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The friendly stars 



A New Edition of an Astronomical Classic 

Martha Evans Martin 


Donald Howard Menzel 

With New Illustrations by 

Professor of Astronomy , Hood College 

And a Foreword by 


Former Director, Yerkes Observatory 


Copyright 1907,1954 by Elizabeth J. Evans. 
Copyright 1964,1966 by I>over Publications, 

All rights reserved under Pan American and In- 
ternational Copyright Conventions. 

Published in Canada by General Publishing Com- 
pany, Ltd., SO Lesmill Road, Don Mills, Toronto, 

Published in the United Kingdom, by Constable 
and Company, Ltd., 1O Orange Street, London 
W. C. 2. 

This I>over edition, first published in 1964, is a 
revised and enlarged version of the work first pub- 
lished by Harper & Brothers in 19O7. 

ZJ&rary of Congress Catalog Card Number; 

Manufactured in the U.nited States of America 

Dover Publications, Inc. 

ISO Varick Street 
New York 14, N. Y. 


This is a charming book, a book that brings us close to 
the starry night and other aspects of Nature that appeal to 
our senses. It is a Nature book in the most popular sense; 
it is not a book for the technical student. 

And yet, The Friendly Stars was an important influence in 
the decision of two boys (living in widely separated places) 
to become astronomers, some forty years ago. The interest 
and excitement it generated were among the principal causes 
for our deciding to devote our lives to discovering more about 
the stars and the universe. 

In the past we have frequently recommended The Friendly 
Stars to other young people and have regretted that it has 
long been out of print as well as in need of revision. This 
new, revised edition, we believe, fills a gap in the literature of 
elementary astronomy. 


Harvard College Observatory 


Yerkes Observatory 


In revising The Friendly Stars I have tried, as far as possible, 
to retain the informal style of the original author, Martha 
Evans Martin. Major revision has been necessary only in the sec- 
tions related to the physical characteristics of the stars: distances, 
velocities, temperatures, and evolutionary stages. I have also 
introduced the results of historical studies that I have personally 
made in the origin of the major constellation figures. 

On the rare occasions where I differ with Mrs. Martin, 
I have expressed her viewpoint even when I may hold an- 
other. Our major point of disagreement concerns the relative 
importance of the stars and constellations; Mrs. Martin finds 
the star groups and constellation figures uninteresting, unimag- 
inative, and hard to see. I believe that the constellation forms 
have evolved imaginatively from early times. When properly 
drawn, they are helpful guides to recognition of the various 
star groups. The figures here employed differ significantly from 
those given in the original edition of The Friendly Stars. They 
are identical with those I devised for Field Guide to the 
Stars and Planets.* Many of these figures are based, in turn, on the 
imaginative diagrams designed by H. A. Rey, in his book The Stars 
A New Way To See Them? I am indebted to Mr. Rey and to 
Houghton Mifflin Company for permission to employ these fig- 
ures in this book. 

I also wish to acknowledge the excellent art work of Ching- 
Sung Yii. Dr. William W. Morgan, whose interest in this book 
encouraged the revision, not only joined me in preparation of 
a Foreword, but also kindly read the manuscript and made 
many helpful suggestions. I sincerely hope that young amateur 
astronomers, the world over, will find this new edition of The 
Friendly Stars interesting and stimulating. 


*Field Guide to the Stars and Planets by Donald H. Menzel. Published by 
Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright 1963 by Donald H. Menzel. 
\The Stars A New Way To See Them by H. A. Rey. Published by Houghfon 
Mifflin Company. Copyright 1952 by H. A. Rey. 





























































































PLATE II EQUATORIAL STAR CHARTS .... inside back cover 


chief aim of this book is to share with others the 
* pleasure that the writer has had in what may be called 
a relation of personal friendship with the stars. In this rela- 
tion one knows the more conspicuous stars by name and at a 
glance; and is able to greet them as pleasant acquaintances 
when they return year after year in the due seasons, or each 
evening as they pass over their prescribed paths serene and 
stately, or dancing and twinkling, according to their several 

One has a fine sense of companionship with the stars when 
, he has secured this kind of acquaintance with them when on 
looking out of the window at any hour of the night he can 
see a familiar face twinkling at him as if in friendly recogni- 
tion of the fact that he must know it is due at that hour and 
is expecting to see it; or when, on a cold midnight in late 
February, before the trees and birds have announced the spring- 
time, he sees a bright, bluish, scintillating point just pushing 
up over the eastern horizon and knows that Vega has come to 
grace the skies again and that spring will surely come with her. 

Such a feeling for the stars is not induced by exciting jvon- 
der at the expanse and mystery of the^heayens^ or by burden- 
ing ^uad. oppressing the mind with the vastness that seems 
beyond all compassing in thought, but by showing how the stars, 
like the flowers and the trees, are but parts of the visible beauty 
of nature which have their share in making "the perfect whole." 

Plants and birds come in their turn 

As the revolving seasons rise 
Above the tree-tops star by star, 

and the steady advance of the changing season gets a definite- 
ness and an interest to one otherwise impossible when he has 
learned to associate the visible signs of the progress of the year 

2 The Friendly Stars 

as they appear in the skies as well as on the earth. He will then 
associate tne blooming of the blood-root and the first warble 
of the bluebirds with the eastern splendor of Arcturus and the 
blooming of the maples. When he watches in the daytime for 
the first blue violets he will look the same evening for the 
blue twinkling face of Vega. He will know that the j uncos and 
Sirius leave us at about the same time in the spring; that when 
the golden-rod and the wild asters are blooming it is time to 
look for Fomalhaut and that Antares is about to go; and a 
creaking, frosty night will make him involuntarily turn his 
eyes up to mighty Orion striding across the southern skies. 

Such things as these, which are so dear to the heart of the 
lover of nature, are not learned as one learns a lesson, or by 
the being told, but by coming into a personal relation, a rela- 
tion very easily established by one who really desires it, with 
the flowers and trees and birds and stars, knowing them all in 
their seasons and their associations. 

For such knowledge as this no technical information is nec- 
essary, though it may be followed by a desire for technical 
knowledge. The two are quite different things. But one can 
come to no real appreciation of anything in nature without 
some knowledge of particular objects. The acquirement of it is 
just as important and just as easy with the stars as with the 
flowers. One may revel in the beauty of a whole field of grass 
and flowers, but his heart gives a leap when he sees among 
them the face of some flower that he knows and likes, and he 
cries, "There's a lily," or a gentian, or whatever it may be. 
Birds may flit around us as we sit in the woods, and we note 
them as blade, yellow, pretty, or whatever, and we think we 
are getting all the pleasure we can from them; but interest 
quickens when one comes that we can name, and it at once 
has an individuality and an importance that none of the rest 

So it is with the stars: a starry night is beautiful and we 
gaae at it and enjoy it and do not care to know more about it 
in detail. But if by chance we come to know by name one bright 
star, it immediately separates itself from all the others and be- 
comes an individual. If we enlarge our acquaintance in the 
skies, the whole aspect of the heavens is changed, and, instead 
of a brilliant assembly of impersonal points of light, we see 

Introduction 3 

a host of individuals that we know as bright Capella, sombre 
Betelgeuse, and others. 

And this satisfaction we may secure without troubling about 
meridians and ecliptics, or right ascension and declination, or 
any other of the scientific trappings of the stars, just as we have 
it with the flowers without attending to sepals and petals, or 
pistils and anthers, and with the birds without any thought of 
anatomical classification. The only thing one needs to do in 
order to have such an acquaintance with the stars is to look 
for them: and this book aims to show how and when and where 
to look for them in the easiest possible way. 

Any especially scientific information will be omitted, the de- 
sire being to make the stars as interesting in themselves as pos- 
sible and to show how simple a matter it is to know in an 
intelligent but untechnical way the choicest individuals among 
them, the leading facts concerning them, their bearing in prac- 
tical life, and all that is individually beautiful and important 
about them. This, it is believed, will yield a pleasure such that 
any one who has once experienced it will receive a very large 
reward for the small labor entailed. 

It is by no means a dry and difficult thing to acquire any 
particular knowledge of the stars. One, if rightly directed, will 
find on pursuing the subject only just a little way that, while 
giving himself next to no trouble about it, he can soon come 
to know the more notable ones by name and to have a fair 
fund of practical information about them. Many of the stars, 
which now all look so much alike to him, will have acquired 
such an individuality that he can recognize them at a glance 
in whatever position in the skies he may see them. And he 
will find, too, that the pleasure one never fails to have in the 
spectacle of the whole sky is multiplied many times for him as 
soon as he knows something of the individuals that make up 
this splendid panorama. 

It is an interesting fact that the stars as individuals figure a 
great deal more prominently in old than in modern literature, 
and the writers of the older literature show a more personal 
acquaintance with them than the writers of the later literature 
show. This intimate knowledge of the stars really preceded the 
science of astronomy. The stars were better known even to peo- 
ple at large before there was any such science than they are 

4 The Friendly Stars 

known now, and there is only too much justice in Emerson's re- 
proach that now, in these days of nautical almanacs, "the man 
in the street does not know a star in the sky. The solstice he 
does not observe, the equinox he knows as little; and the whole 
bright calendar of the year is without a dial in his mind." 

The explanation of this difference is that people in earlier 
times, being more out of doors than the people of the present 
day, were more observant of out-door objects and took more 
interest in them. For it is, after all, mainly a matter of obser- 
vation; and for learning to know the leading stars and getting 
the interest that attends an acquaintance with them, little more 
is needful than simply looking at them. It is looking at them, 
too, with only the naked eye; for all the stars that attract spe- 
cial notice and have individual names were noticed and so 
named long before the invention of the telescope; and the prin- 
cipal constellations were traced and named by simple shepherds 
who tended their flocks at night in the open fields and had 
nothing to aid them but their own eyes and fancy. 


The Rising and the Setting of the Stars 

HP HE most favorable time for identifying a star is when it is 
A rising, or has just risen, especially if its rising takes place 
anywhere between twilight and midnight, the portion of the 
day most likely to be convenient for observers. It is then in the 
eastern part of the sky, where the afterglow of the sunset does 
not dim its luster, and it is far enough down towards the ho- 
rizon for one to look at it face to face in a comfortable atti- 
tude. Moreover, at rising, a star is more nearly by itself, more 
separated from neighboring stars, and is, therefore, much more 
easily recognized than when one has to pick it out from among 
the host of other stars already scattered over the sky and in as 
plain view as it. For near the horizon the atmosphere obliter- 
ates the multitude of faint stars that are plainly visible higher 
up in the sky. 

It is true that, owing to the density of the atmosphere there, 
all stars twinkle more, and hence shine with less steadiness, 
when they are near the horizon than when they are higher up 
in the sky, and most stars are not to be seen at all until they 
have actually risen some distance above the horizon. Then there 
is to be allowed for, the interference of buildings, trees, and 
other objects in the landscape; but, even in spite of these in- 
terferences, most any star comes well into view before it has 
risen so high that it cannot be easily separated from the others 
and looked at with comfort. One has the advantage given by 
the comparative isolation of a rising star whether it rises from 
below the horizon or from behind the trees and houses. 

If one were observing a star through a telescope and for other 
purposes than that of identification, he should choose, as nearly 
as possible, a time when the star is in the middle of its course 
from east to west, or as nearly overhead as it ever reaches. There 

6 The Friendly Stars 

the atmosphere will be clearer and, in consequence, the star will 
shine with a steadier light and offer less opportunity for optical 
illusions. But this means either a neck-breaking attitude or some 
special preparations for a comfortable reclining posture, either 
of which is more or less discouraging to one who has not al- 
ready become pretty familiar with the stars. When he has come 
to know them, there is no greater delight than to lie stretched 
on a cot in the open with the whole expanse of the heavens 
above him, and watch them as they rise and pass and go again. 
This is the stage of acquaintance that binds one forever in 
friendship with the stars. But a speaking acquaintance may be 
maintained that will give much pleasure with lighter demands 
upon one. 

The rising of the stars is the time of recognition and greet- 
ing. But it is no less important to speed the parting guest; and 
the next most satisfactory time to watch a star is when it has 
readied the western sky and is about to leave us until it comes 
again to the eastern door on its never-ceasing round. Here, 
while the star remains the same in its individual attributes, all 
its setting is the reverse of what it was when the star first ap- 
peared above the eastern horizon. The parallelogram of twink- 
ling stars that trailed behind Vega as she rose in the east now 
waves above her as she sinks below the line of vision in the west. 
The Northern Cross, which heaved itself into sight in the east 
almost wrong-side up, with Deneb weighting the head of it, 
has, twenty hours later, practically righted itself and is lost to 
view in the glowing west with Deneb dancing on the tip of its 
upright. So complete identification must include the recogni- 
tion of a star both in the east and in the west. 

In the north the stars that constantly circle around the pole 
are always visible to us. They complete their small round once 
in twenty-four hours,- but their path lies entirely above the ho- 
risofi, so they never rise or set. Within this circle are the Pole 
Star and the stars of the Great Dipper, which will be illustrated 
is the next chapter; but it includes none of the brightest stars. 

Next comes a line of stars describing a larger circle around 
Ae pole, one that takes them below the horizon for a longer or 
shorter time according to their distance from the pivotal point, 
the pole. These stars rise in the northeast, make a long, slow 
sweep of the sky, and set in the northwest, finishing their circle 

The Rising and the Setting of the Stars 7 

below the horizon and rising not long after they set. Among 
these are some of the brightest stars. 

Then follows a belt of stars that rise somewhere near the 
exact eastern point of the horizon, cross the heavens to the west- 
ern point in about twelve hours, and remain below the horizon 
another twelve hours. 

And, finally, there are the stars in the southern section of the 
sky, which rise south of east and set in the southwest, never ris- 
ing very high in the heavens, the portion of their circle, or 
course, over which we can see them pass being smaller and 
smaller as that course lies farther and farther south of us. Among 
these southern stars are Sirius, the star that outshines all the 
others, and Fomalhaut, which hides from us for sixteen hours 
out of each twenty-four. 

All the stars that rise south of the exact eastern point on the 
horizon are called southern stars; for the sky is divided into a 
northern and a southern hemisphere by an equator running 
half-way between the north and the south pole, just as the earth 
is divided. The northernmost stars of the southern hemisphere 
are visible to us just as the southernmost stars of the northern 
hemisphere are visible to people living in southern latitudes. 
These distinctions are of no great importance, but it is well to 
understand that, while we cannot see the southern stars as a 
body, yet some of them are visible to us and still are spoken 
of as southern stars. Three of the brightest stars that come 
within our view, Rigel, Antares, and Spica, are southern stars, 
in addition to Sirius and Fomalhaut, which have already been 

Unlike the sun and moon and the planets, each star rises 
always at practically the same point in the heavens. It comes 
back to the starting-point each day four minutes earlier than 
the day before, which makes it rise about an hour earlier each 
fortnight, and two hours earlier each month; so that in twelve 
months it comes back twenty-four hours earlier. This brings it 
back to the same rising point at almost the same second once 
a year. 

These changes from day to day in the time of the rising and 
the setting of the stars are regular and definite; and so it is an 
easy matter, after one has once learned to recognize a star, 
either by its appearance or its surroundings, to know where to 

$ The Friendly Stars 

look for it at any given date. If a star, for instance, is due to 
rise at six o'clock in the evening on the first of March, it will 
rise at four in the afternoon in April, and at eight in the eve- 
ning in February; at two o'clock in the afternoon in May, and 
at ten in the evening in January; at noon in June, and at mid- 
night in December; and so on throughout the year. Hence, al- 
most any star can be seen at some time in the night for six months 
in the year. The other six months, if it is among the northern- 
most stars, it can be seen more or less each night; but if it is 
among those that are below the horizon many hours, it may be 
above it during the hours of sunshine and thus be rendered in- 
visible to the naked eye, though even in the daytime one can 
usually find a bright star with a telescope. 

The times of rising and setting given in this book are for 
about the latitude of New York City, which is nearly forty-one 
degrees north latitude. For any place within five degrees of this 
latitude on either side the difference in time of rising is so 
slight that for mere purposes of identification it will not matter. 
The time of the appearance of the stars to persons within this 
belt of latitude is the same all the way across the country from 
Maine to California. It includes the region around all the large 
cities of the Eastern and Middle States and most of the Western 
ones. Within it lie Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, Washing- 
ton, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago, St. Paul, 
Detroit, Louisville, St. Louis, Denver, and San Francisco. On 
the southernmost edge of it is Memphis, and just a little out- 
side of it on the north is Olympia, Washington. Los Angeles 
lies a little outside it on the south. Above or below this belt 
one must take latitude somewhat into consideration; which 
means only to remember that when an observer is placed farther 
south the stars to the north of him rise somewhat later and 
those to the south of him somewhat earlier, and that if he is 
placed north of this belt the stars to the south of him rise some- 
irfiat later and those to the north of him somewhat earlier. 
The rising-times of the stars as given here will answer approxi- 
mately for any place in the United States. 

When the rising-time of a star is referred to in these pages, 
k is usually given as nearly as possible in round numbers to 
avoid any complications, If the actual time, for instance, is 6:55, 
it is given as 7:00. Variations of this kind seldom extend over 

The Rising and the Setting of the Stars 9 

more than a few minutes and they more often give a time a 
little later instead of earlier than the exact minute. This makes 
the inexactness still more immaterial, since for naked eye ob- 
servation one cannot hold the stars to their scheduled minute 
of rising, and anywhere within half an hour is a reasonable ex- 
pectation in that regard. They are there, to be sure, but varia- 
tions of climate between two places and variations of atmosphere 
from day to day will make a considerable difference in their visi- 
bility when near the horizon. After they are well up in the sky, 
of course, one need not make so many concessions. 

The times quoted are strictly standard times for the selected 
meridian. For sites to the east or west of the standard meridian 
the time will differ. Also for daylight saving time, remember to 
add one hour. 

It is to be remembered also that one is rarely ever situated 
where he can really see the horizon, but owing to various causes 
sees usually a line somewhat above the true horizon. 


Concerning the Brightest Stars 

A MONG the hundreds of thousands of stars in the universe 
there are twenty-one that are so much brighter than the oth- 
ers as to make a class by themselves. They are known as stars of 
the first magnitude, or highest degree of brightness. These 
twenty-one stars are so scattered over the sky and each so dom- 
inates the section in which it is found, that if one comes to know 
them, there is no quarter of the heavens towards which he can 
turn his eye and not have a pleasant sense of familiarity with it. 
Each one of these stars has a fixed place in the sky, and all 
but three have proper names of their own. The stars in general 
are not known by individual names; so it is a matter of congratu- 
lation that nearly all the bright ones are so known, and espe- 
cially that this is true of all the brightest stars that can be seen 
in our latitude. The fixed place they have in common with all 
the other stars, which, when once their place is known, can al- 
ways be found in the same spot. For the stars are steadfast. 
Spring, summer, autumn and winter each has its own bright stel- 
lar setting, and we can always count on its appearing with un- 
changing beauty and unfailing promptness. The moon comes 
and goes. She is the symbol of inconstancy. The planets wander 
from place to place-most of them easy enough to find, but con- 
tinually changing in brightness and position. Only the stars 
are always the same. 

The names of the twenty-one brightest stars, given in the order 
of their brightness, are as follows: 

pronounced SirM-us 

n'tauri':::::::::;:;;;;; ....... : ^g * 

Arcturus ...... ....... ^! & Sen-td 

Vega ........................ Ark-tu'-rus 

Concerning the Brightest Stars 11 




Beta Centauri 


Betelgeuse . . . 
Aldebaran . . . 
Alpha Crucis 




Fomalhaut . . . 

