Daily Life

Sky Terrace: Stories in the Sky – Late Gemini, The Zodiac’s Star-Spangled Zone

15. Juni 2018

Sky Terrace – An astrological-analytical look at the stars, planetary movements, seasonal phenomena, and the world at large, by Uli Mai.

We are just coming out of a New Moon in late Gemini. Until June 21st, the Sun traverses one of the most star-strewn zones of the zodiac. Some really important constellations are crammed into late Gemini.

Taurus, the heavenly Bull, lies on the Sun’s path here, the ecliptic, but there are many more constellations above and below it. In summer, it’s not the best time for watching that part of the sky in the Northern hemisphere, but still – these constellations have some interesting stories to tell!
The easiest access to all of them comes when you spot Orion. The tell-tale giant hunter in the sky is pretty well known and hard to miss. It connects to some other, equally important but less detectable constellations. Orion’s three belt stars are easy to find. In fact they have been so important from ancient times on that a lot of researchers assume some monuments were arranged to mirror them, like the pyramids of Giza. Orion features two more very important fixed stars in his shoulders: Bellatrix, the female warrior, and Red Giant Betelgeuse.
Betelgeuse is a phenomenon in itself, shining 10.000 times brighter than our sun but shrinking rapidly. That red superstar will explode into a supernova in the not too-far-future, perhaps already in the next few 1000 years. From earth, the explosion could be as bright as a Full Moon. Orion’s shoulder being blown out of the sky would be a sight, and a sign! According to myth, the hunter Orion overstepped his bounds, and nature’s limits. The earth Goddess then sent the Scorpion to bite him and bring him down. Constellation Scorpio is placed opposite Orion, so whenever it rises, Orion seems to flee it. Who knows, that supernova may turn out to be her late revenge…
Following the belt stars to the right and slightly up, you can spot the main star of constellation Taurus, Aldebaran. Another Red Giant, but here to stay! Aldebaran is one of the Persian Royal stars. These stars used to mark the seasons, Christian times made him into archangel Michael. Its reddish/rose glow can be seen even with the naked eye.
From there to the left, slightly up, you find the horns of the Bull, to be exact, the Northern Horn, El Nath. The New Moon on June 13th fell on that, so taking the bull by the horns in the next two weeks is in order. Just take care not to hurt anyone unnecessarily (“El Nath” means, “the one who butts, or gores”). Intriguingly, this star is part of another constellation, Auriga, the Charioteer, rising above the horns of the Bull.
You can’t miss that constellation if you look up from Al Nath, as it contains one of the brightest stars in the night sky, Capella. Capella was used in Medieval protective magic; it’s said to symbolize the she goat that nursed baby Jupiter. Whenever life seems just too much, or to have lost its magic, the constellations remind us there is so much more out there – stories, myths and mysteries from millennia. Take your pick and make your wish upon on a star…
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Foto: This infrared image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, showcases the Tadpole Nebula, a star-forming hub in the Auriga constellation about 12,000 light-years from Earth. As WISE scanned the sky, capturing this mosaic of stitched-together frames, it happened to catch an asteroid in our solar system passing by. The asteroid, called 1719 Jens, left tracks across the image. A second asteroid was also observed cruising by. But that’s not all that WISE caught in this busy image – two natural satellites orbiting above WISE streak through the image, appearing as faint green trails. This Tadpole region is chock full of stars as young as only a million years old – infants in stellar terms – and masses over 10 times that of our sun. It is called the Tadpole nebula because the masses of hot, young stars are blasting out ultraviolet radiation that has etched the gas into two tadpole-shaped pillars, called Sim 129 and Sim 130. These „tadpoles“ appear as the yellow squiggles near the center of the frame. The knotted regions at their heads are likely to contain new young stars. WISE’s infrared vision is helping to ferret out hidden stars such as these. The 1719 Jens asteroid, discovered in 1950, orbits in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The space rock, which has a diameter of 19 kilometers (12 miles), rotates every 5.9 hours and orbits the sun every 4.3 years. Twenty-five frames of the region, taken at all four of the wavelengths detected by WISE, were combined into this one image. The space telescope caught 1719 Jens in 11 successive frames. Infrared light of 3.4 microns is color-coded blue: 4.6-micron light is cyan; 12-micron-light is green; and 22-micron light is red.
WISE is an all-sky survey, snapping pictures of the whole sky, including everything from asteroids to stars to powerful, distant galaxies.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

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