Page images
PDF

from the gory head of the monster produced the innumerable serpents for which that country was afterward celebrated.

. Andromeda is represented as a beautiful maiden chained to a rock.

Principal stars.—Algenib and Algol in Perseus form, with Almaach (7) in the left foot of Andromeda, a right-angled triangle opening toward Cassiopeia. This figure is so perfect, that the stars may be easily recognized. The girdle is pointed out by Merach {$), and two other stars which form a line slightly curving toward the right foot. The breast is denoted by a very delicate triangle composed of three stars, S of the fourth magnitude, another of the fifth magnitude just south, and an exceedingly minute star a little at the west. Alpheratz (a), in the head of Andromeda, belongs also to Pegasus. This star, with three others, all of the second magnitude, constitute the " Great Square of Pegasus." Their names are Algenib (f), Markab (a), and Scheat (/3). The brightest stars of these two constellations form a figure strikingly like the Big Dipper. Algenib and Alpheratz lie in the equinoctial colure which passes through Caph.

Mythological history.—Cassiopeia had boasted that her daughter Andromeda was fairer than the Seanymphs. They appealed, in great indignation, to Neptune, who sent a sea-monster (cetus) to devastate the coast of Ethiopia. To appease the deities, her father Cepheus was directed by the oracle to bind his daughter to a rock, to be devoured by Cetus. Perseus returning from the destruction of Medusa, saw Andromeda in her forlorn condition. Struck by her beauty and tears, he offered to liberate her at the price of her hand. Her parents consented joyfully, and, in addition, offered a royal dower. Perseus slew the terrible monster, and freeing Andromeda, restored her to her parents. All the prominent actors in this scene were honored with seats among the constellations. The Sea-nymphs, it is said, in petty spite of Cassiopeia, prevailed that she should be placed where for half of the time she hangs with her head downward—a fit lesson of humility. Cepheus, her husband, shares in her punishment.

Aries, the ram, was anciently the first constellation of the zodiac. It is now the first sign, but the second consteUation. On account of the precession of the equinoxes, the constellation Pisces occupies the first sign.

Principal stars.—The most noted star is a Arietis (Alpha of Aries, more commonly called simply Arietis), in the right horn. This lies near the path of the moon and is one of the stars from which longitude is reckoned. A line drawn from Almaach to Arietis will pass through a beautiful figure of three stars called the The Triangles.

Mythological history.—Phryxus and Helle were the children of Athamas, king of Thessaly. Being persecuted by Ino, their step-mother, they were compelled to flee for safety. Mercury provided them a ram which bore a golden fleece. The children were no sooner placed on his back than he vaulted into the heavens. In their aerial journey Helle becoming dizzy fell off into the sea, which was afterward called the Hellespont, now the Dardanelles. Phryxus coming in safety to Colchis, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, offered the ram in sacrifice to Jupiter, and gave the golden fleece to Aetes, his protector. The Argonautic expedition in pursuit of this golden fleece, by Jason and his followers, is one of the most romantic of mythological stories. It is, undoubtedly, a fanciful account of the first important maritime expedition. Bich spoils were the prizes to be secured.

Taurus consists only of the head and shoulders of a butt, which is represented in the act of plunging at Orion.

Principal stars.—The Hyades, a beautiful cluster in the head, forms a distinct V. The brightest of these is Aldebaran, a fiery red star of the first magnitude. The Pleiades* or the "Seven Sisters," as it is sometimes termed, is the most conspicuous group in the heavens. It contains a large number of stars, six of which are visible to the naked eye. There were said to have been anciently seven, but Electra left her place that she might not behold the ruin of Troy, which was founded by her son Dar

* Job, xxxviii. 31; Amos, v. 8.

danus. Others say that the "lost Pleiad" was Merope, who married a mortal. Alcyone is the most distinctly seen. El Nath (/3) and £ point out the horna • of Taurus.

Mythological history.—This is the animal whose form Jupiter assumed when he bore off Europa. The Pleiades were the daughters of Atlas, and Nymphs of Diana's train. They were distinguished for their unblemished virtue and mutual affection. The hunter Orion having pursued them one day, they prayed to the gods in their distress. Jupiter in pity transferred them to the heavens.

Auriga, the Charioteer or Wagoner, is represented as a man resting one foot on a horn of Taurus, and holding a goat and kids in his left hand and a bridle in his right.

The principal stars are arranged in an irregular five-sided figure, which is very noticeable. Capella, the goat-star, is of the first magnitude. It travels in its orbit 1,800 miles per minute; and it takes seventy-two years, or a man's lifetime, for its light to reach the earth. Near by is a delicate triangle formed of three small stars, called the Kids. Menkalini (£) is in the right shoulder, 6 in the right hand, /3 (common to Auriga and Taurus) the right foot and t the left foot. Capella, j3, and $ (a star in the head) form a triangle. The origin of this constellation is unknown.

JPisces, the Jishes, is represented by two fishes tied together by a long ribbon. It consists of small stars, which can be traced only upon a clear night, and in the absence of the moon.

Cetus, the whale, is a huge sea-monster, slowly ploughing his way westward, midway between the horizon and the zenith. It may easily be found, on a clear night, by means of the numerous figures given in the map.

OUp No. 8)—Fig. 76.

[graphic]

Gemini, the Twins, represents the twin brothers Castor and Pollux.

The principal stars are Castor and Pollux, which are of the first and second magnitudes. The latter is also one of the stars from which longitude is reckoned by means of the Nautical Almanac. The constellation is clearly distinguished by means of two nearly parallel rows of stars, which by a slight effort

n*

« PreviousContinue »