Re'-jel, or Ri'-jel 



Ba-ta Sen-ti'-re 




Al-fa cru'-sis 





Deneb " Den'-eb 

Beta Crucis " Ba-ta cru'-sis 

Regulus " Reg'-u-lus 

There are six stars among the twenty-one brightest which are 
so far south that they cannot be seen in our latitude. But they 
are important and beautiful, and it may be worth while to 
speak of them briefly before we pass on to the others of this 
bright company with whom we hope to have a friendly ac- 
quaintance. These six stars are Canopus, Alpha Centauri, Beta 
Centauri, Alpha Crucis, Beta Crucis, and Achernar. In some 
parts of Florida and Texas, Achernar can be seen low in the 
south for a short time in the evening, and Canopus, which is a 
little farther north, can be seen a somewhat longer time and 
higher up in the sky. All six of these stars can be seen in Cuba. 
It is to be regretted that they must remain hidden from us, for 
there are special reasons why some of them would interest us, 
aside from their great beauty. 

Canopus, for instance, is far brighter than any star visible in 
the northern hemisphere save one, the brilliant star Sirius, and 
Canopus is so much farther away than Sirius that it must be 
many times brighter and really radiate many times more heat 
and light. Canopus is, in fact, one of the brightest stars in our 
galaxy; for all its superior brilliancy, it is so far away that light 
requires 230 years to reach us. Sirius, though it outshines 
Canopus to our view, is comparatively near since light takes only 
seven years to reach us. 

Incidentally, it may be interesting to know that Canopus is 
credited with having run away with one of the Pleiades. If he 
did the deed, he has succeeded in concealing the proof of it, for 
the lost Pleiad has never been seen elsewhere since she was re- 
puted to have disappeared from her place among her six sisters. 

12 The Friendly Stars 

Alpha Centauri is distinguished as being, so far as is now 
known, the nearest star to us with the exception of our sun. It 
is not near enough for any inconvenient neighborliness, as we 
shall find later on; Alpha Centauri, itself a double star, has a 
third, fainter component, possibly slightly nearer than Alpha. 

This faint companion star is sometimes called Proxima; but 
the name has not come into any general use, nor does it seem 
very desirable that it should. For all our feeling that so impor- 
tant a star ought to have an individual name, Proxima does not 
seem the right choice. It may well be that in the course of time 
other stars will be found to be nearer to us than Alpha Centauri, 
and the name would then have no appropriateness. Alpha Cen- 
tauri also bears the name Rigil Kent. 

Beta Centauri, sometimes called Hadar, is a brilliant star, not 
quite so bright as Alpha. The two stars lie very near together. 
The distance between them is about four degrees. This is a 
little more than the distance between Castor and Pollux and 
not quite so much as that between the two pointers in the 
Dipper. Alpha Crucis, almost as bright, lies not far away, and 
the three stars make a brilliant spectacle in the southern sky. 
Achernar, but little fainter than Alpha Centauri in brightness, 
is the only very bright star in its section of the southern heavens. 
The other sixteen of the brightest stars are all visible to us, 
and are the ones we shall seek to know first. After they are well 
identified it will be easy to point out others, less brilliant, but 
perhaps not less significant. 

To find any of these stars only two things are necessary to be 
known as a basis from which to work: the constellation known 
as the Big Dipper, and the North Star (Polaris is its name) . 

In the strictest sense, the Big Dipper is not a constellation at 
all, but an "asterism," a group of stars that forms part of the 
laige constellation, the Greater Bear. The Big Dipper consists 
of sevea principal stars, all very bright, but none of them among 
tfce twenty-one brightest, grouped so as to resemble the outline of 
a dipper. 

This star group is so conspicuous and, hence, so easy to find, 
that it is known to most persons. The Big Dipper is one of the 
few star patterns that really look like the things after which 
they are named. It lies in the northern heavens, and in our lati- 
tude is above the horizon all night, so that it can always be seen 

Concerning the Brightest Stars 

14 h 


13 h 12 h +50 11" 


when the skies are clear. The two stars on the outer side of the 
bowl are called the "pointers," because a line drawn through 
them from bottom to top will point towards the North Star, 
and, if extended to about five times the distance between the 
two stars, will end, not exactly, but yet so nearly at Polaris 
that there will be no mistaking the star. 

The North Star marks the center, or pole, around which the 
celestial sphere revolves, and the pointers always hold the same 
relative situation to it no matter how the dipper is turned with 
relation to us. The North Star and the Dipper as they appear 
to an observer on the earth in our latitude at the different 
seasons of the year have the relative position shown in the 

Inasmuch as all the stars seen in the northern hemisphere of 
the heavens revolve around the point marked by the North 
Star, their positions relative to one another are always the same. 
So if one bears this in mind, it will be just as easy to find them 
at one time in the year, or in the evening, as at another. The 
positions given in the diagram of the Dipper are as the stars 
composing it appear early in the evening at the seasons named. 
They make a circuit of the pole each twenty-four hours, so that 
if one watches all night he can see them in at least three of these 
positions each night in winter and in two of them during the 
short nights of summer. Into the other positions they come, of 
course, in the daytime. 


The Friendly Stars 



The distance between the two pointers is about five degrees; 
and this is an important thing to keep in mind. These known 
ive degrees may be used as a unit of measure in finding other 
stars as described in this book. If one cannot carry the distance 
between the pointers hi his mind from one part of the skies to 
aoodier and thus make comparisons of distances that will be 
approximately correct, he can take a stiff piece of card-board, 
or an adjustable ruler, and, holding it out at arm's-length, adjust 
it so as to exactly cover the space between the two pointers. He 
will then have a fairly accurate measure of five degrees in the 

Concerning the Brightest Stars 75 

sky and will probably be surprised to find that it will require a 
little less than three inches on his ruler to cover it. This will be 
of great assistance in marking off approximate distances on the 
surface of the heavens as it appears to us, and will enable one 
to follow the directions given in these pages. It will be a still 
further convenience to make a measure from two to four times 
as long, thus covering ten or twenty degrees. In adjusting these 
measures it will be found necessary to sight with one eye only, 
keeping the other closed. One cannot cover a star from both 
eyes with a ruler at only an arm's-length away. 

While these rough guides are conveniences to one entirely un- 
accustomed to observing the skies, a very little experience will 
soon enable one to estimate distances from star to star by the 
eye alone with sufficient accuracy to identify any conspicuous 
object in the heavens. 

In looking for the brightest stars one may sometimes find him- 
self confused by four bright stars that are not, after all, true 
stars, but the planets Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. Stars 
are suns and shine by their own light, as our sun does. Planets 
are dark bodies and shine only by light reflected from the sun. 
If the planets were as far away as the stars, they would be en- 
tirely invisible, and all the differences between them and the 
stars which I am about to enumerate are due entirely to the 
comparative nearness of the planets. 

There are eight planets besides the earth, but the four already 
mentioned are the only ones likely to be mistaken for true stars 
and thus prove confusing to the ordinary observer. Uranus is 
barely visible to the naked eye. Neptune and Pluto can be seen 
only with a telescope, and the other (Mercury) on account of 
its nearness to the sun is rarely seen at all by the ordinary ob- 
server, though when it is visible it appears as a rather bright star. 

The first two, Venus and Jupiter, are at certain times brighter 
than the brightest stars. Venus sometimes shines so that it casts 
a shadow and sometimes can be seen, like the moon, in daylight. 
Saturn is usually as bright as a first-magnitude star, and Mars 
varies so that it sometimes equals Saturn in brilliancy and some- 
times is not so bright. They all move about in the heavens with 
seeming irregularity, and when they are in the region of any 
bright star may easily be mistaken for it by an untrained ol> 
server. A little careful observation, however, will show that they 

16 The Friendly Stars 

are not as the other stars. They are not fixed in their places, and 
a few nights of watching will make this apparent. They do not 
twinkle as the stars do, but shine with a steadier light. They are 
not mere points of light, as the stars are. Telescopes show them 
as rotund solid bodies, though small in comparison with the 
other two bodies of which we can see the outlines: the sun and 
the moon. A very little watching will make one familiar with 
their appearance so that he can always tell Venus and Jupiter 
at a glance and usually Saturn and Mars. 

Their positions in the heavens are hard to describe definitely 
because the planets are constantly changing. They do, however, 
keep within a certain limited path, which is within a few de- 
grees of the path that the moon follows as it threads its way 
among the stars each month, and at some time during the month 
it passes near each planet. This is sufficient to indicate that the 
planets are never found very far south or very far north. 

Venus has still the further limitation of never being more 
than about forty-eight degrees away from the sun. When it is in 
the evening sky it sets never much more than three hours after 
the sun, and when it is seen in the morning it rises never more 
than about three hours earlier than the sun. The other planets 
within their limited path already described rise and set at various 
times within twelve hours of the rising and setting of the sun. 

The planets have each a distinctive color, which will assist 
somewhat in identifying them. Venus is white; Jupiter is a little 
tinged with yellow, Saturn is decidedly yellow, and Mars is 
fiery red. 

There are many interesting things to observe about the plan- 
ets, which are a study in themselves. This brief outline of their 
appearance and locations in the sky will be sufficient to prevent 
one from confusing them with the stars, which are the special 
objects of our quest at present; and with the North Star and the 
Dipper wdl in mind, we are now ready to be introduced to the 
brightest of them. 



is a charming star that has the distinction of being 
situated nearer to the North Star than any other of the 
brightest stars. To find it, draw a line forty-five degrees long 
from Polaris at a right angle to the line from the pointers to 
the pole and running in an opposite direction from the handle 
of the Dipper. It is also pointed out by a line starting at the 
star that marks the bottom of the Dipper on the handle side 
and running thence about half-way between the two pointers, 
for a distance of about fifty degrees, or to the first bright star, 
which is Capella. If these directions are even approximately 
followed Capella can be discovered, for there is no other star in 
its neighborhood that in any way compares with it in brightness. 

Capella is one of the most brilliant stars in the heavens. Ca- 
pella, Vega and Arcturus are the brightest stars in the northern 
hemisphere of the skies. Sirius, as we know, always shines with 
greater brilliancy than any other star; but Sirius lies south of 
the equator and does not belong among the stars of the northern 
hemisphere, although in our latitude it, fortunately, can be seen. 

Being so far north, Capella is above the horizon more than 
twenty hours out of each twenty-four, so that it can be seen at 
some time in the night every month in the year, and one comes 
to be on most familiar and friendly terms with its bright face. 
Its first appearance in the skies of the early evening is in August, 
when it rises about ten o'clock during the first half of the month; 
and it remains a constant ornament of the nights until the latter 
part of the following June. July is the only month in which Ca- 
pella does not show its face at some time before midnight; and 
even in July, if one watches closely late in the month, he can 
have glimpses of the star following the evening sun at no great 


18 The Friendly Stars 

distance and almost lost in the sunset glow. In October it rises 
just as the sun is setting. 

Capella rises almost exactly in the northeast and swings in a 
fine long circle over the heavens during its twenty-hour journey 
to the northwest, where it sets for a brief time, and then rises 
again in about four hours. 

When you watch the birds congregating in noisy flocks in 
the morning for the fall migration, and in the afternoon look 
for the first fringed gentians, look for Capella in the northeast- 
ern sly in the evening. When the trees are bare and the berries 
are wrapped in ice and snow, so that the winter birds greedily 
gather in what bounty you throw to them, you will find Capella 
shining almost directly overhead early in the evening. During 
the spring months, when the air is full of the stir of the awaken- 
ing earth, and other stars are demanding our attention to their 
return in the east after long absences, Capella is hurrying on 
towards the northwest, no longer charming us with its novelty, 
but still as bright and fair as ever and ready to fill its place in 
the brilliant gathering of the stars of spring. 

Capella is yellow in color like our sun and has about the same 
surface temperature. Its spectrum is very similar to that of the 
sun. The similarity in temperature only means that it has about 
the same surface brightness. Capella, however, is a giant star and 
our sun is a dwarf, Capella radiating more than 100 times more 
light than the sun. Its distance is so great that its light requires 
about 46 years to reach us in its journey through space, though 
travelling, as light does, with a swiftness of 186,000 miles a sec- 
ond At the distance of the nearest star, our beautiful big sun 
would shine as a star no brighter than Polaris. But Capella is 
ten times farther away than the nearest fixed star, and still shines 
as one of the brightest of the bright stars. If Capella were in- 
habited, our sun would appear to its people as one of the faintest 
stars that we can see with ease. But it is not inhabited, for it is 
a very IKK, rarefied and expanded body, as much as forty times 
rarer than our sun, and like the other bright stars, no place for 
the existence of life as we know it. 

It has been discovered in recent years that Capella is not alone 
as it makes its journey through the black void. Like so many 
other stars, it is what is known a$ a binary system, or a double 
star, and has a companion which lies so near it that they circle 

Capella 19 

around each other in a little more than a hundred days, or less 
than one-third of the time that it takes the earth to go around 
the sun. 

Capella and its companion have never been seen separately even 
with the assistance of the strongest telescope. But the wizard 
spectroscope has penetrated their family secret and by its means 
astronomers have learned that they are two immense, fiery bodies 
of nearly the same size and perhaps a hundred times more vo- 
luminous than the sun, whirling with incredible speed about 
each other. The diameter of the orbit over which the two stars 
spin is so large that we could string more than a hundred suns 
along it and still have room left for a few more shining beads 
of the same sort. 

Since it has been known that Capella is a double star it has 
been suspected through at least one telescope of being oval in- 
stead of round, showing that the two stars have been caught at 
a place in their orbit where they appeared side by side to our 

These are interesting facts that science, has to tell us about 
Capella; but the star that fixes itself in our regard is the fair, 
golden, bright Capella that decks the sky in its season. We fol- 
low it in its course visible to us across the heavens, we joy in its 
beauty and find its gentle light no less gentle on account of 
its being the composite of the great orbs we know it is. 

Capella is at present receding from us at the rate of about 
twenty-three miles a second, or more than a million miles a day. 
At first thought this rather makes us fear that we are in danger 
of losing this beautiful star from view. But it will be many 
thousands of years before even under such speeding away there 
will be any appreciable change in its brightness. 

The constellation of which Gapella forms a part is called 
Auriga. It is a five-sided figure somewhat in the shape of a shield. 
It can be easily recognized as soon as Capella is located. It will 
be described among the constellations later on. 



"P ARJLY in the evening in March there may be seen rising a 
little north of east, another bright star that is among the 
choicest of the heavenly bodies. This is Arcturus. To find it be- 
gin at the end of the handle of the Big Dipper and, following 
the curve of the handle, extend a line about thirty degrees, or 
until you come to the first brilliantly shining star. There is no 
other very bright star in this region; so the line cannot point 
you to any other than Arcturus, the self-same star whose bright 
beams flowed down more than twenty-six hundred years ago 
upon the patient Job and is named by him along with other 
wonders of the divine creation. 

When one has learned to know the ways of Arcturus and cares 
to greet him as he first comes to take his place among the eve- 
ning stars in the spring, one begins about ten o'clock in the eve- 
ning in February to watch the handle of the Dipper, so clearly, 
to the expectant observer, pointing to something important just 
below the horizon and then slowly rising until it has pulled into 
view the steady shining face of Arcturus. A less attentive ob- 
server is more likely to notice the star in March and April, when 
die Dipper is almost directly overhead and is turned as neatly 
upside down as if it were on the pantry shelf. Its handle, though, 
still points to Arcturus, now climbing the eastern skies com- 
posedly but rapidly, and making way for the other bright stars 
of the spring that will bring on the scene a stellar setting of 
their own. 

Arcturus rises on the first of March about eight o'clock in the 
evening, and during this month, when the horse-chestnut buds 
are swelling and the elm-trees are putting forth their first brown 
blossoms, and the hawks and owls and crows are prospecting for 
nesting sites among the high trees, Arcturus, as if impelled by 


A returns 21 

the onrush of spring, is returning four minutes earlier each eve- 
ning until at the beginning of April the star rises just as the 
sun sets. 

This is really the month of its greatest glory. It shines all 
through the evening in the eastern heavens, bright even when 
the moon is full, and, fitting in with all the other aspects of 
nature, gives a splendid close to the splendid days of late April. 
What more gracious day's progress in beauty could there be 
than to travel with the eye from the cheerful hepaticas dotting 
the soft ground among the trees to the round, white, silent blos- 
soms of the dogwood fringing the late April woods and thence, 
when evening falls, to the bright yet gentle light of Arcturus 
in the sky, announcing the end of the purple twilight. 

By the middle of June, Arcturus may be found during the 
early evening almost overhead, and it remains in this region 
during July. After this, one sees plainly that Arcturus is travel- 
ling towards the northwest, sinking lower and lower each month 
until, near the last of November, the pointing handle of the 
Dipper (the Dipper being then right-side up and below the 
pole) shows us that it has gone, almost at the same moment 
with the sun, below the northwestern horizon. It is in the eve- 
ning skies no more until the next spring. If one wants to see 
Arcturus in December or January, he must look for it in the east 
between midnight and dawn. It shines for us at some time be- 
tween sunset and midnight almost ten months in the year. It 
requires about fourteen and a half hours to complete its jour- 
ney from rising to setting each day. 

Arcturus and Capella are so nearly equal in brightness that 
astronomers have differed as to which outranks the other. To 
my own eye Arcturus outshines Capella, and on asking various 
inexperienced persons for off-hand opinions as to the relative 
brightness of the two stars, I have invariably had an answer in 
favor of Arcturus. The best authorities now agree with this 

Compare Arcturus with Capella and you will see that the col- 
ors do not precisely match. Arcturus, as one can plainly see, is a 
little more tinged with red. This means that it is cooler and the 
surface not quite so bright as that of Capella or the sun. 

These red giant stars are in a very interesting stage of their 
astronomical development. They are stars that, having exhausted 

22 The Friendly Stars 

the primary stellar fuel, hydrogen, are now relying upon second, 
ary sources in an effort to escape extinction. Their centers are 
much hotter than the sun and this extra heat has caused the 
stars to expand until they are bloated in comparison with the 

The total brightness of Arcturus is almost a hundred times 
that of our sun. Hence, since the source of fuel is very limited, 
this star and other similar red giants are expending their energy 
at an enormous rate, which they cannot keep up for long. After 
a few thousand years these stars may explode, the remaining frag- 
ments condensing to form white dwarfs, like the companion of 

Light takes about 37 years to reach us from Arcturus. 

These facts are, perhaps, not what we most want to have in 
mind when we gaze into the face of Arcturus with its dear, 
steady light, but they must have their part in the sum of its 
general characteristics and some influence in determining our 
feeling towards the star. 

Arcturus has the distinction of having the most rapid motion 
of any of the brightest stars and it is among the swiftest mov- 
ing of all the stars visible to the naked eye. Enormous body as 
it is, we know that it is bowling along through space at the rate 
of between two and three hundred miles a second. It has been 
doing this for untold centuries, and yet it does not change its 
position to our view a distance of more than one-tenth of the 
apparent diameter of the moon in a century. This is, however, 
an enormous change for a "fixed" star and will, in the course of 
ages, make an important difference in the position of Arcturus 
among the other stars. 

It is pleasant to know that this bright star is approaching us, 
though it decreases the distance between itself and us only at 
the rate of two and one-half miles a second, a very loitering gait 
in comparison with the speed of stars in general. The most that 
it can mean to us is that Arcturus will not grow less bright in 
oiir skies because of increasing distance; for at this rate of ap- 
proacfa untold centuries must pass before the distance between 
us and the star is lessened so as to make any appreciable increase 
ia its brightness. Such increase, indeed, possibly never will be 
made. For, as previously noted, Arcturus is growing old and 

Arcturus 23 

may well alter its appearance before changing distances have 
much influence on its apparent brightness. 

Arcturus lies in the constellation Bootes and is, of course, its 
brightest star. The name signifies "Watcher of the Bear," a title 
derived from its proximity to Ursa Major. 



A NOTHER bright star, and one that comes into view not long 
after Arcturus, is Spica. It is not so bright as Arcturus, but is 
still a conspicuously brilliant star. Among the twenty-one brightest 
it is the fifteenth in order of brilliancy. To find Spica easily 
extend the line from the end of the handle of the Dipper 
through Arcturus and about thirty degrees beyond, still fol- 
lowing the curve. It is about as far from Arcturus as Arcturus 
is from the handle of the Dipper. A straight line beginning at 
the pointer nearest the pole, running through the star at the 
bottom of the Dipper on the handle side, and extended about 
sixty-five degrees farther on, will also point out Spica. 

Spica rises a very little south of the exact eastern point on 
the horizon and becomes visible about an hour later than Arc- 
turus. It is the only very bright star in the southeastern part of 
the heavens during the early spring months, and one cannot 
easily fail to identify it even without the specific directions for 
finding it that are here given. It first attracts one's attention in 
the early evening about the middle of March, at which time it 
rises about eight o'clock and by nine has cleared its face of the 
haziness of the lower atmosphere and is shining with a clear 
irfute light. 

Spica does not make so long a sweep across the heavens as 
Capella and Arcturus do. It is one of the stars that lie a little 
south of the celestial equator, and at the highest point in its 
journey across the sky Spica is still to the south of us and almost 
one4ialf of the way up from the horizon to the point exactly 
orafeead, which we call the zenith. It takes five hours and a 
half to reach its highest point and as many more to travel to 
the southwestern horizon, where it sets eleven hours after it has 


Spica 25 

Spica rises just after the sun sets in the early part of April; 
and during April and May it is at its best in the eastern evening 
sky. Its position, however, always comparatively low in the sky 
to our view, makes it easy to observe at all times when it is 
visible. During the short evenings in June Spica lies towards the 
southwest, where in August it sets about ten o'clock, in Septem- 
ber at about eight o'clock, and in October about the same time 
that the sun goes down. It can be seen between sunset and mid- 
night in some part of the sky from the middle of February to 
the early part of October. In November, December, and Jan- 
uary it rises between midnight and dawn, so that October is 
the only month during which it is most of the time invisible. 
This is because it lies in the constellation Virgo, or the Virgin, 
through which the sun is passing in October, and the star is 
lost in the rays of the sun. Spica lies almost on the ecliptic, 
which is the line that marks the annual path of the sun through 
the heavens. 

Spica's color (blue white) shows that its surface temperature 
is higher and surface brightness greater than that of either Ca- 
pella or Arcturus. It is, therefore, a much smaller object. It is 
about six hundred times brighter than our sun and so far away 
that it takes light about two hundred and sixty years to reach 
us. Spica is receding from the earth at a snail's pace, compared 
with most stars about one mile per second. 

The name Spica means an ear of wheat, and the star marks 
the spot in the constellation Virgo where the Virgin holds in 
her hand a spear of wheat. 


ABOUT three hours after Arcturus has risen there will come 
peeping over the northeastern horizon a brilliant, bluish star 
ifhkh twinkles so gayly and commands such instant admiration 
that its entrance into view has almost a dramatic effect. This is 
Vega, the third of the trio of bright stars that give a May-dance 
around the pole. Her companions, bright Capella and steady- 
shining Arcturus, are already gliding smoothly over the shining 
surface of the sky when she, clearing the tree-tops almost with a 
bound, lightly springs into view and the vernal festival is on. 

The point on the horizon at which Vega makes her appear- 
ance is about fifty degrees from the pole. She lacks about seven 
degrees of being as far north as Capella, and is nearly twenty 
degrees farther north than Arcturus. 

To find Vega, draw a line from the star at the junction of the 
bow! and the handle of the Dipper to Polaris. Then draw a line 
at right-angles to this nearly forty degrees in length and on the 
same side of the Dipper from which the handle projects, and it 
will point out the brilliant, beautiful Vega. The star is the only 
conspicuous one in the region described, and no other star can 
be mistaken for it. 

Vega is on the opposite side of the pole from Capella, but the 
two stars are usually seen in the sky at the same time. In the 
spring, when Vega decks the eastern heavens, Capella glows in 
the northwest In the autumn, when Capella comes sparkling 
over the dark purple sky in the northeast, Vega may be seen 
Sying with its attendant stars down towards the northwest. Each 
one is hidden below the horizon for the few hours that the other 
holds the center of the celestial stage and is at its highest point 
in its nightly course across the jewelled dome of the sky. 

Vega as the starting-point, you will find that Arcturus 


Vega 27 

is about one-third of the way between Vega and Capella, though 
a little farther away from the pole. The part that Arcturus plays 
in the gay spring festivities is very conspicuous, and at that time 
the three stars are closely associated in their splendid, twinkling 
circuit around the pole which it may please our fancy to watch 
during the first soft nights of spring. In the autumn, when Vega 
and Capella have changed places in the evening skies, Arcturus 
is below the horizon and cannot be seen. 

If one is in any doubt about the identity of Vega, it can al- 
ways be recognized at a glance by the fact that four dainty stars 
arranged in an oblique parallelogram follow it. 

The position shown in the drawing is the one they always 
hold relative to Vega. When we see her in the east as she bright- 


ens the evening view in the spring and early summer the four 
stars are to the east of, or below, her; in the late autumn and 
winter, when the constellation is in the western sky, the posi- 
tion of the stars, as it appears to us, is partly reversed, and, 
with Vega leading them towards the northwestern horizon, they 
appear as shown in the illustration, 

Vega, like Capella, can be seen in our latitude at some time 
during the night every night in the year. One can see it even 
between sunset and midnight every night in the year. But to do 
this it will be necessary to keep a sharp lookout low in the north- 
west very early in the evenings in February and to turn just as 
sharp eyes towards the northeast between eleven and twelve 


The Friendly Stars 



o'clock in the early part of March. As April progresses the star 
more and more asserts its supremacy in the northeastern heavens. 
During the latter part of this month and all of May it is singu- 
larly beautiful as it passes almost airily between us and the rich 
dark background so full of color characteristic of the spring- 
time sky. 

Vega is the chief star in the constellation called Lyra, the Lyre 
-once fancied to be the magic lyre which in Orpheus' hands gave 
forth music that tamed wild beasts and chained the rivers in 
their courses. It is easy to get some sense of the fancy that gave 
the constellation its name as we watch it during the lovely spring 
evenings floating lightly in the sky, the parallel lines connecting 
its principal stars vaguely suggestive, to the willing mind, of 
some quaint stringed instrument that under a magic touch might 
sead out heavenly music through the resonant air. 

Early in May the star rises at about the same hour that the 
sun sets, and all summer long it is the gayest and perhaps the 
most instantly attractive star in the evening skies. It is the star 
so often noticed and commented on as shining with great bril- 
liancy directly overhead between nine and ten o'clock during 
the hot summer evenings of July and August. When autumn 
comes Vega has passed the highest point in its journey across 
the heavens and may be seen travelling towards the northwest. 
Here it shines splendidly during the early evening, setting in De- 
cember somewhere near eleven o'clock and in January about 

Vega 29 

nine. It is above the horizon eighteen hours out of each twenty- 
four and rises six hours after it has set. 

Vega is one of the three most brilliant stars in the skies of the 
northern hemisphere; Capella and Arcturus closely match its 
brightness. Only three stars in the entire heavens, north or south, 
are appreciably brighter. These are Sirius, Canopus, and Alpha 
Gentauri, all stars of the southern hemisphere. Sirius, as we 
know, can be seen in our latitude, but it lies south of the celes- 
tial equator, and is, therefore, called a southern star. The other 
two lie so far south that they do not ordinarily come within our 
view, although Canopus barely creeps above the south horizon 
for southern locations. 

Vega is one of the very bright suns of the universe and is 50 
times brighter than our sun. Its distance is such that it requires 
about twenty-seven years for light to travel from it to us; thus 
Vega is somewhat nearer to us than Capella and Arcturus. The 
surface temperature of Vega is less than that of Spica but con- 
siderably greater than that of Capella or Arcturus. 

One of the most interesting things about Vega is that it seems 
to mark, or nearly mark, the point in space toward which our 
sun with all his planets is travelling. Vega, of course, has noth- 
ing whatever to do with this motion. It is coming nearer all the 
time, too. Ten miles a second is about the rate at which it is 
approaching us; but, as we have already seen, it will take many 
centuries for even such almost incredible speed as that to make 
any appreciable difference to us in the brightness of a star. 

On some old maps Lyra appears as a Vulture. Vega is said 
to mean "the swooping vulture." 


A LITTLE more than an hour after Vega has risen, a bright 
twinkling star will appear on the northeastern horizon at 
a point about forty-five degrees from the Pole Star. This is De- 
neb, nineteenth in the list of the twenty-one brightest stars, but 
a very interesting and beautiful star. It lies in one of the densest 
parts of the Milky Way and is conspicuously brilliant in contrast 
with the hazy light of the myriads of small stars that go to make 
up this mysterious belt of shining bodies. 

Deneb is about six degrees farther north than Vega and only 
about one degree farther south than Capella, which, as we have 
seen, is the northernmost of all the bright stars. To the ordinary 
view Deneb and Capella seem to rise at about the same spot on 
the horizon, and they describe very much the same long, oblique 
curve across the heavens as they pass from rising to setting. Ca- 
pella being a little farther north, is above the horizon perhaps 
half an hour longer than Deneb; but they each take approxi- 
mately ten hours to come to the highest point in their path 
across the sky, and, consequently, in a favorable atmosphere, 
can be seen for about twenty hours each day, except when they 
are obscured by the sunlight. The highest point a star ever 
reaches in its daily course over the heavens is marked by what 
astronomers call its meridian, and when it is at this point it is 
said to be "on the meridian." 

A line drawn from Polaris to Deneb and thence on to Vega 
forms a right-angled triangle of which Deneb lies in the right 

Deaeb forms a part of a figure called the Northern Cross, 
wfeidi extends over the Milky Way something more than twenty 
Degrees. The figure serves to identify the star, but it is a rather 
ill-formed cross and not much more like a true one than the 



far-famed Southern Cross, which is so impressively described by 
travellers in southern latitudes and is so disappointing, on first 
sight, to the observer who expects accurate rather than sugges- 
tive outlines in the constellations. 

Deneb is the star at the head of the upright of the cross. In 
the spring, when it rises in the northeast, the cross is almost up- 
side down, and Deneb comes up last. "When the cross is setting 








^2 The Friendly Stars 

in the northwest, its position is partly reversed, so that it seems 
more nearly upright, and Deneb disappears last. 

While this figure is commonly spoken of as the Northern 
Cross, it is really only a part of a larger constellation known as 







Gygnus, or the Swan, and this is the name used by astronomers 
in referring to the constellation in which Deneb is found. It 
was named by the ancient astronomers, and was thought by them 
to suggest the figure of a flying swan, the out-stretched wings be- 
ing represented by the stars which form the arms of the cross. 
The bead is marked by the star at the base of the cross, and in 
die tail is Deneb. The name "Deneb" means "the tail/' and the 
star gets its name from its position in the constellation. Deneb 

Deneb 33 

has sometimes been called Arided, an Arabic word which means 
"the hindmost," though the name is rarely used. 

The swan represented by this constellation was supposed to 
be the one whose form Jupiter assumed when he visited Leda 
incognito; and having served the purpose of the god, what more 
natural than that its empty but sacred form should be placed 
forever in the heavens? 

Although eighteen other stars (fourteen in our latitude) seem 
to us brighter, Deneb exceeds most of them in size and certainly 
in intrinsic brilliancy. Actually, Deneb is about sixty thousand 
times brighter than our sun. Also it is very distant, so far away 
that light takes about 1400 years to reach us. This means that 
Deneb is so many millions of millions of miles away that if its 
distance were expressed in figures they would be more than the 
mind can grasp. 

Deneb is white in color, with a surface temperature similar 
to that of Vega. However, it is indeed a much larger star than 
Vega, of a class sometimes called "supergiant." 

Deneb, like Capella and Vega, can be seen at some time be- 
tween sunset and midnight every night in the year. It is closely 
associated with Vega as an ornament of the sky, because they 
adorn the same portion of the heavens at the same season. Fol- 
lowing almost in the wake of so dazzling a star as Vega, Deneb 
may at first excite less interest and admiration than is its due; 
but a closer acquaintance with its sparkling face will show that 
its beauty is no more eclipsed by Vega than the low nodding 
anemones are eclipsed by the splendor of the magnolias. They 
each have their own individual charm. 

Deneb arrives at the spring gathering in the east an hour later 
than Vega, but, being farther north, it pursues a longer course, 
and, coming leisurely to the western sky, it lingers in our view 
each day for three hours after Vega has gone. Deneb is particu- 
larly attractive in this part of its path during the early evening 
in January and February. It is then rather low in the northwest, 
and with Vega gone and no other bright star very near, it has 
a more commanding charm. In the heavier atmosphere, which 
induces a more rapid twinkling, the star seems to take on an 
accession of gayety and goes fairly dancing down behind the 
horizon, where it finishes its circle and appears again in the 
northeast about four hours later. 

54 The Friendly Stars 

Deneb rises just after the sun sets about the middle of Ma 
and sets about an hour after sun-down during the early part o 

Inasmuch as Deneb is so far distant, it is interesting to kno\ 
that in the same constellation (Gygnus) and not many degree 
east of Deneb, or below it as it rises, lies a star famous as beinj 
the first whose distance from us was measured. This star, whid 
bears the unprepossessing name of 61 Cygni, is about clever 
light years away. Currently (1962) it stands eleventh in the lis 
of nearer stars, not counting the sun, 61 Cygni, which is it 
catalog designation, is not much more than visible to the nakec 
eye, though a keen eye can see it on a dear night. Its position i 
marked on the diagram of the cross on page 32. 

The star at the foot of the cross, or in the beak of the swan 
as one chooses to figure the constellation, is Albireo, a fin< 
double star. It is easily resolved into two stars by a small tele 
scope and is notable on account of the strong contrast in coloi 
between the two stars composing it. One is a deep blue, and 
the other a bright orange. 



LINE about eighty degrees in length drawn from the pole 
towards the south and running about half-way between 
Deneb and Vega will point to the brilliant white star Altair. It 
is almost twenty degrees directly south from Albireo, mentioned 
in the last chapter as marking the base of the Northern Cross. It 
lies just at the edge of the Milky Way; and, for any one who has 
learned the position of Deneb, it will be easy to find Altair by 
running the eye down the Milky Way from Deneb along the up- 
right of the Cross to Albireo at the foot of it, and thence on 
twenty degrees, or to the first very bright star, which will be no 
other than Altair. 

The constellation in which Altair is situated is known as 
Aquila, or the eagle; and Altair is the middle one of three fairly 
bright stars placed with reference to each other in a straight line. 
Indeed the name Altair means "the Flying Eagle." 

The lines between Altair and Deneb and Vega form an acute- 
angled triangle with the short side towards the north and Altair 
at the apex at the south. 

Altair rises about eight degrees north of the exact eastern point 
on the horizon and about ten degrees south of the spot where 
Arcturus first appears. It is the only very bright star in this region 
of the sky, and there will be no trouble in identifying it. One of 
the interesting figures that serve to mark the locality is a small 
diamond-shaped group of four stars lying about ten degrees 
northeast of Altair. 

This group is the constellation Delphinus, or the Dolphin, 
more popularly known as "Job's Coffin." Why the figure should 
suggest a coffin rather than a dolphin, it is not easy to see. It 
hardly resembles either object. 

Among the stars of the northern hemisphere, Altair is the first 


The Friendly Stars 

20* 19" 


bright star to daim our attention in the east after Vega and 
Deneb have made their brilliant close to the gathering of the 
stars of spring, Capella is within two hours of setting in the north- 
west, Arcturus is nearing the highest point in his course across 
the heavens, Spica has reached the meridian, and Vega is about 
half-way up to the zenith, when, on the first of June, between 
half-past eight and nine o'clock in the evening, Altair makes its 
gracious entrance into the starry company. With one exception, 
it is the most attractive of the stars that rise during the early 
evening in summer. By the middle of the first summer month 
there is a lull in the noisy rush of the on-coming season. The 
dazzling blossoms of the fruit trees are scattered and almost for- 
gotten, while the tiny green outlines of the fruit are quietly 
swelling towards their perfect form. The leaves on the forest 
trees have assumed their proper shape and are gradually expand- 
ii^j to full size. The old-fashioned annual roses are in their 





fullest glory. The blue jays have become stealthy and quiet; and 
most of the birds, while still in full song, have given over the 
frolicsome hilarity of the spring for the serious work of the nest- 

Then there comes a soft June evening, with its lovely twilight 
that begins with the last song of the wood-thrush and ends with 

)S The Friendly Stars 


the first strenuous admonitions of the whippoorwill; and, almos 
as if it were an impulse of nature, one walks to the eastern enc 
of the porch and looks for Altair. 

It is sure to be there smiling at one just over the tree-tops, wit! 
a bright companion on either side, the three gently advancing ir 
a straight line as if they were walking the Milky Way hand in 
hand and three abreast. 

From this time on until the first half of December is past, 
Altair is in view early in the evening. Always an attractive star, 
it is never more charming than in September and October. It 
ti*en lies due south of us and at its highest point, which is about 
two-thirds of the way up from the horizon to the zenith. This 
favorable position, added to the peculiar clearness of the 
autumn sky, brings out all the soft beauty of the star. 

One seldom sees Altair during the first four months of the 
year. Along 10 the very first days of January a prompt lookout 
and a dear sky will yield a glimpse of it between sunset and 
seven o'clock; but it is soon lost in the glow of the rapidly 
lengthening days. In February, March, and April the very early 

Altair 39 

riser and the belated watcher after midnight may see the star rise, 
and in May, as the month progresses, it becomes a more and 
more familiar figure in the east. 

There is nothing spectacular in the advent of Altair, and one 
does not watch for it with the same eagerness that he feels when 
Arcturus and Vega are nearly due. It comes gently into sight, 
and almost before one realizes it the star has become a part of 
the evening view. Arcturus and Vega suggest the bustling coming 
of spring. Altair reminds us of the quiet approach of summer. 

It requires about thirteen hours for Altair to pass from its 
rising to its setting; six hours and a half to reach the meridian, 
and six and a half more to finish its diurnal course. Remaining 
as low in the sky as it does, one can see it and yet remain in a 
comfortable posture during its entire passage across the heavens. 
This adds greatly to its charm; for any star is, in itself, most 
beautiful when in the highest and clearest part of the sky. Only 
the difficulty of seeing it there may detract from our pleasure in 
it. One cannot come into any great fondness for a star that he 
sees only by snatches. The stars that we love best are the ones 
into whose faces we can look for an hour at a time, if our fancy 
so leads us. It is truly star-gazing that brings us into any great 
delight in a star. 

Altair is white or yellowish white. Its surface temperature is 
somewhat less than that of Vega but still higher than that of 
Capella. Its true luminosity is about eleven times that of the sun. 
Light takes about seventeen years to reach us. In this respect, 
Altair is not one of the far distant suns, but is comparatively 
near us. The star itself is approaching us at the rate of about 
sixteen miles a second or more than 200 millions of miles a year. 
Yet even with this marvelous speeding toward us, and in spite 
of its comparative nearness, considerably more than 100 thous- 
and years would be required for Altair to reach the place in the 
universe that we now occupy. 


A BOUT ten o'clock in the evening of the longest day in June 
"^is perhaps, the most favorable time to look for Antares a 
beautiful star in a beautiful constellation. It then lies due south 
and at the highest point in its diurnal path across the heavens, 
which never takes it higher than a little more than one-fourth of 
the way from the horizon to the zenith. A line about one hundred 
and sixteen degrees long drawn directly south from Polaris and 
passing just half-way between Arcturus and Vega will point it 
out, lying in the heart of the constellation Scorpius, which is 
flung out over the southern sky in a fine sweep that wins admira- 
tion from the most casual observer. 

Antares is also indicated by a line drawn at right angles to 
the line connecting Altair and its two companions and extended 
about sixty degrees, or to the first brilliant red star, Antares, 
the only one of its kind in this most interesting region of the 
skies. An almost equal-sided triangle about fifty degrees long on 
each side is formed by the lines connecting Antares, Vega, and 
Arcturus, which is a still further guide to the location of the 

Antares is one of the southern stars that lie south of the celes- 
tial equator, no matter whether they are visible to us or not. It 
is, with one exception, farther south than any other of the very 
bright stars (stars of the first magnitude) that can be seen in 
our latitude. It rises in the southeast and has so short a course 
ower which to pass, in our view, that it reaches the half-way 
point, or the meridian, in about four hours and a quarter. 

Antares comes into view two hours and a half later than Vega, 
aua hour and a half later than Deneb, and nearly an hour earlier 
than Altair. But it is so much farther south than Altair that it 
seems more aloof from us and it scarcely emerges from the hazy 


An tares 


lower atmosphere until Altair is shining gayly and has already 
become one of the important figures in the eastern summer sky. 

While the latter pan of June and all of July are perhaps the 
best times to see Antares at its brightest, it is an interesting star 
to observe much earlier in the season. If one has an unobstructed 
view of the southeastern sky down almost to the horizon, he will 

42 The friendly Stars 

note the appearance of Antares as early as the middle of May 
between nine and ten o'clock in the evening. Before one has 
really seen the star, he becomes conscious of a ruddy glow low in 
the southeast that at once fastens the attention. It is the face of 
Antares, whose red light shining through the heavy atmosphere 
is so diffused that it gives a rosy effect to the sky for a consider- 
able distance around the star, like a miniature presentment of 
the sun as it rises on a hazy morning. This is all the more notice- 
able because it is so in contrast with the usual colors of early 
May. They are all of the more delicate and colder sort, from the 
pinkish-lavender and white of the young leaves that shimmer 
over the landscape to the pinkish-purple of the sky and the 
dazzling white and blue of Deneb and Vega and a few other 
stars that belong particularly to this season, 

The fact that Antares, when it is visible at all, is always so 
low in the sky and so clearly before our eyes when they are 
turned towards the south, makes it a constantly conspicuous 
figure in the heavens during its entire stay. It is fortunate that 
this is so, for the stay of Antares is short. It is visible in the eve- 
ning between sunset and midnight for only six months, and 
during only one of these months (June) is it visible all night. 
In November and December and most of January it is above the 
horizon only in the daytime, and in February, March, and most 
of April it is not high enough to be dearly visible until after 
midnight. In the early part of June it rises just as the sun sets. 

I am not sure that the color of Antares is any reason why it 
should be associated with the blooming of red flowers; but I 
find in my journal of out-door things that I have unconsciously 
made the association. One entry, on June 30th, says: "Antares 
is stoning splendidly to-night and rivals in color the wild red 
lilies that were blooming to-day in the coppice down beyond the 
spring." Another entry, on August 5th, says: "We found the first 
cardinal-flowers to-day," and a little farther on, "Antares is al- 
laost as red as a cardinal-flower to-night." It is certain that the 
wood lilies bloom when the star is at the culmination of its 
summer glory, and the cardinal-flower sends up its flaming 
stalks when the star is speeding after the sun and sets about 
midnight. Its bright red color, too, is accentuated when Antares 
is near the setting-point in the southwest, just as when it was 
rising in the southeast. 

An tares 43 

Although Antares is almost strictly a summer star, it is a very 
significant object in the southwestern heavens during September 
and October and is often commented on at that time by persons 
who have not noticed it earlier in the season. The dark back- 
ground of the autumn sky throws the flaming face of the star 
into relief, and its redness is still further intensified by the white 
sweep of the Milky Way, which is then very bright and which 
lies within a few degrees of Antares. 

The constellation of which Antares forms a part (Scorpius) 
represents the scorpion that stung Orion, and it is the "hissing 
snake" from which Spenser represents Orion as "flying fast." The 
two constellations are so placed in the skies that Orion dips below 
the western horizon just as Scorpius rises in the east, and the 
mighty hunter does not return until the Scorpion is gone. They 
can never be seen at the same time. 

The name Antares signifies "Rival of Mars." And indeed the 
red color of these two objects is most striking. It is particularly 
so when, every couple of years, Mars in its course through the 
ecliptic chances to be in Scorpius. For then the star and the 
planet stand out in splendid contrast. 

Antares belongs to that class of stars known as the red giants. 
It is even more distended and swollen than Arcturus. Its redness 
indicates that the star is cooler, with a less luminous surface than 
Arcturus has. Actually it is about five thousand times brighter 
than our sun and very much larger. If Antares were set in the 
position of our sun, the earth would still be somewhat below 
the surface. Light takes about 400 years to reach us from this 

Red giant stars, like Antares, are believed to be objects in their 
old age. Most stars derive their energy from the fusion of hydro- 
gen atoms into heavier substances like helium. But when a 
star has exhausted most of its hydrogen, the internal core tends 
to contract, grow hotter, so that the star can for a very short 
time live on other energy sources. The outer layers swell up 
and the star becomes very luminous. But after some thousands 
of years of this spendthrift activity, these sources, too, become 
exhausted. The star has nothing left to do but collapse on the 
inside and explode on the outside, becoming a nova, or new 
star. Gravitation will then collect the fragments into a small, 

44 The Friendly Stars 

feebly shining star of the type known as a white dwarf, like the 
companion of Sirius. 

Antares is one of a binary system. Its companion is remarkable 
for its greenish color, which forms a strong contrast with the 
scarlet light of the larger star. The companion can be seen, how- 
ever, only with a fairly large telescope, partly because of its 
proximity to the primary and also because it is three magnitudes 



CTILL lower in the southern sky than Antares and in a coin- 
^paratively starless region shines Fomalhaut, the lonely, the 
eighteenth star in point of brightness among all the stars in the 
heavens and the thirteenth among those that can he seen in our 
latitude. It is so completely isolated from other bright stars that 
it needs no special line to point it out. But if the line that leads 
from the pointers to the Pole Star were extended beyond the 
pole and on directly south about one hundred and twenty de- 
grees, it would end near Fomalhaut. This will be an easy line to 
trace during the months when Fomalhaut is visible, for the point- 
ers will then be shifting from a position west of the pole to one 
directly under it, and the line will have a free path across the 
heavens. The star may be easily recognized without any other 
description than that it is at the end of a zigzag line of small 
twinkling stars which runs across the southern sky in the autumn 
and points unmistakably to Fomalhaut. The small stars repre- 
sent the stream of water that Aquarius is pouring from his urn. 
The stream runs to the constellation known as the Southern Fish 
(Piscis Austrinus) , and Fomalhaut means the mouth of the fish. 

There is a calm dignity about this star that lends much interest 
to it. It comes gently into view far down in the southeast in 
August, but with so little of a flourish that one scarcely notes 
its presence until along in early September. Then, when the days 
are growing shorter, some evening, just after dark, one sees it, a 
conspicuous, impressive object serenely trailing along over the 
small arc of its circle in the south with no companion near it, 
and, apparently, no need of one to add to its splendor. 

On early acquaintance the loneliness of the star, added to the 
sombre signs of approaching autumn, sometimes gives one a 
touch of melancholy. But its aspect when more familiar soon 



The Friendly Stars 


22 h 


comes to suggest only sweetness and serenity, and a lover of 
Fomalhaut feels that a sustaining light has gone when, during 
the last of December, this beautiful star sinks gently down in 
the southwest and disappears from the evening sky not to return 
for more than seven months. One loves to recall that Fomalhaut 
makes a lonely but majestic sweep high in the heavens of the 
southern hemisphere: a sweep somewhat larger than Arcturus 
makes in our skies. 

Fomalhaut and Capella rise at almost exactly the same minute; 
but the path of Fomalhaut across the sky is so short that it has 
finished its course and vanished more than two hours and a half 
before Capella has reached its half-way point, the meridian. 
Rising together as the two stars do, one seeks to continue some 
dose association between them; but they have nothing more in 
common. In the course each has to run and the joy each has to 
give they are as widely divergent as two royal babes born at the 
same moment on different sides of the globe. 

Fomalhaut is one of the four "royal" stars of astrology. The 
othess are Regulus, Antares, and Aldebaran. 

Only eight hours are required for Fomalhaut to pass from 
rising to setting, and at its highest it is never quite one-fourth of 
the way up from horizon to zenith. It is the farthest south of any 
very bright star visible in our latitude. 

Fomalhaut is distinctly a star of the autumn. When it first 

Fomalhaut 4J 

appears in August the nights have already begun to grow longer, 
the hirds have ceased to sing and are seeking the deeper shadows 
of the woods in which to shed their summer suits, and the quiet of 
autumn is everywhere stealthily creeping upon us. At the time 
of the equinox, in September, the star rises about an hour after 
night falls and is on the meridian between ten and eleven o'clock 
in the evening. About the middle of October Fomalhaut rises as 
the sun sets and shines until two o'clock during the first white 
frosty nights. In November and December, when even the most 
hardy insects have stopped their shrill notes and the winter still- 
ness has fallen upon us, a glance towards the southwest will dis- 
cover Fomalhaut, still placid and alone, on its way to adorn the 
warmer southern skies, its serenity in no wise disturbed and its 
beauty in no wise eclipsed by the more spectacular entrance of 
the brilliant winter stars now gathering in the east. 

Notwithstanding that to our view Fomalhaut is surpassed in 
brightness by seventeen other stars, it actually gives out about 
fourteen times as much light as the sun. While not one of our 
nearest neighbors among the stars, it is still not so very far away, 
for its light reaches us after a journey through space of only 22 
years. There are only four other stars among the twenty-one 
brightest that are known to be nearer to us. 

Fomalhaut has no companion star. It is not only in a more or 
less starless region to our view, but its loneliness seems to be 

I have preferred the pronunciation Fo'-mal-o as being more 
melodious than Fo-mal-hoot', a pronunciation sometimes rec- 
ommended by the authorities. 



HPHE stars thus far described have a particular connection with 
the spring, summer, and autumn months. Capella, it is true, 
shines throughout the winter; but it can be seen while the eve- 
nings are pleasant, and as it is in the most convenient position 
for observation in the spring and fall, it belongs, in large part, to 
the out-door season. There are, however, six brilliant stars that 
are distinctly of the winter. They are not only of the same season, 
but in a way they belong together, for they are in constellations 
that join each other and spread out in a splendid panorama 
across the southern skies, making the most dazzling display of 
fixed stars that any part of the heavens affords. These six stars are 
Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Pollux, Procyon, and Sirius. 

Of these six stars Aldebaran is the first to appear. Along in 
September, a very little north of east it shows its fiery face above 
the horizon with such unmistakable individuality that it catches 
the eye of even the least observing. It appears at a point about 
thirty degrees farther south than Capella and rises about two 
hours and a half later than that bright star. But it is hardly less 
conspicuous, for though its actual brightness is rated nearly a 
magnitude lower than Capella's, it glows with a rosy light that 
demands recognition and at once pronounces it one of the most 
important heavenly bodies. 

AWebaran lies at the open end of a bright V-shaped duster of 
stars known as the Hyades. 

The duster is in the head of the great constellation Taurus, or 
the Bull, and the star itself marks the fiery eye of the enraged 
b*iH as he lowers his head for a lunge at Orion. 

It fa difficult to miss finding Aldebaran if one watches in the 
region indicated, during late September or early October, for 
the first bright star that rises after Capdla. The locality is still 






more distinctly marked if one chances to know the shimmering 
light of the Pleiades, which are in the same constellation as 
Aldebaran and constitute the one group of stars that is usually 
familiar to the youth who celebrate Hallowe'en. Aldebaran 
shoots its ruddy face above the horizon just an hour after the 
hazy little dipper of the Pleiades has appeared and the star is 
then to the east of, and, hence, almost directly under, the Plei- 
ades. This following of the Pleiades is what gives Aldebaran its 
name, which means "the hindmost," or "the follower/* 

Aldebaran shines in the evening skies for about eight months 
in the year. It becomes a fixed ornament of the eastern sky about 
the last of September, when it rises between nine and ten o'clock. 
The ruby Antares has been below the western horizon for nearly 
an hour when the still brighter ruby Aldebaran comes into view 
in the east. The two stars can never be seen at the same time 
and they do not at all resemble each other except in color. Even 
in this respect they differ, for Antares is a deeper red than Alde- 
baran, though not so bright a star. But as one watches the slow 
sulking of red Antares in the southwest, and gives a sigh of regret 
when he has entirely disappeared, it seems but a natural associ- 
ation that draws one's eye towards the east to watch with eager- 

$0 The Friendly Stars 

ness for ruddy Aldebaran to give that touch of color which the 
sky seems to lack. 

In astrology these two stars were known as "royal" stars, and 
there is a whimsical suggestion of royalty in them now as the one 
slips away from our admiring gaze and we turn to hail the com- 
ing of the other. ''The king is dead! Long live the king!" 

In his section of the sky Aldebaran reigns throughout all the 
lovely autumn evenings, with beautiful Capella in her own 
realm to the north of him and Fomalhaut far to the south. His 
near associates are in the bright groups that I have called the 
winter stars, and they appear in quick succession after him. 

From the time Aldebaran first appears until late in December 
it may be seen in the eastern heavens in the early evening. It 
rises just as the sun sets near the first of December and reaches 
the meridian seven hours later. In January and February, Alde- 
baran is at its highest point early in the evening and is then a 
little more than two-thirds of the way up to the zenith. At the 
same hours in April it is conspicuous in the western sky, and by 
the end of May it has disappeared. In June it is above the hori- 
zon only in the daytime, and in July it can be seen not long 
before the sun rises. 

Aldebaran is the thirteenth star in order of brightness in the 
entire heavens and the ninth among those seen in our latitude. 
It is what is known as a standard first-magnitude star. It gives to 
us about one 90-billionth as much light as the sun, but at the 
same distance from it as we are from the sun we would get from 
it about 100 times as much light as we do from the sun. It re- 
quires approximately 70 years for the light of Aldebaran to reach 
the earth, which means that it is nearly 400 trillions of miles 
away. It is increasing this distance at the rate of about 30 miles a 
second; but even at this rate it will require more than 10,000 
years to add another trillion of miles to its distance. 

Aldebaran lies in the path that the moon follows as it crosses 
the heavens, and is frequently obscured from our view by the 
moon's passing between it and the earth. Such an intrusion of 
the moon is called an occultation, and is an interesting phenom- 
enon when the subject occulted is either a bright star or a planet 
A star, in such a case, disappears behind the moon instantly, be- 
cause a star shows no sensible disk. A planet disappears gradually. 

Aldebaran 51 

Aldebaran has an extremely faint companion star, which can 
be seen only with a powerful telescope. Aldebaran also belongs to 
the class of old, dying stars a red giant like Antares. 

Orion's Bright Stars 

"VT EXT to the Great Dipper, Orion is probably the most widely 
^ known of all the constellations. It contains more bright stars 
than any other single group, and they exact all the more im- 
mediate admiration because they are clustered so closely and 
symmetrically as to form a set figure of dazzling jewels a verita- 
ble "sunburst" of "diamonds in the sky." 

To the ancients this figure, as its name indicates, represented 
the giant Orion placed in the heavens in heroic attitude facing 
Taurus, the mighty bull, who, with fire darting from his eye 
(marked by Aldebaran), is about to make an onset with his 
splendid long horns. Orion stands with his right arm uplifted 
and his great dub in the air ready to strike. Over his left arm 
hangs a lion's skin, which he holds up as a sort of shield before 
him. With a little play of fancy it is not difficult to see in this 
constellation a colossal figure, splendidly poised and full of 
action. The accompanying diagram shows the figure as outlined 
by the stars. 

Orion not only includes an unusual number of bright stars, 
but it has the further distinction of being the only constellation 
visible in our latitude that contains as many as two stars of the 
first magnitude, or highest degree of brilliancy. These two stars 
are Betelgeuse and Rigel. Betelgeuse marks the right shoulder 
of Orion, and Rigel is in the left foot. In the strictest sense, 
Betelgeuse signifies armpit and Rigel the left leg. 

The first of these to appear is Betelgeuse. It pushes its red face 
up over the horizon about an hour and a half after Aldebaran 
has risen, and is only about nine degrees farther south than Alde- 
baran. It is of about the same degree of brightness as Altair, but 
it has not the same cheerfulness of aspect. On the contrary, there 
is a decided suggestion of sombreness in its dull and compara- 
tively untwinkling face. 


Orion's Bright Stars 



The color of Betdgeuse is deep red. It is, therefore, a con- 
spicuous member of the group of red giants like Antares and 
nearby Aldebaran, stars nearing extinction. This period of stellar 
evolution is probably responsible for the fact that the star fluctu- 

54 The Friendly Stars 

ates in brightness, for Betelgeuse is one of the class known as 
irregular variable stars. In other words, it passes irregularly bom 
its brightest to its dullest stage of lucidity. Occasionally it attains 
the brilliancy of Vega or Capella; sometimes it is no brighter 
than Spica or Antares. But it always remains bright enough to be 
a first-magnitude star. 

About fifteen or twenty minutes after Betelgeuse has appeared 
Rigel comes twinkling into view. It is the brightest star in Orion 
and lies about sixteen degrees south of Betelgeuse. The celestial 
equator runs just about half-way between the two stars; so that 
Betelgeuse belongs to the northern hemisphere and Rigel to the 
southern. With Aldebaran, these two stars form a triangle, the 
sides being from sixteen to twenty degrees in length. Rigel is 
exactly south of Capella; hence, a line drawn from Polaris 
through Capella and extended a little more than fifty degrees 
will end at Rigel. 

In point of brilliancy Rigel ranks next to Capella. It is a very 
bright blue-white star, as dazzling as a small electric light and as 
sparkling as a fine diamond. But with all its fair beauty Rigel 
docs not seem as much of a personage in the assemblage of stars 
as sombre old red-faced Betelgeuse; and in looking at them I am 
always conscious of feeling a somewhat closer friendliness for 
Betelgeuse than for Rigel. This, however, is purely a personal 

With the exception of Deneb, Rigel and Betelgeuse are the 
most distant of all twenty-one stars of the first magnitude. From 
Rigel light takes 1300 years to reach us. From Betelgeuse it takes 
500 years. 

From the fact that Rigel and Betelgeuse, despite their distance, 
are still first-magnitude stars, we must conclude that they are 
intrinsically extremely bright. Enormous Betelgeuse, red and cool, 
is about 17,000 times brighter than the sun. Rigel, blue-white 
aiid extremely hot, though very much smaller than its nearby red 
sister, is 150,000 times more brilliant than the sun. 

