Babe Among the Stars

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Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy

Babe Among the Stars: 31 Jan 2008


For as long as humans have inhabited the Earth, they have gazed skyward in awe at the wonders on view. Early astronomers cannot have imagined some of the distances involved between the Earth and the twinkling lights called stars. The most imaginative 'connected the dots' and saw shapes which they attributed to animals, objects or gods, usually involving fabulous mythical tales. These shapes are called constellations; in the 1st Century BC, a poet called Manilius wrote about the constellations and stars which were well-known then.

Originally the Greek astronomer Ptolemy (c90 - 168 AD) listed 48, known today as 'ancients'. Now there are 88 internationally accepted constellations. Some of these are only viewable from the northern hemisphere, others only from the southern hemisphere, while some, like magnificent Orion, are shared between the two. In today's images the constellations have boundaries, rather than being depicted as figures.

Constellations in the Edited Guide

Some time ago a constellation project was started by the H2G2 Astronomy Society, with the intention of having an Edited Guide Entry on each. The artwork for the individual entries has been provided by Gnomon and they are displayed on the Hall of Fame of the H2G2 Photographers. The completed constellations so far:

Andromeda 'the Chained Maiden'
Antlia 'the Air Pump'
Apus 'the Bird of Paradise'
Aquarius 'the Water Carrier'
Aquila 'the Eagle'
Camelopardalis 'the Giraffe'
Cassiopeia 'the Boastful Queen'
Centaurus 'the Centaur'
Cetus 'the Whale'
Coma Berenices 'Berenice's Hair'
Cygnus 'the Swan'
Draco 'the Dragon'
Eridanus 'the River'
Fornax 'the Furnace'
Gemini 'the Twins'
Hercules 'the Strongman'
Leo 'the Lion'
Lyra 'the Lyre'
Orion 'the Hunter'
Pegasus 'the Winged Horse'
Perseus 'the Hero'
Pictor 'the Painter's Easel'
Taurus 'the Bull'
Ursa Major 'the Great Bear'

There are still plenty of constellations left to write about! Please contact me if you would like help writing about one.

Diary Dates

  • Jan 31: Pre-dawn - Venus and Jupiter are only 1½° apart - you will need a good horizon to view the alignment (look to the south-east).

  • Feb 01: Antares (alpha Scorpii), is a first magnitude red supergiant star, having a colour similar to that of Mars. As the moon rises you'll get a chance to see Antares less than a degree to the north of the moon.

  • Feb 07: Solar eclipse, but this is only viewable from SE Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica. Lucky penguins!

  • Feb 09: If you have a powerful enough visual aid, you may be able to make out the planet Uranus just 3° south of the moon.

February phases of the Moon

  • 07 Feb: New Moon
  • 14 Feb: First quarter
  • 21 Feb: Full Moon (The Snow Moon) - this is a total lunar eclipse viewable from the UK so make a note in your diary!

Babe Among the Stars

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