Friday, December 16, 2011

#28 A Hero Flies in on a White Horse to Save the Day

Hello Everyone!

Bet you want to know what happened to Andromeda, huh?  Well, she was left last chained to the side of the sea cliff, with a tsunami heading towards the coast.  Well, the tsunami was actually being created by Cretes the Sea Monster.

Cretes was a deep sea monster sent by Poseidon to destroy the coast town.  This is one of the oldest constellations, as it was known as a crocodile by the ancient Egyptians.  As the creature came upon Andromeda, a hero on a white horse flew in to save the day.

This Hero was Perseus, and his white horse Pegasus.  He had just come from slaying Medusa, the Gorgon that was fabled to petrify with a gaze.  Her blood fell into the sea below as he headed back with Medusa's head and mixed with the sea foam, giving birth to Pegasus.  He corralled and calmed Pegasus to use as a flying mount, until time that Zeus claimed the steed as a carrier of his lightning bolts.

The constellation Pegasus is actually called the "Great Table" in the night sky, as it sits above in the Winter night sky as a large square in the sky.  You will see the chains hanging to the lower left of the Great Table, with a large "lobster claw" with a triangle at the top to mark Perseus' part in the fable.

Perseus swooped down with Medusa's head and petrified the sea monster, unchained Andromeda, and returned her to her parents.  In return for his heroic service, they granted him marriage to their daughter.  And so ends the tale of Andromeda.

I cannot believe this is the last of the Star Stories!  Just yesterday I was starting this journey into the blogging world, and now here I am wrapping up the year 2011.  I am glad to see that over 20 followers enjoyed the year's review of the night sky, and that I reached 400 views.  Perhaps this blog will turn into a small little reader, or perhaps not, but I am proud to say I followed through and shared these stories with you.  Thank you for coming along on the journey through the night sky with me.

Sure, my Spirit Stories will still continue on, but not as frequently as the Star Stories blog did.  I am sure that my spiritual growth will continue to multiply, especially with the birth of my child next year.  As I take a moment to really remember what started my interest in stargazing, it would have to be moving to Arizona and looking up.  If I made you look up just at least once this year at the universe, I am truly happy that these stories did their job.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 9, 2011

#27 Full Moon December and a Troubled Family

Hello there everyone!

I cannot believe it is December!  It feels like just yesterday that I was starting this blog.  A full year has almost gone by, and we are closing up the full moon names with the December Full Moon this evening.  The December moon is called the Cold Moon or Long Night's Moon.  Of course, the Cold Moon makes sense, as it was noticed that the winter nights had finally started to settle in, along with the frosts/freezes of the winter season.

The Long Night's Moon is a clever way to notice that the Moon hangs longer and higher in the night sky, as the Sun hangs closer to the horizon due to the tilt of the Earth's axis away from the Sun and the Winter Solstice approaches.

Also, you may want to catch an early morning treat of a Lunar Eclipse that is slated to be spectacular, as it is timed during the moon set around 7:00am Arizona Time.  Near the horizon, the Moon will appear super big, and the ruddy red color that the Moon takes on during an Eclipse is bound to be magnified.

Now, to start the two part story regarding the troubled family mentioned in the blog title.  It has to do with a Queen, King, and their daughter.  Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Andromeda were a royal family that lived in Joppa, which was thought to be located on the Eastern coast of Africa.  Queen Cassiopeia was known for her boasting, especially about the beauty of her daughter Andromeda and herself.  She was also known to be of the attitude that her royal family was better than the other commoners, and even perhaps as great as the Gods and Goddesses.  Poseidon was especially enraged when he heard Cassiopeia boast that she and her daughter were more beautiful that any of his sea maidens.  He decided to send a large sea monster called Cretes to flood Joppa with a huge tsunami.

Cassiopeia is easy to find in the winter night sky.  She is one of the circumpolar constellations, which rotates in  a fixed position around the North Star.  Find Polaris, and you are sure to be able to find your way to the "M" or "W" of Cassiopeia.  This "W" is known symbolically as her throne.  She hangs upside down for most of the year, in punishment for her vanity and ego-centrism.