Although Rigel rises about fifteen minutes later than Betel- 
geuse it sets nearly two hours earlier. This is because it is farther 
south than Betelgeuse and has a shorter path over which to travel 
from rising to setting. Betelgeuse is above the horizon for some- 
thing more than thirteen hours, while Rigel is in view only about 

Orion's Bright Stars 55 

When on the meridian, Rigel lacks four degrees of being half- 
way up to the zenith, and Betelgeuse lacks only four degrees of 
being two-thirds of the way up. The course across the heavens of 
Betelgeuse corresponds very nearly with that of Altair, The 
course of Rigel is about the same as that of Spica. 

The other bright stars of Orion are hardly less interesting 
than Betelgeuse and Rigel. Bellatrix, which marks the left 
shoulder of the giant, is of the second magnitude, but still a 
very brilliant star. Three dazzling second-magnitude stars form 
the belt, or girdle, of Orion and lie half-way between Betel- 
geuse and Rigel. These are the stars supposed to be referred 
to by Job as "the bands of Orion." They lie in a straight line 
exactly three degrees long, and are rendered so conspicuous by 
their position and their intrinsic beauty that they serve as an 
aid in finding the constellation. They also provide a measure 
for estimating distances in this section of the skies. The upper 
one of them lies exactly on the celestial equator, and is a fine 
double star discovered by means of the spectroscope. 

These three stars are called in some places the "three kings," 
and the line formed by them is sometimes called the "ell and 
yard" on account of its being just three degrees long. 

Hanging from the belt is a curved line of stars known as the 
sword of Orion. The central star of the sword is distinctly hazy 
in appearance, and is no other than the famous Orion Nebula. 
It is one of the finest nebulae in the heavens and one of the 
few that can be seen with the naked eye. The one star that 
we see in it resolves through the telescope into four beautiful 
stars which form a figure sometimes referred to as the "Orion 

The fourth star, Kappa, which with Betelgeuse, Rigel, and 
Bellatrix forms the large parallelogram that outlines Orion's 
body is called Saiph and is situated in the right knee of the 
mighty hunter. Bellatrix signifies "Female Warrior" or "Amazon 
Star." Saiph means "Sword," although this star lies at some dis- 
tance from Orion's pendent dagger. 

With all its wonders and its beauties, it is not strange that 
Orion should be one of the most familiar and most admired of 
all the constellations. It is in the center of the galaxy that 
marches in brilliant procession across the winter skies. We 
watch for it between nine and ten o'clock in the evening late 

56 The Friendly Stars 

in October, and our first view is of the curved line of faint 
twinkling stars that outline the left arm and the shield of lion's 
skin. Then one jewel after another emerges from the storehouse 
below the horizon until the whole splendid figure is before us. 
Its arrival is an announcement that the out-door season is past, 
that the nights are becoming more and more frosty, and that 
the gorgeous tapestry with which the autumn hills seem cov- 
ered will soon fall away and give place to the lovely low tones 
of winter. We remember then that the j uncos came that day 
and that as we crossed the coppice about dusk we heard them 
twittering cheerfully to each other as they settled for the night 
among the low bushes. And we make a mental note to see to- 
morrow if the little brown screech owl has moved into his win- 
ter quarters in the old catalpa-tree across the road. 

During November and December, Orion becomes a familiar 
figure in the evening skies, rising a little earlier each evening 
until during the week on each side of New Year's Day he ap- 
pears in the east just as daylight fades. In February he stands 
erect in the southern sky at nine o'clock in the evening. In March 
and April he is rushing furiously down the western sky after 
Taurus and the Pleiades, and by the middle of May he has dis- 
appeared from the evening view. In the latter half of July the 
very early riser can catch a glimpse of him in the east just before 
daylight. It was, no doubt, in this month that the "rosy-fingered 
dawn" took him for her lover, as she is reputed to have done. 

The Heavenly Twins 

ON the old astrological maps the constellation Gemini, or 
The Twins, was represented by two lusty-looking youths 
standing in an affectionate attitude with their heads practically 
consolidated, and each wearing a star as a sort of monocle in 
the outer eye. These stars are called Castor and Pollux, after 
the brothers from whose eyes they are supposed to shine. They 
are the brightest stars in the constellation Gemini, which is out- 
lined by two almost parallel rows of stars beginning at Orion, 
running northeast about twenty degrees, and ending with Castor 
and Pollux. 

Pollux is the brighter of the two and is the only first-magni- 
tude star in the constellation. But it is almost as difficult to con- 
sider the two heavenly bodies apart from each other as it was to 
separate the two fond brothers for whom the stars were named. 

The stars lie only about four and a half degrees apart and 
are so conspicuously a pair that each serves as an identifying 
mark for the other. Although 300 years ago Castor was reputed 
to be brighter than Pollux, this is probably not so. Nevertheless, 
Castor has some points of superior interest, as will be seen later 
on, and is entitled to be considered with respect and admiration 
in the gay company of our friends among the stars. 

Castor and Pollux enter the eastern gate of the skies at about 
the same time that Betelgeuse and Rigel appear, but the Twins 
are so much farther north that there is no danger of confusing 
them with the two brilliant stars of Orion. 

Betelgeuse and Castor come into view at almost the same mo- 
ment, the former only about seven and the latter a little more 
than thirty-two degrees north of the exact east. About ten or 
twelve minutes later Rigel appears at a point a little more than 
eight degrees south of east, and after an interval of from ten to 


58 The Friendly Stars 

fifteen minutes, Pollux shines out above the horizon about thirty- 
seven degrees farther north. 

In November, when the twin stars first become a prominent 
feature of the early evening sky, Castor is leading. When they 
come to the meridian, about eight hours later, Pollux, being 
farther south and thus having a shorter course to run, has so 
gained on his companion that he reaches the meridian only about 
ten minutes later. At this point, which is their highest, Castor is 
nine-tenths and Pollux is about seven-eighths of the way up from 
the horizon to the zenith. 

As they descend the western sky Pollux makes a still further 
gain, and in the latter half of the course they are seen side by 
side. They are particularly attractive during all of May and 
the first half of June, when they hang during the evening in the 
northwestern heavens shining out gently and kindly from the 
glowing background that the sun has left behind it. 

Castor and Pollux were supposed by the ancients to exert a 
favorable influence over navigation, and the figureheads of ships 
often represented them. The Apostle Paul, when shipwrecked 
on the island of Melita, sailed from it "in a ship of Alexandria 
. . . whose sign was Castor and Pollux," and, of course, had a 
prosperous voyage to his friends in Rome. 

The constellation Gemini is the third spring sign of the zo- 
diac, and it is easy to see how the mere beauty of its chief stars, 
Castor and Pollux, may have fastened upon it the reputation of 
responsibility for the beautiful weather that comes early in June. 
At this season of the year position, atmosphere, and surround- 
ings all combine to enhance the beauty and accentuate the 
individuality of these two beautiful stars. All, save one, of the ra- 
diant stars that have absorbed attention in this region of the sky 
during the winter and early spring have disappeared. The rainy 
Hyades, including Aldebaran, were the first to go. Stormy Orion 
followed soon after, and the ill-omened Dog Star went with him. 
And now in a comparatively starless environment the twin stars, 
beloved of sailors, dominate the western sky and shine side by 
side like two eyes benignly set to keep a protecting watch upon 
the world. It is not the sailor alone whose fancy is pleased with 
the kindly vigil they seem to keep. A landsman, too, may have 
pleasanter dreams if he will but take a peep through the west- 

The Heavenly Twins 5P 

ern window and exchange friendly glances with them before 
settling down for the night. 

Inasmuch as Castor and Pollux are so closely associated in 
our minds, in their times and seasons and their apparent posi- 
tion in the sky, it may be something of a shock to learn that they 
are in reality quite independent of each other and that they are 
going each his own way, in entirely different directions, towards 
an entirely different goal. 

Castor is the farther of the two and is not very distant as 
stellar distances go. Its light comes to us in around 47 years and 
is about three million times farther from us than the sun. It re- 
quires about thirty-three years for the light of Pollux to reach 
us and the star is more than two million tunes as far from us 
as the sun. 

Castor and Pollux are not only widely separated, but they 
are stars of very different spectral types. Pollux is yellow in color 
and similar to the sun and Capella, whereas Castor belongs to 
the large class of stars that includes Vega, Deneb, and about half 
of all of the brighter stars in the sky. They are usually white, 
though sometimes tinged with blue, as in the case of Vega. Some 
observers say that Castor is tinged with green, although stellar 
colors are probably not quite so finely differentiated. 

Though the bond between Castor and Pollux is more apparent 
than real, Castor, at least, has a true companion. The companion 
is but a fraction more than one magnitude less bright than Cas- 
tor itself and is greenish-yellow in color. It is bright enough to 
be seen with the naked eye, but we cannot separate the two stars 
without the aid of a small telescope because they lie so close to- 
gether. The distance between them is only about four seconds, 
or one nine-hundredth of a degree. 

The two stars revolve about each other very slowly, and though 
they were found nearly two hundred years ago to compose a 
double system of stars, they have not yet completed one full 
revolution, and their period is not exactly known. 

Both of the principal stars composing Castor have been dis- 
covered to be spectroscopic double stars. In addition to these 
four stars, there is another small star near them that forms part 
of the system; this faint member is again a double; and so 
Castor is composed of six stars. 

To swear by Castor and Pollux was common practice in an- 

60 The Friendly Stars 

*;ient times, and later the name of the constellation itself came 
to be used in the same way. In Elizabethan literature we not in- 
frequently find the expression "Oh, Gemini!" which by the 
modern rustic is corrupted into a slightly different word and 
gives him the expletive "By Jimmy!" 

The Two Dog Stars 

A STRAIGHT line from Aldebaran running through the 
^ belt of Orion and extending beyond it towards the south- 
east about twenty degrees will point out the Great Dog Star, 
Sirius, by far the brightest star in the heavens, and, happily, so 
situated that it can be seen in all southern latitudes and in all 
northern latitudes south of Greenland. Next to Polaris it is, 
perhaps, the best known of all individual stars, and this in spite 
of its not being visible in the latitude of the United States be- 
fore midnight during the months when people are most out-of- 
doors and most likely to observe itfrom May to November. 

Sirius is called the Dog Star because it is the chief star in the 
constellation of the Greater Dog, which follows at the heels of 
Orion in his journey across the skies. The constellation gives the 
name of "dog-days" to the hot and trying period of the sum- 
mer, including most of July and the first half of August. During 
this time Sirius rises just after the sun, and following it over the 
heavens each day, the star was supposed by the ancients to be in 
some way responsible for the malign heat of the midsummer 
sun and to exert an evil influence on the health of those exposed 
to its burning rays. Even now we frequently hear that dogs are 
likely to "go mad" at this season because "the Dog Star is in 
the ascendant." Indeed, the name Sirius comes directly from a 
Greek word signifying sparkling or scorching. 

From Homer down to the present day few great poets whose 
themes were of out-door things have failed to refer to Sirius. A 
beautifully compact and comprehensive description of the star 
and its characteristics is given incidentally in the Iliad, where 
Achilles, mad with rage, was first seen by Priam "as he sped 
across the plain, blazing as the star that cometh forth at harvest- 
time, and plain seen his ways shine forth amid the host of stars 


62 The Friendly Stars 

in the darkness of the night, the star whose name men cal 
Orion's dog. Brightest of all is he, yet for an evil sign is he set. 
and bringeth much fever upon hapless men." 

Sirius is the farthest south of any of the bright stars of wintei 
that can be seen in this latitude, and in the sweep over its coat 
paratively small arc in our skies it rises only about fourteen 
degrees higher than Fomalhaut, the most southern of the im- 
portant autumn stars, and ten degrees higher than Antares, 
the most southerly fim-magnitude star of summer. When Sirius 
is on the meridian, or at the highest point in its diurnal course 
from rising to setting, it is only about one-third of the way up 
to the zenith. It reaches this point about five hours after rising, 
and, hence, is above the horizon only ten hours out of each 

We begin to look for Sirius in the evening sky about the mid- 
dle of November, at which time it rises about ten o'clock. The 
real activity of the year is over. No flowers are in bloom save 
that here and there in some sheltered, sunny spot in the coppice 
a belated aster is cheerfully swinging its bright blue-starred 
branches, or some other flower whose season is long past has 
been enticed by the warm sunshine into showing yet one more 
blossom. To be sure, the witch-hazel, the very last flower of the 
year, which thriftily puts forth in the late autumn the bloom 
for next year's fruit, hangs full of the curious, straggling golden 
threads that constitute its flowers; but it stands bare of leaves 
and its empty seed-cups are open-mouthed as if with wonder 
and admiration at the success of the explosions by means of 
which it has lately peppered the neighborhood with its fruit. 
The heavy frosts have finished the work of painting the hills; 
the rich brown leaves are fast piling their soft winter covering 
over the yet warm earth; the smooth dean juncos have been 
flirting around in merry group for three or four weeks, and the 
lovely Indian summer haze hangs like a soft mantle of gauze be- 
tweea us and the half-denuded trees. 

In the skies all of the other bright winter stars have arrived, 
and some of the brightest of the spring and summer stars still 
linger to grace the company, when the king of stars arrives. No 
less than ten of our sixteen brightest stars are in view when the 
dazzling face of Sirius appears. On the eastern side of the hea- 
vens are golden Capella, rose-tinted Aldebaran, red-faced Betel- 

The Two Dog Stars 43 

geuse, fair Rigel, the gentle Pollux, and Procyon, the smaller 
Dog Star, all fresh and joyous and eager. In the southwest is 
Fomalhaut, serene and indifferent to what is about to transpire. 
In the west is Altair, just waiting above the horizon to witness 
the event and then drop out of sight. In the northeast are Vega 
and Deneb, bright and gay and twinkling with almost as many 
hues as Sirius himself. 

He comes rich in many colors, twinkling fast and changing 
with each motion from tints of ruby to sapphire and emerald 
and amethyst. As he rises higher and higher in the sky he gains 
composure and his beams now sparkle like the most brilliant dia- 
mondnot a pure white, but slightly tinged with iridescence. It 
is worth enduring the chilliness of a clear, mid-November night 
at ten o'clock to see the assemblage of these eleven noble stars 
with their attendants. For mere brilliancy the celestial view is 
surpassed at no other season of the year. 

Whereas Sirius is now white in color, some early references 
have indicated that a few thousand years ago it might have been 
red. Study of these passages, however, indicates that the proper 
translation is "fiery" rather than "red." It could scarcely be pos- 
sible that a few thousand years, though a long time in the his- 
tory of mankind, could possibly have led to major changes in the 
physical characteristics of a star like Sirius. 

On Thanksgiving evening, which so often marks the first cold 
"snap" of the season, Sirius rises about nine o'clock. On Christ- 
mas evening it becomes visible a little after seven, and on New 
Year's about half an hour earlier. About the twenty-eighth of 
January it rises just as the sun sets, not far from five o'clock. 

Being so low in the sky, it is easily observed at any point in its 
course. Except for the first thrill of pleasure that it gives when 
it appears in the late autumn, Sirius is never more attractive 
than during March and April. It is then at its highest during 
the early evening and shines brilliantly in the southwest. It sets 
with the sun about the twentieth of May, and for some days be- 
fore that it has been invisible, its light being lost in the rays of 
our own great orb. 

Sirius is one of the stars that we know to be comparatively 
near to us. Light travels from it to us in about eight years and 
a half, which means that it is about fifty-one trillions of miles 
distant, or more than five hundred thousand times farther away 

64 The Friendly Stars 

than the sun. We get from the star only one seven-billionth of 
the light that the sun gives us; but Sirius in reality gives out 
about forty times as much light as the sun. It is a very gaseous 
and expanded body, however, and though very much larger and 
more brilliant than the sun, is comparatively light in weight, its 
mass exceeding that of the sun only about three times. 

Sirius has a very interesting companion, which revolves around 
it in a period of fifty years. Its orbit is such that the two stars 
are nearer together at one time than at another, and it is only 
when they are farthest apart that the companion can be seen, 
and even then a strong telescope is necessary. When at their 
nearest, the companion is so completely lost in the brilliant light 
of Sirius that it cannot be found at all. The existence of such a 
companion had been long suspected, but it was not actually dis- 
covered until 1862, a year when the distance between the stars 
was increasing. 

The faint companion is white in color, a fair match to Sirius. 
From this fact one deduces that their surface temperatures are 
about the same and that the stars have identical surface bright- 
nesses. Since Sirius gives about 3,000 times as much light as its 
companion, we must further conclude that the companion is 
very tiny, scarcely laiger than our earth. The mass of the fainter 
star, which is about half that of Sirius, is thus compressed into 
a very small volume A teaspoonful of the highly condensed mat- 
ter of such a white dwarf would weigh a ton. Such compression 
is characteristic of white dwarfs, which are believed to represent 
stars in the final stage of their history. 

The other Dog Star, Procyon, lies in the constellation of the 
Little Dog (Canis Minor). To locate Procyon, run a line a little 
more than twenty degrees northeast from Sirius, or about the 
same number of degrees east from Betelgeuse. Procyon, Sirius, 
and Betelgeuse are at the angles of an almost equal-sided tri- 
angle, and the same three stars form with Rigel a figure that is 
almost a square. Procyon is twenty-three degrees directly south 
of Pollux and forms a triangle on the north with Pollux and 
Betelgeuse of just about the same size as the triangle it forms 
with Betelgeuse and Sinus on the south. It rises an hour and a 
half later, aiad sets an hour and a half earlier, than Pollux. 

The name Procyon means "before the dog" or, more literally, 
"precursor of the dog/' The star received this name because it 

The Two Dog Stars 65 

appears in the east from fifteen to twenty minutes before the 
Great Dog Star. It rises very little north of the exact east, reaches 
the meridian about six hours and twenty minutes later, and sets 
between two and three hours after Sirius. At its highest point it 
reaches about three-fifths of the way up to the zenith. 

Procyon suffers somewhat in reputation by reason of its con- 
nection with Sirius. The fact that it is known as "the other Dog 
Star" and "the Little Dog Star" indicates inferiority of some 
sort. It is, in fact, a most beautiful star, and is only the sixth in 
order of brightness among the stars seen in our latitude. It is 
very distinctly individual, being the only one among the beauti- 
ful group of winter stars that is lightly tinged with yellow. Pro- 
cyon is definitely cooler than Sirius and in some ways resembles 
the sun, though it is considerably brighter. 

Procyon is also one of the near-by stars, but it is not so near 
as Sirius. Light travels from it to us in a little more than eleven 
years; so that the star is about seventy trillions of miles away 
from us. It gives out six times as much light as the sun, and is 
in no sense an insignificant body or one to be known only as 
announcing the imminent arrival of Sirius. 

Procyon also has a companion of its own, a yellow-white star 
of about the eleventh magnitude, which revolves around it in 
about 40 years. It is a matter of coincidence that, like the com- 
panion to Sirius, the body accompanying Procyon is also a white 
dwarf. In other words, the faint companions to both of the dog 
stars are the enormously dense white dwarfs. The companion 
of Procyon was not discovered until 1896. 


'T'HERE is no single line by which Regulus can be exactly 
pointed out to one who does not know the constellations. 
Still it can be easily found. A line forty degrees long drawn 
through the pointers backwardthat is, away from the North 
Star will end just a little to the west of a conspicuous group 
of stars known as the Sickle (and really resembling that instru- 
ment) , and Regulus is the brilliant jewel that sparkles at the 
end of the handle. 

In June and July, when Antares and Spica are both shining, 
Regulus may be found by a line drawn from Antares through 
Spica and extended about fifty degrees. The line will unmistak- 
ably indicate Regulus, but the star will be well down in the west 
and not far from setting. When Arcturus is visible and not too 
far down in the west, Regulus may be found at a point about 
sixty degrees west (a very little north of west) of Arcturus. A 
triangle is formed by Spica, Arcturus, and Regulus, with Regu- 
lus at the acute angle pointing towards the west. 

Among the brightest stars, Regulus comes and goes rather 
between seasons. It is not strictly a summer star or a winter star, 
though it may be seen in both seasons. It is, in fact, visible at 
some time between sunset and midnight for eight months in the 
year. It arrives after the galaxy of brilliant winter stars are in 
full swing across the heavens and before the gay company that 
gladdens our view in the spring has begun to assemble. It ap- 
peais above the horizon a very little north of east about nine 
o'clock in the evening of New Year's Day. One may even have 
seen ii a little later in the evening than this some days before 
Christmas; but Regulus does not have the insistent quality of 
brightness that commands the regard of the ordinary observer 



until it has reached a position and an hour when one can ob- 
serve it conveniently. 

From the time it first attracts our attention until Arcturus and 
Vega come, Regulus is the chief ornament of the eastern skies 
and shines like a veritable diamond of the highest quality, fit to 
be set in the jewelled hilt of sword or scimitar of fine Damascus 
steel rather than the handle of a homely garden implement. It 
is a singularly dear, white, sparkling star, with just a touch of 
blue. But in spite of its brilliancy it seems a much smaller point 
of light than many of the bright stars. It is next below Deneb 
and Beta Crucis in its rank among the stars as to brightness, and 
the stars are so nearly equal that some astronomers have given 
Regulus the highest place. Modern photometry, however, ranks 
it sixteenth in order of brightness among the stars visible in the 
northern hemisphere. It ranks twenty-first among all the first- 
magnitude stars. 

It requires about six hours and three-quarters for Regulus to 
reach the meridian, and it is then about one degree more than 

68 The Friendly Stars 

two-thirds of the way up to the zenith, or the point exactly over 
our heads. It shines all night in January, February, March, and 
April, rising in February just as the sun sets. In May, June, and 
July it may be seen travelling towards the western horizon dur- 
ing the first half of the night. By August it is so near the sun 
that even with a favoring atmosphere we can barely get a glimpse 
of the star during the first few days of the month, as it falls be- 
low the horizon dose after the sun; and it remains in this region 
most of September. In the early morning hours of October and 
November it may be seen gradually gaining on the hours until 
it comes back to its familiar place in the east. 

Blue-white Regulus is a trifle hotter than Vega, Deneb, or 
Sirius, but not quite as hot as Spica. It certainly ranks among the 
stars having high surface brightness. Regulus is about 140 times 
brighter than our sun, and its distance from the solar system is 
so great that we do not receive the light from the star for some 
77 years after it has started toward us, moving though it does at 
the enormous rate of 6 trillions of miles a year. 

Regulus is in the constellation called Leo, or the Lion. The 
blade of the Sickle marks the shoulder of the Lion, and Regulus 
lies at its heart. The star is sometimes called "Cor Leonis," mean- 
ing "the Heart of the Lion/* The name Regulus means "chief." 

The constellation Leo is one of those that the sun passes 
through in its apparent annual path across the heavens. The 
sun stays in this constellation a little more than five weeks, en- 
tering it at the beginning of the second week in August. Two 
weeks later the sun passes Regulus, and as the star lies almost 
exactly in the path of the sun, they would seem to an observer 
on the earth to almost touch each other. But at this time the 
light of Regulus is lost in the sun's rays, and we do not see this 
interesting meeting. 

Another interesting star in Leo, though not of the first mag- 
nitude, is Denebola. It marks the tuft at the end of the Lion's 
tail, and its name means "the Tail of the Lion." It lies about 
twenty-five degrees east of Regulus and a very little to the north 
of it It is the brightest star in a small triangle which a glance 
towards the region indicated will reveal. A small telescope shows 
Denebola as a beautiful double star of contrasting colors. The 
pair does not form a physical system, however. The stars do not 

Regulus 69 

revolve around one another but lie merely in the same direction. 
Within the curve of the blade of the Sickle is the point from 
which the meteors that come along in the middle of November 
seem to radiate. They are on this account called "Leonids." 


The Number of the Stars 

/^\N a dear starlit night the sky seems so thickly set with stars 
that, on first view, it is difficult to believe that within two 
hours one could count every one of them. Yet this is true, tor 
to the ordinary eye there are not more than a thousand stars 
visible at one time. The very keenest eye without mechanical 
assistance cannot discern in the heavens, north and south, more 
than seven thousand, and barely five thousand are visible to the 
ordinary sight. Of this entire number nearly one-fourth are too 
far south to be seen at all in our latitude; and of those that can 
be seen here only one-half are visible at once, the others being 
below the horizon and visible only in the other hemisphere. And, 
finally, of those that are really above the horizon and could oth- 
erwise be seen, the bright stars are somewhat obscured by the 
dense atmosphere while near the horizon, and the faint ones are 
completely blotted out for a considerable distance farther up. 
This is why there seem to be no faint stars low down in the sky. 
In reality they very largely outnumber the bright ones in every 
part of the heavens, but they can be seen only when they rise 
high enough to escape the heavy lower atmosphere. 

The stars that we can see with the naked eye (astronomers call 
them lucid stars) are, of course, a very small proportion of the 
total number of stars in the universe. As to the total number of 
stars within our galaxy, astronomers generally believe that there 
must be approximately 100 billion. It is estimated that the larg- 
est telescope will reveal approximately 2 billion. Remember, 
these are just the stars of our own galaxy. When we realize that 
tbesne may be as many as a trillion galaxies accessible with laige 
telescopes, each containing perhaps as many stars as our own 
galaxy, the total number of stare proves to be tremendous. 

The difference of opinion among astronomers as to the limi- 


The Number of the Stars Jl 

tation of the stars is based in part upon their ideas of the de- 
structibility of light. It is certain that we do not get an infinite 
amount of starlight. If we did, all space, they say, would be filled 
with a diffused glow and there would be no such thing as dark- 
ness. For it is not necessary that we should actually see the stars 
individually in order to have light from them. Those that we 
can see with the naked eye give only about ninety per cent of the 
total starlight received by us. The naked-eye and the telescopic 
stars combined give only about one one-hundred-and-eightieth 
as much light as the full moon. But on a bright starlight night 
the light we receive is equal to about one-sixtieth of full moon- 
light, which shows that we get three times as much light from 
the stars whose rays are too faint to be seen as from all the other 
stars together. 

It has been shown by photography that we get light from stars 
that are invisible to the eye in even the largest telescope. The 
photographic plate has an advantage over the eye in that the 
plate can store light as the result of a long exposure. The eye, 
on the other hand, has no storage capacity. In fact, because of 
fatigue, the eye, used continuously over a period of time, usually 
sees less at the end of that interval. The faint stars, so recorded, 
which will ever be invisible to the less sensitive human eye, are 
nevertheless contributing light to the sky, for they would make 
no impression on the photographic plate if their light did not 
reach it. 

Observations have shown that interstellar space contains a 
certain amount of fine dust particles. The amount of dust in 
any given volume of space is relatively small, however. If we 
used a vacuum cleaner to sweep out a volume as large as our 
earth, for example, of even the dustiest regions, we should collect 
at most about a cupful of dust. Even so, distances in inter- 
stellar space are so vast that, in certain regions, the dust ap- 
preciably dims the stars. Our Milky Way would be much brighter 
if dust clouds did not obscure the stars behind them. 

Einstein's theory of relativity has indicated that space is not 
infinite. At great distances, a natural curvature of space tends 
to limit the volume. Hence, the number of stars, either in our 
own galaxy or in other galaxies, cannot be infinite. 

There are certain bodies in space which, for want of a better 
name, we speak of as dark stars: that is, stars that give no appre- 

72 The Friendly Stars 

ciable light. They make themselves known in some instances by 
passing at regular intervals between us and a bright star, thus 
showing that they are revolving around it. In other cases they 
make the star swerve from what its course would naturally be, 
thus showing the influence of some invisible body. Most of these 
so-called dark stars, however, are not completely dark. But there 
well may be many dark bodies in space, either dead stars or cold 
matter like our planets or meteors. But at present they need not 
be taken into account. 

The telescope and camera both give evidence of a limit at 
least to the number of the stars that we can really know. As 
telescopes were made larger and larger a greater number of stars 
became visible; and it seemed as if the number we could see 
depended solely upon the power of the glass. It has been found, 
however, that beyond a certain point the number we can see 
does not increase in proportion to the increased size of the tele- 
scope. This indicates that we must be approaching the limit of 
the number of stars that send their light to us. The same thing 
is shown by the camera. After a certain length of exposure, ad- 
ditional time will add no more than a few stars to the number 
already on the plate 

There are about twenty well marked degrees of brightness in 
the stars seen through the largest telescopes. For the first ten or 
twelve of these the number of stars in each grade is about three 
times greater than in the grade preceding it in order of bright- 
ness. That is, we have of the first degree of brightness twenty-one 
stars; of the second degree, about sixty; of the third, one hundred 
and eighty, and so on. But after about the twelfth degree of 
brightness the number of stars does not increase in the same 
proportion; the increase as shown by both the telescope and the 
camera is comparatively small. 

It is not to be supposed that, because telescopes and the cam- 
era have not yet revealed them, astronomers think there are no 
more stars to be discovered. But the evidence of the telescope 
and photography shows we are approaching that limit. The 
exact number will probably never be known. Certainly it will 
never be known by means of the telescope; for we seem to be 
ircadung a point where it will be physically impossible to make 
lai^er telescopes that can be effectively used. The last extension 
of our knowledge of the number of the stars will probably be 

The Number of the Stars 73 

reached only indirectly. For, even if we cannot see the stars in- 
dividually, their collective gravitational effects may be sufficient 
to influence the motion of visible stars in that region of the sky. 
The more rapidly the stars move the greater the mass of these 
invisible stars. But even by this method we cannot infer the ex- 
istence of truly enormous quantities of invisible, undiscovered, 
dark matter. 

What is not recorded on the photographic plates of the future 
will remain to us unknown. We can be reasonably sure of only 
one thing: that, in view of the evidence we have of the decrease 
in the number of the stars as they grow fainter to us, the ones 
remaining undiscovered are practically but a few stragglers along 
the "fringes of the visible universe" few, even though there may 
be really many millions of them. 

While the number of stars that are known is increasing some- 
what all the time, astronomers are not so much trying to make 
discoveries of larger numbers as to learn something more about 
the stars that are already known. The number now classified and 
catalogued is something near eight hundred thousand. 

A great international photographic chart of the heavens, 
completed with international cooperation, showed more than 
40,000,000 stars. And the greatest survey of all, a series of photo- 
graphs taken with a powerful Schmidt camera at Palomar Ob- 
servatory, has revealed so many stars that no accurate census of 
their number is available. Unfortunately, this Palomar survey 
covers only the stars visible from the northern hemisphere. A 
similar survey for stars in the vicinity of the south celestial pole 
will probably be completed in the next few years. 


The Names of the Stars 

"LTAPPILY for the interest of the ordinary observer, nearly all 
the brighter stars, and a few of the fainter ones, have indi- 
vidual names. Sixty or more of these names are in common use 
even among professional astronomers. Most of these belong to 
the so-called navigational stars, the stars that navigators observe 
to find their positions on the sea or in the air. A few more names 
are well known and are used occasionally, and a number which 
are now practically obsolete appear in old catalogues, or his- 
torical lists, or in some piece of ancient literature. Less than a 
hundred names will cover all the stars of the first and second 
magnitudes; and besides these there are not many that have an 
individual interest for an observer without a telescope. When 
one learns to know fifty or sixty stars so that he can always recog- 
nize them and call them by name, he begins to feel that he has 
a pretty large acquaintance in the heavens; and the knowing of 
other individuals that may chance to interest him is then the 
mere matter of an introduction. 

Most of the individual stellar names originated with the ancient 
astronomers and have a meaning that describes some char- 
acteristic of the star, some trait, or color, or position in the con- 
stellation. All of them were probably descriptive at first, but the 
original meaning is not always dear. Sometimes designation was 
made by a drcumlocution such as "the Heart of the Lion," "the 
Eye of the Bull/' "the Foot of the Giant." This was, of course, 
too cumbersome and limited a method to answer the needs of 
modern astronomy. But many Latin and Arabic names are still 
used which in one word describe the place the star holds in its 
constellation; as, for instance, Achernar, meaning "the End of 
the River," and Denebola, "the Tail of the Lion." 

Very early in the seventeenth century, astronomers adopted 


The Names of the Stars 75 

the plan of designating the stars in each constellation by the 
letters of the Greek alphabet and adding the name of the con- 
stellation in its Latin form in the genitive (or possessive) case, 
thus making the name of the constellation a sort of family name 
for all the stars composing it, and the Greek letters the given 
names. Thus in the constellation Taurus we have Alpha Tauri, 
meaning Alpha of Taurus; Beta Tauri, Gamma Tauri, and so 
on. When the Greek alphabet was exhausted, the Roman letters 
were used. Beginning with alpha, the stars of each constellation 
were named in the order of their brightness. In the main, though, 
when several stars in the constellation chanced to be of nearly 
the same degree of brightness, there seems to have been no nice 
distinction made between them. A major exception is the Big 
Dipper, whose seven bright stars cany the Greek letters from 
Alpha to Eta in order from bowl to handle. 

A century later another catalogue was made, and in this num- 
bers were used instead of letters for the given names, the geni- 
tive case of the constellation still being used as a family name. 
Several special catalogues have been made in which also the stars 
are indicated by numbers, such as Lalande's, the British Associa- 
tion Catalog, the Harvard Photometry, and the Henry Draper 
Catalog. In such cases the reference is simply by number and 
name of catalogue. Some stars that have in a way become famous 
by reason of some individual peculiarity or characteristic still 
have no designation except by number. Among them, and spoken 
of more particularly elsewhere in this book, are 61 Cygni, 1830 
Groombridge, and some others. Stars are also designated by their 
position in the heavens, which is expressed in the terms of astro- 
nomical measurements, right ascension and declination, the ce- 
lestial analogs of terrestrial longitude and latitude. 

A result of these various methods of naming the stars is that 
nearly every bright star is designated in several different ways: by 
its individual name, its Greek letter name, its number in the 
various catalogues, and its position in the heavens. But the ordi- 
nary observer need not much trouble himself with learning them 
all. One can have an intimate knowledge of nearly all the naked- 
eye stars without once resorting to figures for names, or without 
even knowing what right ascension and declination are. Astron- 
omers have evolved these several schemes of designation only for 
their own special needs. Rarely has a star known only by its num- 

J6 The Friendly Stars 

her become, for any reason, of general interest. There are not 
now more than half a dozen such stars. Probably 61 Cygni (that 
is, the star numbered 61 in the constellation of the Swan, or Cyg- 
nus) is the best known of these, because it is the first star whose 
distance from us was measured. Despite its nearness, however, 
it is of magnitude 5.5, one of the fainter naked-eye stars. 

The method of designation most common among writers cm 
astronomy for the brighter stars (when the individual name is 
not given) is that of the Greek letter joined to the name of the 
constellation. After the constellations are once known, this is an 
easy method, and, even for the non-professional observer, has 
several advantages. It not only names the star, but assigns it to a 
constellation, and gives an approximate idea of its degree of 
brightness as compared with other stars, and particularly as com- 
pared with other stars in the same constellation. Alpha of a con- 
stellation is almost always the brightest star in the group. The 
exceptions to this are few and mainly accidental. One instance is 
that of Castor and Pollux, the two bright stars of the constella- 
tion Gemini, or the Twins. Pollux is the brighter of the two, yet 
Castor is Alpha Geminorum and Pollux is Beta GeminorunL 

It is not often that the average reader will care, or need, to 
know the names of more than the seven or eight brightest stars 
of a constellation, the ones designated by the first seven or eight 
letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha (a), beta (), gamma (y), 
delta ($), epsilon ( c ), zeta (), eta (^), and theta (0). Rarely, 
indeed, will he care to know even that many. In the Great Bear 
(Ursa Major) the seven brightest stars, the ones that form the 
well-known Dipper, are of almost equal importance and bril- 
liancy. But this is an exceptional case, and more often only three 
or four stars in a constellation, the alpha, beta, gamma, and 
delta of the group, have any special interest. Occasionally one 
of the fainter stars calls for particular attention, as in the case of 
Mira, the Wonderful, in the constellation of the Whale, or Cetus, 
which is designated by the fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, 
onucroa, thus: o Ceti. 

The Greek letter method of naming the stars has, then, its 
conveniences. But, after all, when a star, like anything else, 
conies to have any special individuality for us we desire a name 
for it that is all its own. When we come really to know splendid 
Arcturus, we do not care to call him Alpha Bootis any more than 

The Names of the Stars 77 

we want to call a dainty spring beauty Claytonia vtrgsnuo, or 
the golden-eyed white daisy Chrysanthemum Leucanthemum. 
And, happily, we are not often put to this discomfort, for there 
is no star of the first magnitude in the northern hemisphere that 
has not an individual name. In the southern hemisphere, how- 
ever, Alpha Centauri, Beta Centauri, Alpha Crucis, and Beta 
Crucis are more commonly referred to by their Greek-letter 
designations than by their proper names, which are Rigil Ken- 
taurus (or simply Rigil Kent), Hadar, Acrux, and Becrux, re- 
spectively. The last two names are specially coined to designate 
the stars for navigational purposes. Alpha Centauri, we have 
seen, is the star that is nearest to us. 

I remember feeling distinctly grateful to the old astronomers 
for having given individual names to much less conspicuous or 
important stars. A window in my bedroom opens out towards 
the northeast, and during the autumn and early winter the 
Dipper is visible there a good part of the night. Many times it 
has happened that I have suddenly opened my eyes in the night 
and found there beaming down upon me the soft rays from the 
star Mizar, which lies just in the bend of the handle of the 
Dipper and next to the end star, and its tiny companion Alcor, 
that seems to send its own little beams almost along the same 
path. The simple friendliness that I felt in encountering them in 
this way came as much, I think, from my being able to greet 
them by their own names as from their intrinsic beauty and 
steadfast cheerfulness. 


The Light of the Stars 

CTARS are classified according to their brilliancy into magni- 
tudes; and as applied to them, the word magnitude has a spe- 
cific meaning. It has reference solely to their brightness and has 
nothing to do with their proportions. Many stars that appear to 
us very small and faint we know to be of immense size, far ex- 
ceeding some of the most resplendent stars of the heavens; so 
there is no simple relation between the real and apparent magni- 
tude of a star that is, between its size and its brilliancy. 

This use of the word magnitude was fixed in astronomy in the 
early days of the science, before the telescope had been invented 
and before there was any way of judging of the dimensions of a 
star other than by its appearance to the naked eye. The stars 
that seemed the largest and brightest were supposed really to be 
so, and were said to be of the first magnitude; the next brightest 
were called second magnitude stars, the next third magnitude, 
and so on. All the stars visible to the naked eye were divided 
according to their lucidity into six magnitudes, and modern as- 
tronomers have found it convenient to continue this way of de- 
scribing their comparative luminous power, and have applied 
the same principle in describing telescopic stars even below the 
twentieth magnitude. 

It is, of course, an arbitrary classification, for there are stars 
of every degree of brightness between Sirius, the brightest star 
in the heavens, and the faintest star we can see; and, so far as 
accuracy is concerned, we might as well have had sixty magni- 
tudes among the visible stars as six. Moreover, with no more ac- 
curate measurement than one can make with his eye, it is not 
easy for the ordinary observer to tell the difference between the 
amount of light we receive from a faint star of one magnitude 
and a bright one of the next lower magnitude. Since naked-eye 
observation was the only way of determining stellar magnitudes 

The Light of the Stars 79 

among the ancient astronomers, there was considerable differ- 
ence of opinion concerning the brightness of such stars as were 
on the border lines of each magnitude. To the first magnitude 
there were assigned anywhere from fourteen to twenty stars, and 
in the lower magnitudes the difficulty of agreement was even 

Modern astronomers, while retaining the old method of clas- 
sification, have endeavored to systematize it by the accurate 
measurement of the amount of light we receive from each star. 
This is done with an instrument known as a photometer, by 
means of which- very slight gradations in the light of the stars 
can be determined. With this instrument practically all the 
naked-eye stars have been measured, and they have been cata- 
logued accordingly. Modern photoelectric photometers are ex- 
tremely accurate and sensitive. They are capable of recording 
gradations of brightness as small as one one-thousandth of a 

In making the measurements, the astronomer adopts some 
standard of light, compares the light of each star with that standard 
and then determines the stellar brightness in terms of the basic scale 
of magnitudes. In the Harvard Photometry, the Pole Star (Polaris) 
was originally the adopted standard star taken for comparison. 
It is a conspicuous and important star that everyone knows, and 
has long been rated as of the second magnitude even in the 
days of rough judging of the brightness of stars. Unfortunately, 
however, Polaris is slightly variable. To extend the photometric 
scale to fainter magnitudes and to provide standards of com- 
parison that would always be visible from the northern hemi- 
sphere, astronomers have measured very carefully the brightness 
of a number of stars in the vicinity of Polaris. These form the 
North Polar Sequence. Now, when an astronomer wants to 
determine the brightness of some particular star in the sky, he 
measures it very carefully with a photometer and then turns to 
the North Polar Sequence for checking and standardizing his 

One would think that the determination of stellar magnitudes 
would have been based on either the brightest star or one of the 
brightest as a standard and that all other stars would have been 
graded from that. This is probably what would have been done 
if the stars had not been classified as to brightness until the 

SO The Friendly Stars 

delicate instruments for measuring their light were invented. As 
it is, the classification was made many hundred years ago, and 
though modern astronomers are endeavoring to express the com- 
parative gradations of light as accurately as possible, they still do 
not much disturb the distinctions that have long been familiar. 

By photometric measurements the gradations of light between 
the different magnitudes are expressed in tenths by decimal frac- 
tions. Thus the magnitude of one star is 2, that of another a little 
less bright is 2.1, and so on to 2.9, which is almost as faint as a 
star whose magnitude is 3. The larger the fraction the nearer the 
magnitude of the star is to the next magnitude below the one in 
which it is classed, and the higher the number of the magnitude 
the fainter the light of the star. 

For the ordinary observer it is sufficient to know that a star is 
of the first, second, third, or whatever magnitude, as the case 
may be. These nice distinctions in tenths between degrees of 
brightness are useful more to the serious student than to the gen- 
eral reader. The usual way of classifying is to designate a star as 
of the magnitude to which it is nearest. Consequently each mag- 
nitude reaches out on each side and takes in all stars that are not 
more than five-tenths of a magnitude from it. For example, all 
are called first-magnitude stars whose magnitude is brighter than 
1.5. If a star's brilliancy is found to be 1.6, it is classed as a second 
magnitude star, and all are of the second magnitude from this 
down to 2.5; and similarly the other magnitudes are reckoned. 

This is true of all the magnitudes except the first. This has its 
limits only on one side. It includes all stars that are brighter 
than 1.5 magnitude. There are but twenty-one stars of the first 
magnitude, but the individual lustre of them varies so as to cover 
nearly three magnitudes. To overcome this difficulty astronomers 
express the magnitude brighter than 1 as 0, the magnitude next 
brighter as 1. The magnitude of Sirius, the most brilliant of 
all the stars, is 1.42. Alpha Crucis, Spica, and Antares, all 
of the southern hemisphere, are almost exactly first-magnitude 
stars. Five others are less bright than Antares, and twelve are 
between Alpha Crucis and Sirius. 

According to the most recent photoelectric measurements, 
the visual magnitudes of the twenty-one brightest stars are as 

The Light of the Stars 81 

Sinus (Alpha Canis Majoris) 1.42 

Canopus (Alpha Carinae) 0.72 

Alpha Centauri . 0.27 

Arcturus (Alpha Bootis) , 0.06 

Vega (Alpha Lyra) +0.04 

Capella (Alpha Aurigae) 0.05 

Rigel (Beta Orionis) 0.14 

Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris) 038 

Achernar (Alpha Eridani) 0.51 

Beta Centauri 0.63 

Altair (Alpha Aquilae) 0.77 

Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis) 1 1 i S^." 

Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri) 0.86 

Alpha Crucis 0.9 

Spica (Alpha Virginis) 0.91 

Antares (Alpha Scorpii) 0.92 

Pollux (Beta Geminorum) 1.16 

Fomalhaut (Alpha Piscis Austrini) 1.19 

Deneb (Alpha Cygni) 1.26 

Beta Crucis 1.28 

Regulus (Alpha Leonis) 1.36 

The light ratio agreed upon between the different magnitudes 
is 2.5. That is, a standard star of each magnitude is two and a 
half times brighter than a standard star of the next lower mag- 
nitude. Or, to put it the other way, each magnitude is four- 
tenths as bright as the next higher magnitude. This makes a 
first- magnitude star one hundred times brighter than a sixth- 
magnitude star, and a sixth-magnitude star ten thousand times 
brighter than one of the sixteenth magnitude. In the same ratio, 
a first-magnitude star would be nearly four hundred thousand 
times brighter than a fifteenth-magnitude, and thirty-seven mil- 
lion times brighter than a twentieth-magnitude. This would 
make Sirius something over two hundred million times brighter 
than the faintest star of the twentieth magnitude. 

But notwithstanding this vast superiority in brilliancy of the 
brightest stars, we get more starlight from the faint stars as a 
whole than from the bright ones as a whole. This is on account 
of the large number of the faint stars; for it has been found that 
the number of stars of a given magnitude is about three times 
greater than the number of stars of the next brighter magnitude. 
Hence, though a first-magnitude star is two and a half times 
brighter than a second-magnitude star, there are three times as 
many second-magnitude stars, and consequently we get more 
light from them as a whole. Though a first-magnitude star is 

82 The Friendly Stars 

three thousand times brighter than one of the tenth magnitude, 
yet there are seventeen thousand times as many of the tenth 
magnitude as of the first. This progressive increase in number 
is an approximate estimate, but it is deduced from actual cata- 
logues of the stars and is fairly accurate. As previously noted, 
however, the increase in number of three times between one 
magnitude and the next holds only for the brighter stars. The 
ratio decreases toward the fainter stars. 

According to this ratio of progression, if one makes due al- 
lowance for the way in which one magnitude merges into an- 
other, the six or seven thousand stars visible to the naked eye are 
distributed roughly as follows: 

21 stars of the first magnitude, 

60 " " " second " 

180 " " " third 

500 " " " fourth 

1500 " " " fifth 

4500 " " " sixth 

Thus the total number of stars visible to the naked eye is 
about 7000. How many stars one really sees of this seven thou- 
sand depends upon the state of the atmosphere and the keen- 
ness of one's sight. Smoke, dust, haze, or even the scattering of 
light by a transparent atmosphere greatly reduces the bright- 
ness of stars toward the horizon, for one is looking through 
increasing thicknesses of air. As a result, most persons under ordi- 
nary conditions fail to see nearly two thousand of them, and it 
takes an eye of remarkable power to see them all. However many 
one sees, there are always many more just on the verge of visi- 
bility that seem to come and go. This is one reason why there 
seem to be so many more stars in view than there really are. 

It is to be remembered that all this applies only to the stars 
as we see them, and has no relation to their real size or their 
light-giving power. They may be brighter because they are nearer 
to us, or because they are really more brilliant and give out more 
light than others; but none of these qualities is determined by 
their apparent luster. As a matter of fact, some of the brightest 
stars are very well known to be not the largest. 

On the average, of course, the brightest stars tend to be the 
nearest to us, though there are many exceptions. The converse 

The Light of the Stars 83 

of this statement is far from true, however. The stars nearest to 
us, with a few exceptions, do not tend to be among the brightest. 
This paradox we can easily resolve. A given volume of space has 
in it only relatively few very luminous stars, but it has enormous 
numbers of stars whose luminosity is very low. For us to be able 
to see these intrinsically faint stars they must be extremely close 
to us. Thus, of the seventeen nearest stars, ten are too faint to 
be seen with the naked eye and one of them, Wolf 359, is of 
magnitude 13.5, a thousand times too faint to be seen without 
telescopic aid. The intrinsically bright stars, however, are in- 
tensely luminous and can be seen to enormous distances. Even 
though they are relatively rare in a given volume of space, the 
total volume through which they are visible is enormous. As a 
result, it is safe to say, that with a few exceptions, most of the 
stars visible to the naked eye are fairly distant suns. The best 
known exceptions to this rule include Alpha Centauri, the near- 
est star, Sirius, and Procyon. 

The Distances of the Stars 

HP HOUGH astronomers had been working for many years on 
the problem of determining the distances of the stars, it 
was not until 1838 that they succeeded in getting what seemed 
to be any fairly accurate measurements. In that year the distance 
of 61 Cygni was measured with reasonable correctness; and at 
about the same time it was found that Alpha Centauri was even 
nearer than 61 Cygni. Strangely enough, these two stars are still 
counted among our nearest neighbors. The faint companion of 
Alpha Centauri, of the eleventh magnitude, has proved to be a 
member of that system. It may be a trifle nearer to us than Alpha 
Centauri and hence has sometimes received the name Proxima. 
The assignment of such a name is tempting fate. But, curiously 
enough, the name may be justified. However, it is well within 
the realm of possibility that, among the millions of still fainter 
stars on our photographic plates, may be found one or more that 
lie still nearer. If such a star is discovered, of course, the name 
Proxima will then have to be completely discarded. 

For many years 61 Cygni was supposed to be the next nearest 
star. However, in the meanwhile, at least seven stars have been 
found to lie closer than 61 Cygni, among them the brightest 
star in the sky, Sinus. 

The distances of a number of stars have been determined 
since 1839; and through their knowledge of the distances of 
these, asmmomers have been able to at least place limitations 
on the distances of others, and taking color, brightness, and 
other characteristics into consideration, have made inferences 
also as to size and constitution which it seems reasonable to be- 
lieve are very near the truth. The ascertainment of distances has 
opened up a very large field of investigation; for, until the dis- 
tance of a star is known, we can know but little of its size or 


The Distances of the Stars 85 

light-giving power, and hence little of its real nature, though its 
chemical constitution may be revealed by the spectroscope. Two 
stars may be apparently of equal brilliancy, but when we learn 
that one is many times farther from us than the other, we rea- 
lize how much brighter the more distant one must be. Take, for 
instance, the two brightest stars, Sirius and Canopus. They are 
both so much brighter than a standard first-magnitude star that 
they are really in a class by themselves, though called first-mag- 
nitude stars. Sirius is the brighter of the two, and it is five hun- 
dred thousand times farther from us than the sun. Canopus is 
so far away that it successfully resisted, for a long time, all efforts 
of astronomers to measure its distance. Finally, special techniques 
solved the problem and it was then found that Canopus is in- 
deed one of the most luminous of all of the first-magnitude stars. 
Measuring the distance of a star is called by astronomers find- 
ing its parallax. Roughly speaking, parallax is the apparent 
change of position that an object seems to make when viewed 
from different points. If you hold a pencil out in front of you 
about one foot and look at it with first one eye and then the 
other, you will see that it seems to change its position relative to 
any object back of it. If you hold the pencil farther away, you 
will see that the change of position seems less, and if you place it 
still farther away, there seems to be no change of position at all. 
Then if you will move your head from side to side and thus 
lengthen the line between the two points of observation, which 
was at first only the distance between your eyes, the pencil will 
have to be placed still farther away before it seems to remain 
stationary when looked at from both points of view. The longer 
the distance between the two points of observation, the farther 
away the object observed will have to be to remain in appar- 
ently the same place when viewed from each point. When math- 
ematicians know the length of the base line (that is, the line 
connecting the two points of observation), and can measure 
the angle made by the meeting of the other two lines (that is, 
the lines from the two points of observation to the object ob- 
served) , they can tell how far away the object is, 

When looked at in the ordinary way, a star never seems to 
change its position in the heavens. Even if viewed from points 
whose distance from each other is the whole diameter of the 
earth, eight thousand miles, it shows no change of position. 

86 The Friendly Stars 

At first thought one would think that we could not find a line 
longer than that from one side of the earth to the other. But 
astronomers have found one in space. It is the diameter of the 
earth's orbit, or the path over which the earth travels in its 
yearly journey around the sun. This diameter is 186,000,000 
miles long, or more than twenty-three thousand times as long 
as the diameter of the earth. Observations of the stars whose dis- 
tance is to be measured are made when we are at one point in 
the earth's orbit, and then again six months later, when we are 
at the opposite point, or 186,000,000 miles removed from the first. 
A few stars change their apparent positions when thus observed 
from the two ends of this great line; but the changes are still 
very slight. By strict mathematical calculation we know, how- 
ever, that any star showing a change of position of only one 
second, the smallest subdivision of a circle, when viewed from 
each end of a line 186,000,000 miles long, must be a little more 
than nineteen trillions of miles from us. Thus far no star in 
the heavens has been found to change its position this much; or, 
as astronomers say, no star has yielded a parallax as large as one 
second (1") . Consequently, as far as we know, there is no star 
as near to us as nineteen trillions of miles. The largest parallax 
that has been found is .75 of a second. Actually, a minimum of 
three observations is needed to determine the parallax of a star. 
The third observation enables the astronomer to distinguish be- 
tween the apparent drift of the star across the sky caused by the 
relative motion of star and sun and the shift caused by the 

The sun is ninety-three millions of miles from us, yet if we 
were journeying in space, we might reach the sun and then go 
two hundred thousand times farther away and still not come 
near any fixed star. Indeed, we should have to go still eighty 
thousand times the sun's distance from the earth, for a parallax 
of ,75 of a second means a distance of seven trillions of miles 
more than the nineteen trillions. In other words, the nearest 
star that has been discovered is about twenty-six trillions of miles 
away, which is equal to two hundred and eighty thousand times 
the distance of the earth from the sun. 

Other stars are many times farther away than this. Their dis- 
tances in miles expressed in figures are not much easier to com- 
prehend than infinity. Most astronomical numbers are too large 

The Distances of the Stars 87 

to comprehend and too cumbersome for easy use. For this rea- 
son the distance of the earth from the sun (93,000,000 miles) 
has been adopted as the astronomical unit, and in expressing 
long distances we ordinarily say so many times the sun's distance. 
But some of the stars are millions of times the sun's distance, 
which still gives us an awkward lot of figures to deal with. As- 
tronomers have, therefore, chosen another unit of length for ex- 
pressing stellar distances. This unit is the distance over which 
light passes in a year. We know that light travels at the rate of 
186,300 miles in a second. This equals about six trillions of 
miles in a year, or about sixty-three thousand times the sun's 
distance. Therefore, for every six trillions of miles that a star is 
distant we speak of it as one light year away. The nearest star, 
then, is a little more than four and one-third light years away, 
which means that its distance is more than four and one-third 
times six trillions of miles. 

The light that we see from the nearest fixed star left there 
more than four years ago. From many stars we do not see it 
for a hundred years, or for many hundreds of years. From some 
of the faintest stars it may take light many thousands of years 
to reach us. Streams of light are travelling towards us now that 
set out on their journey long before Christ was born and have 
not yet reached us. The stars from which they come might no 
longer exist. The Pole Star, which we think is the most stable 
thing in the universe, might be extinguished for nearly half a 
century and we should still be ignorant of the fact; for the light 
that we now see probably started on its journey to us almost 
fifty years ago. And this though the velocity of light is so great 
as to send it around the entire circumference of the earth (25,000 
miles) more than seven times in a second. From the nearest fixed 
star our sun, which gives us ninety billion times more light than 
a first-magnitude star, would shine only as a star of the second 
magnitude. Pluto, the farthermost planet of the solar system, 
is about three billions of miles from the sun; yet between us 
and the nearest fixed star we could line up several thousand such 
solar systems just touching one another and still have some room 
left over. 

We think sound travels fast when we say that it goes at the 
rate of one thousand and ninety feet per second. But if it were 
possible for sound to travel to us from the nearest fixed star, it 

88 The Friendly Stars 

would, even at this rate of speed, spend three millions of years 
on the journey through space. Fortunately sound is dependent 
on our atmosphere for its motion and does not travel through 
space as light does. If it did, we would probably have such a 
mighty and continuous thunder that our ears would have to be 
constructed very differently from what they are now to stand the 
shock; for tremendous explosions and upheavals are going on all 
the time among the stars, of which our sun is one. 

Even though the sound waves from such disturbances do not 
plague us, we have nonetheless become aware of the disturbances 
because of the radio noise such disturbances produce. During 
periods of intense sunspot activity, sensitive radio receivers pick 
up a violent hissing noise that swishes on different frequencies 
of radio waves. Many objects in the stellar system also send out 
a hissing noise indicating the presence of great disturbances. 
One of the chief sources of radio noise is the Crab Nebula, in 
Taurus. This object is a planetary nebula. It actually represents 
the remnants of a star, a supernova, that exploded in the year 
1064. Ancient records show that a bright star appeared in this 
position in that year. 

Measurement of stellar parallaxes is one of the most delicate 
of astronomical operations. In such observations allowance must 
be made for errors of various kinds. Even personal peculiarities 
must be taken into account; for, with the same honesty of pur- 
pose and working with the same instruments, persons of differ- 
ent temperaments will still see things a little differently. So in 
the final allowance for probable error which follows any calcu- 
lation of delicate problems in astronomy, the astronomer takes 
his personal equation into consideration. But apart from this 
element of uncertainty, it is still not all a plain case of making 
and recording observations in seeking a parallax. Account must 
be taken of refraction, which causes an apparent deviation from 
the real position of an object; of the motion of the earth 
through space, which does not stop for the making of any ob- 
servations, however important; of nutation, which is a wob- 
bling of the earth on its axis; of precession, which is another 
motion of the earth; and of still other disturbing motions. 

The determination of the distance of the stars is still of great 
importance to astronomers. However, indirect methods of de- 
termination are now being pursued more actively than the direct 

The Distances of the Stars 89 

method of determination. The indirect methods involve using 
certain characteristics of the star to give an estimate of its true 
luminosity. The spectrum of a star, for example, provides a good 
measure of the surface brightness. The relative intensities of cer- 
tain lines can indicate the pressures within the star's atmosphere 
and enable the astronomer to estimate whether it is a large 
bright star or a small faint one. Or, in the special case of certain 
types of variable stars, the period of the light variation provides 
a measure of the star's actual luminosity. In either case, when 
we know the star's intrinsic brightness, and also the star's ap- 
parent brightness, we can then simply calculate how far the star 
must be from us in order to appear as bright as it does in the 

As previously noted, the brightest stars tend to be the nearest 
ones to us, but there are many exceptions to this rule. It is more 
accurate to say that, of the naked-eye stars, the faintest ones are 
farthest away. Alpha Centauri, the nearest star of all, is a bril- 
liant first-magnitude star a little more than four light years away. 
Procyon, another first-magnitude star, is something less than ten 
light years away. Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens, is also 
comparatively near, its light journey through space being a little 
more than eight years (8.6) . On the other hand, the second near- 
est star, usually called Barnard's star, is just a trifle brighter than 
the tenth magnitude (9.7) at a distance of about six light years. 

