Header Ads

Learning the Constellations of the night through Mythology

If you learn the constellations of the night sky through mythology and photography it becomes much easier to remember them and their relationship to each other. Instead of random specks of light in the dark backdrop of space, the heavens become an interrelated tapestry of gods, heroes, monsters, animals and other mythological creatures. Go anywhere on the earth, and feel at home when you look up at the night sky. Imagine what it must have been like for the sailors crossing uncharted waters in search of new lands and how the night must have brought comfort to see familiar constellations.

It took me two years to learn the 37 major constellations that grace the northern skies. However, with the right approach it could be done in two weeks. Knowing the constellations allows one to see the hidden tapestry behind the stars. It becomes much easier to locate the planets, the nebulas and star clusters. This is especially helpful if you want to use a telescope.

Notice how different the stars look in the movie Titanic as opposed to the ‘stars’ of bubbles in glycerin that you see in Star Trek. If the starry backdrop were accurate, one could tell the direction of the Titanic, the time of night and the latitude. In early April the passengers would see Virgo rising from the stern and the night watch at the bow would be looking out for icebergs with the backdrop of the starry giant Orion sinking into the western Atlantic. Passengers gazing out the portholes on the starboard would see the overturned constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major) and those on the port side would see the starry sea serpent Hydra rising out of the southern sea almost to zenith.

How does one go about learning the constellations? There are several ways I have found to be quite helpful. Learn the mythological stories that tie groups of constellations together for each of the four seasons. For example, the constellations of Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Cassiopeia, Cepheus and Cetus are high in the sky on winter evenings. They are all related to the famous story of Perseus coming back victorious with the head of Medusa and responding to the cries of help from Andromeda who was chained to a rock near the sea to appease the sea monster Cetus. Perseus slays the sea monster and flies off with Andromeda on the back of Pegasus the horse. This of course drew a sigh of relief from her parents Cepheus and Cassiopeia, the king and queen of Ethiopia.

No comments