Page images
PDF
EPUB

pelled 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 ont the horns of Taurus.

Mythological history.—This is the animal whoso 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 OnioN 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 (/3) 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.

Pisces, the fishes, 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*

of the imagination may be extended into the constellations Taurus and Orion.

Mythological history.—Castor and Pollux were noted—the former for his skill in training horses, the latter for boxing. They were tenderly attached to each other, and were inseparable in all their adventures. They accompanied Jason on the Axgonautic expedition. A storm having arisen on this voyage, Orpheus played on his wonderful lyre and prayed to the gods; whereupon the tempest was stilled, and star-like flames shone upon the heads of the twinbrothers. Sailors, therefore, considered them as patron deities* and the balls of electric flame seen on masts and shrouds, now called St. Elmo's fire, were named after them. Afterward, Castor was slain. Pollux being inconsolable, Jupiter offered to take him up to Olympus, or to let him share his immortality with his brother. Pollux preferred the latter, and so the brothers pass alternately one day under the earth, and the next in the Elysian Fields. Not only did sailors thus think them to watch over navigation, but they were believed to return, mounted on snow-white steeds and clad in rare armor, to take part in the hard-fought battle-fields of the Eomans.

- Back comes the chief in trlnmph,
Who in the hoar of light
Hath seen the great Twin Brethren,
In harness on his right.

*Acts, xxviii. 11.

Safe comes the ship to haven,
Through billows and through gales,

If once the great Twin Brethren
Sit shining on the sails."—Lays of Ancient Some.

Orion is represented under the figure of a hunter assaulting Taurus. He has a sword in his belt, a club in his right hand, and the skin of a lion in his left. This is one of the most clearly defined and conspicuous constellations in the heavens.

Principal stars.—Four brilliant stars, in the form of a parallelogram, mark the outlines of Orion. Betelgeuse, a beautiful ruddy star of the first magnitude, is in the right shoulder; Bellatrix (y), of the second magnitude, is in the left shoulder; Bigel, of the first magnitude, is in the left foot; and Saiph (x), of the third magnitude, is in the right knee. Two small stars near X form with it a small triangle, which is itself the vertex of a larger triangle composed of \ y, and Betelgeuse. Near the centre of the parallelogram are three stars forming "the Bdt of Orion" called also the "Bands of Orion" (Job, xxxviii. 31), Jacob's rod, but more commonly the "Ell and Yard." They received the last name because they form a lino just 3° long, divided in equal parts by a star in the centre. These divisions are useful for measuring the distances of the stars. Running from the belt southward, is an irregular line of stars which marks the sword; and west of Bellatrix is a curved line denoting the lion's skin. South of Orion are four stars forming a beautiful figure styled the Hare.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »