Ancient Persian culture had four royal stars, their 'Guardians of the Sky'. Over each of the four different seasons of the year, one star would be prominent in the night sky, and each had its own meaning. In some cultures the four stars together represented horses, namely the fabled mounts of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (The Revelation of St John the Divine). Other stories tell that each star represents one of the four Archangels.
Astronomers of the day, who were also astrologers1, studied these stars for favourable alignments that they could work into their royal patrons' horoscopes. An astronomical event involving one of these royal stars occurred in the 19th Century which could have been interpreted by astrologers of the day to have foretold the birth of one of the most famous royals in history.
The Four Royal Stars
|Star||Designation||Modern Name||Arabic name||Persian name||Roman name||Archangel representative||Magnitude||Distance from Earth
|α PsA||alpha Piscis Austrini||Fomalhaut||Al Difdi al Awwal||Hastorang||Os Piscis Meridiani||Gabriel||+1.2 var||22||White main sequence|
|α Tau||alpha Tauri||Aldebaran||Al Dabaran||Tascheter||Parilicium||Michael||+0.8 var||65||Orange giant|
|α Leo||alpha Leonis||Regulus||Al Kalb al Asad||Venant||Cor Leonis||Raphael||+1.4 var||75||Triple star system|
|α Sco||alpha Scorpii||Antares||Kalb al Akrab||Satevis||Cor Scorpii||Oriel||+0.9 var||600||Red supergiant/binary|
Hastorang is the star we know as Fomalhaut2 (alpha Piscis Austrini). Literally meaning 'the mouth of the fish', this star's prominence marked the coming winter months. Fomalhaut is sometimes called 'The Solitary One' because it is the brightest star in the region, for quite some way. Hubble observations of this star's debris disc have detected proto-planetary objects which may become fully-fledged planets. An artist's illustration of the likely solar system was featured on the Astronomy Picture of the Day website in October 2002.
Tascheter: Aldebaran (alpha Tauri) is the 'eye of the bull' in the constellation Taurus. Ruling the spring months, this first-magnitude orange giant is around 65 light years distant. The Romans knew this star as Parilicium.
Venant: Regulus (alpha Leonis) marked the summer solstice. Regulus is also called Cor Leonis, which in Latin means 'heart of the lion' or 'the lionheart'. Of the 25 brightest stars, Regulus is one of very few close enough to the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun across the sky, to be able to form conjunctions with the planets of our Solar System and with the Moon. Alpha Leonis is a triple star system; the companions are a red and an orange dwarf star.
Satevis: Antares (alpha Scorpii) is a first-magnitude red supergiant which ruled autumn. Antares literally means 'rival of Mars' and indeed, they appear very similar to our eyes. Mesopotamian astrologers called this star 'The Traveller's Gravedigger'. The Romans knew it as Cor Scorpii 'the heart of the scorpion'. To Chinese astrologers it is 'Who Sing' – their 'fire star'.
Like Regulus, Antares is also close to the ecliptic. It is a binary star system; 5th-magnitude Antares B was discovered by Professor Johann Tobias Bürg (1766 - 1834) from Vienna, Austria, on 13 April, 1819, during the time when our Moon occulted3 (completely covered) the main component. The brighter star had literally been 'outshining' the dimmer Antares B; it had always been there, we just hadn't been able to see it without the benefit of the moon's blocking position. American astronomer Mary Proctor (1862 - 1957) referred to Antares B as 'the wily companion of Antares'.
The following paragraph is how a Persian Royal astrologer's announcement might have looked:
'New Star Heralds Royal Birth'
On 13 April, 1819, during the time when our Moon hid from the sight of man the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius, the scorpion, Antares, Professor Bürg of Austria made an astonishing discovery. As if a veil had been removed from his eyes, a new star could clearly be seen. Antares was no solitary star after all, but had a much-less-bright companion. The existence of Antares B was reported to the appropriate authorities and news of the exciting discovery reached London some weeks4 later. On 24 May, 1819, a daughter was born to the Duke and Duchess of Kent at Kensington Palace, London.
The infant Princess Alexandrina Victoria was fifth in line to the British throne, but with a 'new' star in the heavens announcing her arrival, a great future could have been predicted by royal astrologers.
How Victoria's Life Panned Out
Gradually over Victoria's formative years the list of succession grew shorter, and when she reached 18 years of age, the princess was Heir Apparent. One month later, upon the death of her uncle, King William IV, she became HM Queen Victoria. She married her cousin Prince Albert, who, uncannily, was also born in 1819. Their many progeny seeded almost every royal family in Europe; and through their eldest son, King Edward VII, they provided the roots for the Windsor family tree, today's British Royal Family. Queen Victoria attained the title of longest-reigning monarch in British history; at 63½ years, the record may never be beaten5. During her reign Victoria was crowned the first colonial Empress of India, making her the only Queen-Empress. Other queens held the title, but they were wives of monarchs, not rulers in their own right. HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was the last Empress of India, as India gained independence on 15 August, 1947. The title was relinquished in June 1948, when another royal baby was on the way, but that's a different story...