s eyes. When those lights are gone, the universe as he knows it will end, so he advises the object of his affection to have children to allow those lights to renew. This is the format of the first 126 sonnets, but Shakespeare uses incredibly varied devices to make the same simple point.
So I hope this little sojourn into Shakespeare’s swan boat was entertaining for you and I hope combining my love of astronomy and Shakespeare will help you, the reader to appreaciate both even more.
“Jove and my stars be praised! Here is yet a postscript” – Twelfth Night
PS. If you liked this little exploration into stellar poetry, please leave a comment below. There is a rich vein of poetry related to the Sun, Moon, and stars, and I would love to write about them in future posts.
I’m playing a little bit of catch up, since I spent yesterday enjoying my birthday, so here’s the topics I’ll be covering for the rest of the week:
Today In Space History: Today I’ve posted a brand new discovery of the extrasolar planet Kepler 37b- the smallest planet ever discovered! It’s only about the size of the moon, and orbits its closest star in less than a month.
This Month In Astrology: Pisces. My birthday, (like Copernicus’) falls on the zodiac sign Pisces, which runs from February 19th-March 20th. Tonight I’ll be writing some interesting details about my own star sign- the placement in the sky, the elements. and the dominant characteristics that a Piscean such as myself is supposed to have. I’ll also be writing a post where I’ll teach you to create your own horoscope!
Astronomy Myths and Legends: Taurus Right now, the Moon and the planet Jupiter are right in the eye of the constellation Taurus the Bull. I thought I’d give you guys some insight into this zodiac constellation, and the somewhat curious myth that spawned it.
Special Post (Today In Space History) Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, one of the greatest astrophysicists of our time, and director of the Heyden Planetarium.
Special Post- How to Survive an Asteroid Impact!
Enjoy all this as the week goes on!