King Cepheus, hearing the news that his city was in danger, consulted the Oracle, who suggested to appease the sea monster with a sacrifice.  Cepheus was enraged at Cassiopeia for her boast, and tried to find any other suitable ways to please Poseidon, but not any sacrifice would do; it was to be his daughter Andromeda.  Cepheus swallowed his fear and anger and succumbed to chaining his daughter to the side of the coastal cliff, despite her cries.  He can be found as the dimmest constellation of this story, as a reflection of how much sorrow had taken his vigor and humility had brought him to his knees.  The constellation is seen as the shape of a dim house, with an elongated triangle roof.  Some actually think they can see the King on his knees, with his hands folded to the heavens in humble submission.

Andromeda, as a constellation, is just a large "V" or "A," and meant to symbolize the chains she was wearing on the cliff.  She eventually got the best deal out of the event, but we will need to wait until next time to learn the outcome of this dilemma she was placed in.  Within the constellation, we can view the closest deep sky object to our home; the Andromeda galaxy, which can sometimes be seen with the naked eye as a white splotch within the chains.

Our last post will explain the conclusion of this tale and end of journey through the night sky together.  Catch up with you then!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

#26 The Water Bearer and Twin Fish

Hello Fellow Stargazers!

It really brings up a lot of feelings realizing that this is the last post on the zodiac constellations.  All that is left to share with you is the month of December and the constellations that tell the story of Perseus and Andromeda, as well as the story of the name of the full moon of December.  Things are coming to a close this year, and as the Farnsworth household prepares for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the heat is turned on in the house, the tree and decorations bring a warmth all their own, and the evenings are a quiet and blissful time of warm drinks and cozy activities indoors.

I picture myself this December spending some time outdoors walking the lake and reflecting on the gifts poured out over myself and Cassie this year.  As soon as the Christmas lights start appearing on the houses, I find time to enjoy the twinkling stars not only above us, but around us.

Speaking of pouring out, the first of the constellations we will share is Aquarius.  Aquarius is one of the tougher constellations to trace out due to dim stars as well as the area of the sky that it occupies.  The ancient Greeks aptly named this area the "celestial sea" and was the source of all the waters of the night sky.  You can see that the Milky Way seems to spring from this area.

Ganymede is the celestial water bearer, a young man holding either the celestial urn or cup of immortality of the gods.  A young shepherd boy that Zeus judged as the most beautiful of the mortals, he claimed him as the water boy of the Olympian gods and goddesses.  As you will remember when we talked about Jupiter, Ganymede is one of the four Galilean moons, along with Io, Europa, and Callisto, and one of Zeus' many trifle jaunts with the mortals.  He granted Ganymede immortality for his service and symbolized in the night sky as Aquarius.

Pisces is the other of a pair of water signs/constellations which can be seen wrapped around the bottom of the great square of Pegasus, which we will observe in December.  The easiest part of this constellation to view is the circlet of Pisces, which is one head of the two fish that make up this constellation.

 This pair of fish was believed to symbolize the gods Aphrodite and her son Eros (Venus and Cupid) as they transformed themselves into fish to escape the monster Typhon.  Typhon was the largest and most feared of the monsters/Titans by the Gods, and when Typhon led the waged war of the Titans on the Gods for control of Olympus, most of the great ancient gods and goddesses transformed into animals and fled.  Zeus was able to confront and defeat Typhon and seal him under Mount Etna, which is thought to this day to be the source of the mountain's eruptions.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Friday, November 11, 2011

#25 Full Moon November and S.T.A.R.

Hello everyone!

This week we had the pleasure of enjoying the November Full Moon, the Beaver Moon or Frosty Moon.  So called because either it was time to set beaver traps to assure warmth from the beaver pelts gathered, or that beavers were preparing their dams and dens for winter.  The Frosty Moon makes sense: it's starting to get cold and frosty!  Time for the jackets and hats and gloves to come out!  The beautiful part of the winter night sky is its amazing clarity due to dipping temperatures, and you cannot beat its majesty and excuse to carry out a warm beverage like cocoa, coffee, or cider with you to sip on as you take in the cosmos above you.  Speaking of which, I believe that I will have to do just that very soon!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending S.T.A.R., my employer's alumni reunion for our clients that have successfully completed treatment.  I have made it a given each year I have worked with my employer that I am available on Saturday evenings to not only offer stargazing but also to catch up with past clients and honor their recovery and continued success.  This is my fourth year of enjoying the reunion activities.

I have had a 50% success rate with the stargazing activities.  The first two years were spectacular, with clear skies and a wonderful turnout and time!  It is sad to say that the last two outings were overcast and the sky was not available to enjoy.  It is interesting to notice that when I was stargazing actively at my workplace with  clients (at the time, I was working as a night counselor,) I had a similar energy about the experience at S.T.A.R.  Once I moved into my daytime therapist position, stargazing with clients became slowly non-existent.  The once well-used Orion telescope gathers dust in the far corner of my office.  I still harbor sadness about this, but it did spark the interest and motivation for this blog to be created, so the activity has continued to evolve into where we are today within Russ' Star Stories.  And shortly after we finish our journey through the night sky this year, I will probably turn your attention to Spirit Stories, which will continue to grow and share how stargazing has been a profound spiritual experience in my life.

This does not mean I did not enjoy the time spent at S.T.A.R. this year; the true gift had been from seeing some familiar faces and hearing that life was continuing to treat them well.  These clients, no, human beings, are a real source of inspiration; it is not easy doing what they did.  To me, they are the true stars!  Keep shining bright!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

#24 Two Goats

I cannot believe that my trip through the night sky this year is coming to a close in a little more than two months!   A few zodiac signs and the winter night sky legend of Andromeda are left in our exploration of the star stories.

This post will look at the two goats of the universe: Capricorn and Aries.

Capricorn is one of the most ancient constellations; it dates back to 3,000 b.c. Babylonia.  It was known as the solstice point to the ancient civilizations, and over time, due to the wobble of the Earth's axis, the sun now sets the lowest in Sagittarius.

My friend and fellow stargazer Vince introduced me to Capricorn by stating that I look for the "bikini bottom" of the night sky; he was right.  Capricorn is a  large triangle in the night sky, difficult to view due to its placement on the low horizon, even in the late summer months.  You is this a goat?

Well, Capricornus is Latin for horned goat, and the Greeks saw the constellation as a sea goat, with the forequarters of a goat and the tail of a fish.  Greek myth links this star collection to Pan, the half goat and half man god of deceit, illusion and music.  Pan was known also for the woodland magic and regenerative nature of the Earth.

In a well-known battle, an ancient Titan creature named Typhoon threatened the Greek Gods.  Pan sounded a conch horn as a warning, then changed into the sea goat as he jumped into the sea.  Other Greek Gods also changed into animals to defeat this large storm-based creature.  Zeus defeated Typhoon and placed the constellation in the sky as an honor to Pan's timely warning and clever escape.

Aries is the second of the sky goats, a ram with a golden fleece sent by Zeus to save two children from a sacrifice.  Many see the parallel of the ram as a "sacrifice" to human life, and the "golden fleece" the promise of wealth and spiritual transcendence and eternity, as similar to the story of Christianity.  

This is one of the few stories that we see Zeus as having a bit of gentleness and humanity.  He takes interest in the lives of two children named Phrixus and Helle.  They were a prince and princess that their step-mother despised.  Ino, the evil step-mother, knew that if she secretly planted diseased crops, this would serve to set up a poor harvest.  In the past, it was the King's children that were too be sacrificed to the gods for alleviation of famine.  Zeus saw that the children were fated for sacrifice and sent a golden fleeced ram to the children.  The ram collected the children and flew them East, out of danger and into safety.  During the trip, Helle fell from the ram over the sea and perished, but her brother Phrixus survived.  The ram gave its golden fleece to the King that was now the guardian to Phrixus, then returned to the heavens to Zeus.  Zeus placed the ram in the night sky.  The Greeks thought that the constellation was faint because it left its fleece on Earth.

Next time, we will explore the November Full Moon and the two water signs of the late fall and early winter sky.  I'm getting ready for S.T.A.R., and sharing stargazing with some past clients and alumni, and remembering the small starts of the hobby of stargazing in my life.  I am glad that I looked up and saw a wealth of stories, and further a wonderful opportunity to share the awe of the universe with others.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

#23 Full Moon October: Birthday Fire and Swing Nap

Hello There! Happy Autumn!

 I enjoyed the latest Full Moon and beautiful orange hue this past week. The October Full Moon is known as the Full Hunter's Moon and Harvest Moon. Imagine if you will that you are camping at the edge of a forest; the leaves are falling, a crisp chill is in the evening air, and the pumpkins are ripe for picking. The wonderful smell of wood smoke enfolds the surrounding air. I get an inkling for the seasonal brews, especially pumpkin ales.

 Many early campers and trappers, as well as Native Americans, found this the time to hunt and store for winter. The crops were gleaned, therefore game like fox and small creatures that were after the left-overs were easier to see and capture. Deer and game are fattening for winter. Because of winter looming, this moon was given great significance within the Native American tribes and European civilizations.

I enjoyed celebrating my 33rd birthday on the swing in the backyard last weekend; a fire burning down to ash and hot embers and a chill in the air made for a nice nap. I awoke to the beautiful clear night sky above, and was filled with awe and gratefulness for another year and reflected over the last year's challenges and blessings.

Be well Friends! Enjoy the upcoming fall months!  Also, I have added to the Spirit Stories Tab, so head on over there next!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

#22 Full Moon September and Deep Sky Frustrations

Hello there fellow stargazers!

Has the cooler air and shorter days started to impact your inner-autumn flow?  You walk into your local coffee and pastry shops and they are offering wonderfully pumpkin-spiced beverages and pumpkin deserts, and we start to crave apple pie, warm deserts, and warm beverages as the colder nights creep in.

The walk-in closet becomes transformed as long sleeve shirts and sweaters make a come-back.  Millions of new clothes combinations become available!

So, as the full moon rose this past week, have you noticed the beautiful golden hue about it?  It has been a rich treasure to behold.  The September Full Moon is the well-named Full Corn/Full Harvest Moon.  The staple fall crops of corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice are ready for harvest.  Kind of gets you thinking about Thanksgiving already!

Farmers can work later into the night with the light of the moon shining down upon them; the week of the autumn equinox the Moon rises about the same time each night, versus 50 minutes later as usual.  Try timing the moon rise this weekend to see if this holds true for you!

In other horizons, I have been glad to have the somewhat clearer skies of September to start to pull out my "Big Daddy" telescope into the driveway and start to spy the late summer and early fall deep sky objects.  I have been trying to view the recently discovered supernova which lies in M51, the Spiral Galaxy, yet have still have not seen it!  The first few nights of this past week it was cloudy and raining, and the last few clouds have obscured the night by about more than half.  I do enjoy the slow-down and cooling of the weather, however I would really like the chance to catch a view of M51 before the Big Dipper ends up too far below the horizon.

So, with the telescope out, I decided to view the tried and true deep sky object of the bejeweled Butterfly Star Cluster in between the tail of Scorpio and the spout of Sagittarius.  I was not disappointed; it is an easy find even with a pair of binocular or even a keen pair of eyes as a white smudge on a dark moonless night.

Next time we will seek out and finish with the Zodiac with the constellations of Aquarius and Pisces.  These are the two most obscure constellations in the night sky, and an exercise in patience with the reward of tracing them out on the Fall horizon being some pretty killer bragging rights!

Be Well until then!