Canopus, the star next brightest to Sirius, takes about 100 
years to send its light to us. Arcturus, one of the brightest stars 
in the northern hemisphere, is 37 light years away. Spica is at a 
distance of 260 light years and brilliant Rigel at the record dis- 
tance of 1,300 light years. 

So, while it may be true that on the average a large propor- 
tion of the bright stars are nearer us than the faint ones, it does 
not necessarily follow that because a star is brighter than others 
it is, therefore, nearer, nor that any particular faint star is among 
those that are farthest away. Brightness is one of the criteria of 
nearness, but it is not always the determining one. The excep- 
tions to this rule are due in a large part to the fact that stars 
themselves have intrinsic brightnesses ranging over an enormous 
number of magnitudes. There exist, in space, stars more than 
10,000 times as bright as our sun. We also find stars 10,000 times 
fainter than our sun. These extremely faint stars are tremen- 

$0 The Friendly Stars 

dously abundant, but we can see them in our telescopes only to 
a relatively short distance. 

Of the distances of the stars from each other we can have no 
conception until we know their distance from us. Some of those 
that appear to lie very dose together may only lie in nearly the 
same line of sight and may really be separated from each other 
by many times their distance from us. There is reason to think, 
though, that many of the groups are not mere accidents of vision, 
but that most of the stars composing them have some close con- 
nection and are probably comparatively near each other. This is 
indicated sometimes through spectrum analysis and sometimes 
through telescopic observation. By the spectrum we learn that 
the stars in certain groups are all in nearly the same stage of 
development; and thus they seem to have had a common origin 
and may be comparatively near each other. This is the case 
with the stars of the Pleiades. By the telescope we learn that all 
the stars in certain groups are moving through space in the same 
direction; and thus they seem to have a common destination. 
Five of the seven principal stars forming the Big Dipper com- 
prise one of these moving groups. The first star in the bowl of 
the dipper and the last star in the handle are not members. It 
turns out that our sun actually lies within the confines of this 
enormous moving duster, although it is not a member. Sirius, 
Alpha Coronae Borealis, and Beta Aurigae are also members 
of the Ursa Major duster. 

The Pleiades and the Hyades are also examples of moving 
dusters. The motion of the latter group is rather unusual, in 
that the stars appear to converge toward a certain point in the 
sky. The effect is one of perspective. All of the parallel tracks 
in a railroad yard, for example, converge toward the same point 
on the horizon. In the same way, these stars, moving parallel to 
one another, converge to the same point, which is not far from 
the red star Betelgeuse in Orion. Many of the bright stars in 
the constellations of Scorpius and Centaurus belong to the same 
moving duster. The beautiful duster that comprises the constel- 
lation Coma Berenices is a naked-eye group. So, also, is the 
faint naked-eye duster Praesepe, in Cancer. 


Double Stars 

A GREAT many of the stars that we see as one with the 
^ naked eye are, in reality, composed of two, sometimes of 
three, and in a few cases of four or more stars. The reason that 
we see them as a single star is, either that they are too close to- 
gether to show any space between them at the enormous distance 
they are from us, or that one of them is too faint to be visible 
without a telescope. Castor is an example of the first case. The 
two principal stars composing it are of the second and third 
magnitudes, and either of them could be seen with the unaided 
eye if they were not so near together. Their nearness, of course, 
is only comparative. Hundreds of millions of miles divide them; 
but their distance from us is so great as to make many hundreds 
of millions of miles dwindle to a mere point. Incidentally, Cas- 
tor is actually a multiple star, having, in addition to the princi- 
pal pair, several fainter companions. Regulus is an example of 
the second case. It has a companion star which is too faint to be 
seen with the naked eye, and yet the distance between the two 
stars is no less than that between some other stars that the eye 
can easily separate because they can both be seen by the eye 

Sometimes we loosely call a star double when we can really 
see without a glass the two stars composing it. Epsilon Lyrae, 
which we already know, is such a star. To many persons it seems 
to be a single star; but a good eye will discover that it is two. 
They are three minutes apart, and this is about the smallest 
distance that the eye can discern among the stars. A telescope, in 
turn, will resolve each of these stars into a dose double, so that 
in reality Epsilon Lyrae is a double double system. 

The star next to Aldebaran in the V-shaped figure of which 
it is a part is also spoken of as a double star, though its two 


$2 The Friendly Stars 

components are as much as six minutes apart and can ordinarily 
be seen with the unaided eye. There are many such double stars. 
But astronomers do not call a star double unless a telescope is 
required to separate the components of it, and even then they 
reject all stars that do not lie nearly ten times nearer together 
than the two principal stars of Epsilon Lyrae. 

Sometimes two stars lie in such a position that they seem to 
us to be almost touching each other, yet are in no way con- 
nected and only happen to lie in the same line of vision, one 
being enormously farther away than the other. Their appearance 
as one is a mere matter of perspective. Such combinations of the 
light of two stars are called optical doubles, and are of no spe- 
cial importance as double stars in astronomical investigations 
after it has been fully established that they have no physical 

True double stars do not lie near each other by mere chance. 
They are held together by physical bonds that keep them forever 
revolving around each other, and their revolutions are what be- 
tray to us the relationship of the stars taking part in the motion. 
Sometimes it requires many years to determine whether there is a 
physical connection or not. For even though stars may be mov- 
ing at the rate of many miles a second, their distance from us 
is so great that it takes a very long time for us to discover any 
motion at all. Hence, a star that requires several hundred years to 
complete its journey in its orbit would hardly reveal any per- 
ceptible motion in the lifetime of one man. A convenience it 
would indeed be to the modern astronomer if he could com- 
mand the same consideration as the old historian Berosus says 
was given to the antediluvians when God prolonged their days 
to five or six hundred years in order to give them time to com- 
plete astronomical observations. The brevity of life, however, 
does not stay the inquiring mind. The work of investigation is 
passed on from hand to hand with almost as much continuity 
as if it were pursued by a single man. 

Generally speaking, there is a real connection between two 
stars when they remain in the same relation to each other dur- 
ing a long series of years. For each star is in motion and has its 
own, or what we call its "proper," motion in the sky. If its com- 
panion has the same motion, and the two stars thus keep to- 
gether, there is reason to suppose that they form part of the 

Double Stars 93 

same system. If they remain together and yet change their rela- 
tive positions, we know that they are circling round each other 
and are undoubtedly of one system. But sometimes in their 
revolutions through their incredibly large orbits the two stars 
are enormously farther apart at one point than at another and 
may seem to be receding from each other. In such cases it re- 
quires long years of observation to determine whether each is 
going its own way and they will continue to recede, or whether 
they are bound together by gravitation and will in time ap- 
proach each other again. 

Sirius and its companion are entirely inseparable at one 
point in their circuit and at another can be separated by a large 
telescope. But as their period of revolution is only about fifty 
years, their relation was soon established after the smaller star 
was once seen during one of its periods of greatest distance from 
the principal component of the system. 

Castor and its distant companion, on the other hand, can al- 
ways be seen separately by the aid of the telescope. But it was 
only after they had been known as a double star for more than 
a hundred years that any physical association was suspected be- 
tween them. It came about then by the accidental discovery that 
while once the prolongation of the line joining Castor and Pol- 
lux would run through Castor's companion, it was no longer so; 
but that the companion had moved quite out of line with Castor 
and Pollux, showing that the two stars must be in revolution. 
The time necessary for a revolution of a companion of Castor 
around its primary is slightly under 400 years. 

Double stars that are not mere optical doubles, but are proved 
to have some physical connection, and, hence to revolve around 
some common center, are known as binary stars, or binary sys- 
tems, and the stars composing such a double star are spoken of 
as its components. Those that can be separated with the tele- 
scope are called visual, or sometimes telescopic, binaries. But 
there is a class of binaries that cannot be separated even with 
the strongest telescope. Their double nature is made known 
to us by means of the spectroscope, and they are called spectro- 
scopic binaries. Their discovery is one of the most interesting 
results of the use of the spectroscope in astronomy. 

The displacement of certain lines in the spectrum of a star 
enables astronomers to determine the swiftness and direction of 

94 The Friendly Stars 

its motion. In the case of a double star the components revolve 
around each other, alternately approaching and receding from 
us. The lines of their spectra indicate these motions and betray 
the fact that they are circling around in an orbit, and are, hence, 
double stars, since if they are revolving they must be revolving 
around something. When the two stars are of the same class 
spectroscopically, they will each have the same kind of spectrum 
and the lines of their spectra will alternately appear double and 
single, according as the stars are side by side to our view or in 
the same line of sight from us. When the two stars composing 
the binary are so different in their stage of development that one 
is nearly dark, the lines of the spectrum of the bright component 
will simply oscillate back and forth, for, of course, a star that 
does not radiate light has no spectrum. Mizar is an example of 
the first class and was the first star to be identified as of that 
class, this occurring in 1889. Mizar was also the first star dis- 
covered to be a double star. Spica is an example of the second 
class, since its companion star is almost non-luminous and signals 
its presence only by the wavering lines of Spica's spectrum. 
Gapella is of a class between the two, where the spectra of both 
components can be seen, though they may be of slightly different 
spectral types. 

Up to the middle of the seventeenth century such a thing as a 
double star was unknown. In 1610 Galileo first used his telescope, 
by which he discovered the moons of Jupiter. For forty years 
after that the heavens were scanned with various telescopes more 
or less rude in construction, but not once did it occur that a star 
which looked single to the naked eye became known to be double 
as viewed through a telescope. Finally, in 1650, Mizar was dis- 
covered to be composed of two stars. The idea once entertained, 
double stars became an object of special quest, and many others 
were discovered in quick succession, among them Alpha Centauri 
and the famous Theta Orionis, the star in the nebula in the 
sword of Orion, which was discovered as early as 1689 to be not 
only double, but quadruple. But no one dreamed that double 
stars were anything more than optical doubles. It was supposed 
that by mare chance both stars lay in the same line of vision from 
us, against the same background of black space, but one of them 
necessarily much farther away than the other. 

More than a hundred years after the first double star was 

Double Stars 95 

discovered, and so recently as about the time of our Revolu- 
tionary War, a systematic search for double stars was begun. In 
less than two years thirty-three stars were added to the number 
already known. The astronomer Herschel then set about making 
a special study of double stars, in the hope that he might be 
able to learn something about their distance. The idea that one 
was far behind the other in our line of sight at least differen- 
tiated them as to distance and suggested the thought that it 
might be possible to discover some shifting of the nearer star in 
its relation to the farther one. The unexpected happened again, 
and a new scientific truth was discovered almost, as it seemed, 
by accident. The stars were revolving around each other! An- 
other of nature's secret doors had been burst open by the con- 
tinuous pressure upon it of zealous, untiring workers while 
chiselling away one fastening after another. 

By 1802 it was proved beyond a doubt that many of the so- 
called double stars were truly double twin suns swinging around 
a common centre of gravity: millions of miles apart, no doubt; 
but held by that mysterious force that keeps our own system 
together, in bonds that can never be loosened. 

When Sir Isaac Newton termed that force "universal gravita- 
tion," stressing the fact that the force held everywhere in the 
universe, he was indeed far-seeing. These double stars proved 
beyond all question the universal character of the force that 
causes a stone to fall to earth, the moon to revolve in its orbit, 
or the planets to circle the sun. Here was implication that many 
other systems like ours could exist in the universe: a vast central 
orb holding smaller ones by invisible chains and swinging them 
around as a boy sometimes swings a pot of burning coals sus- 
pended upon a string. 

Sometimes two fiery suns of almost equal size are circling 
around each other. They may each be the center of a planetary 
system and so far apart that they show as mere stars to each 
other. That they are so far apart, we know in some cases; and we 
even know that in some cases dark bodies are revolving around 
them. We may more appropriately refer to these dark bodies as 
unseen companions, because in most cases the bodies are not 
completely dark. They are only relatively faint stars which might 
actually be seen in a large telescope or photographed were it not 
for the presence of the bright companion. 

96 The Friendly Stars 

Why may it not be that many others are thus far apart and 
accompanied by dark bodies which we have as yet no means of 
discovering? Scientists have even suggested that our sun may 
have a far-distant companion. However, the evidence is decreas- 
ing for the reality of a companion sun, but the possibility cannot 
yet be completely ruled out. 

As soon as the fact that there was a physical connection be- 
tween the components of some of the double stars was established, 
many workers began to devote themselves to the observation of 
such stars, sorting out and discarding the mere optical doubles, 
watching and recording the movements of those that proved to 
be real binary systems, and discovering new ones all the time. For 
more than a century the work was carried on by means of the 
telescope, and more and more pairs came into view as larger 
and larger telescopes came into use. 

Astronomers have estimated that almost one-third of all the 
stars in the sky are binaries. The high incidence of binary sys- 
tems clearly indicates that the evolutionary process leading to 
the formation of the double star is in no sense unusual. The in- 
dication is that a single star, originally rapidly rotating, may un- 
der certain circumstances split up into a double star into which 
most of the rotational motion has gone into the orbital revolu- 
tion of one star about the other. These findings, as well as the 
discovery that binaries, too dose to be separated even with the 
strongest telescope, could be recognized either through the spec- 
troscope or by the light variation of the eclipsing binary, greatly 
enlarged the field of investigation. 

Nearly a hundred of the binary systems discovered have 
proved to be multiple systems composed of anywhere from three 
to seven stars. Castor is a well-known multiple system. Polaris is 
a triple star, Mizar a quadruple, Theta Orionis divides into four 
bright stars* and Epsilon Lyrae is composed of four. From the 
frequency with which this happens, it is hardly surprising to find 
almost any binary resolve itself on further observation into a 
system of several stars. Many binaries that can be seen with a tele- 
scope have been shown by the spectroscope to have both com- 
ponents double, thus making a quadruple system. 

Many orbits have been computed, showing periods of revolu- 
tion from less than two days to more than a thousand years in 
length. The far-distant visual couples swing slowly and majesti- 

Double Stars 97 

cally around their common center, while the close companions 
whirl with almost unthinkable rapidity through their allotted 
orbits, for the shorter the distance between two stars the greater 
gravitational force they exert upon each other and the more 
swiftly they compel each other to revolve. 

The fastest revolving couples are, of course, spectroscopic bi- 
naries, many of which are so close together as to be almost in 
contact. In proportion to the number of each, the orbits of more 
spectroscopic binaries have been determined than of the visual 
systems; for telescopic doubles must be observed until it is shown 
that they either are or are not in revolution, while spectroscopic 
systems are discovered because they are in revolution. 

The shortest periods among spectroscopic binaries are a few 
hours; the shortest periods among visual binaries are a few years. 
It is interesting to know that the longest period found that has 
reasonable claims to accuracy is that of a fourth-magnitude star 
in the region between Altair and the square of Pegasus. It is es- 
timated to be nearly sixteen hundred years; but it will require 
several hundred years of observation to fully verify this estimate. 
The longest period that has been computed and fully authenti- 
cated is about four hundred years, though much longer periods 
are known to be approximately correct. 

Multiple stars grade into more complex systems, like the Ursa 
Major cluster, the Scorpius-Centaurus group, the Pleiades and 
Hyades, or Praesepe. The delicate naked-eye cluster, Coma Bere- 
nices, is another. In the last chapter we saw that such groups are 
physically connected because the stars are moving parallel to 
one another. The clusters hold their shape. 

The discovery of binaries, or systems, of stars has a most im- 
portant influence in the progress of astronomy. In establishing 
the universality of the law of gravitation it opens the way to 
knowledge of various sorts which would otherwise be unobtain- 
able. When the distance of a pair of stars is known and the time 
that they require to revolve about each other, we secure data 
for determining the size of their orbit, their mass, their real 
light-giving power, and their rate of speed. In addition to this, 
if we learn from the spectroscope the chemical composition of 
the stars, it would seem as if their whole story is nearly within 
our grasp. 

The Constellations 

HP HERE is a general impression that knowing the stars means 
knowing the constellations; and with this idea in their minds 
many persons grow discouraged at the very outset in their en- 
deavors to make some acquaintance with the stars. But the first 
step toward knowing the constellations is a familiarity with the 
individual stars. At first sight, most of the constellations do not 
much resemble the thing for which they are named. Many of the 
figures partially overlap each other. The tip of one of the horns 
of Taurus is in Auriga; Andromeda and Pegasus depend upon 
the same star to complete their outline; and in some other cases 
a star was traditionally assigned to two constellations, or fami- 
lies, so that it is difficult to tell of which one it is the step-child. 
Astronomers have, in questionable cases, arbitrarily decided to 
which star group a given star belongs so that the constellations 
do have officially recognized boundaries. 

To enjoy the constellations one must be satisfied not to expect 
too much of them. The splendid ones that mark a certain section 
of the skies to us, as well as the small and beautiful ones that re- 
mind us by their presence that a certain season has arrived, yield 
their fullest pleasure when we take them as we do our human 
friends for what they give us, without any severe exactions as 
to consistency or any desire to make them fit a preconceived 
model. The tracing of the various figures represented by the con- 
stellations was not the working out of an exact science, but it was 
an aesthetic occupation, and the imagination must be used to 
see, as the ancient star-gazers did, the heroes, kings, and queens, 
and birds and dragons fixed on the purple walls of the sky. 

It is not necessary that one should be able to trace all the con- 
stellations in order to have a friendly and familiar acquaintance 
with all the important naked-eye stars. Still one can hardly be 


The Constellations 99 

said to know the aspect of the heavens until he knows the prin- 
cipal constellations the ones that took shape in the minds of the 
shepherds, sailors, and other out-door people in the days when 
imagination fashioned them and when scientific order was of less 
import than it is to-day. These early forms include the twelve 
constellations of the zodiac, for instance, which mark the path of 
the sun and the moon and the planets across the heavens; the 
conspicuously beautiful constellations, like Orion, Lyra, Leo, 
Scorpius, and others; and the familiar ones forever circling 
around the north pole, and always visible to us, like Draco, 
Cassiopeia, and the two bears. 

Moreover, however indifferent one may be to the science of 
astronomy, an intelligent person can hardly fail to feel a little 
uncomfortable when he has so large a body of natural beauty 
hanging over him in full view half of his life and yet has no fa- 
miliarity with it. It was some feeling of this kind, no doubt, that 
led Thomas Carlyle to cry, "Why did not somebody teach me the 
constellations and make me at home in the starry heavens, 
which are always overhead, and which I don't half know to this 

Of the ancient constellations there are about forty-eight. They 
are all outlined by stars that can be seen with the naked eye and 
are as open to our vision as the clouds, the trees, and the hills. 
In them are contained all the brightest stars, and there is no 
conspicuous part of the heavens that is not covered by them. 
Once we are familiar with them, the whole sky becomes glorified 
to us beyond Achilles' shield, which Hephaistos fashioned and 
wrought thereon "the heavens, and the sea, and the unwearying 
sun, and the moon waxing to the full, and the signs every one 
wherewith the heavens are crowned, Pleiades, Hyades, and 
Orion's might, and the Bear that men also call the Wain, her 
that turneth in her place and watcheth Orion, and alone hath 
no part in the baths of Ocean." 

Today, astronomers recognize 88 constellations. These com- 
prise the 48 original constellations recognized by the ancients, 
with the exception of the Pleiades, which we now regard as be- 
ing part of Taurus, and only an asterism. Also, astronomers have 
carved the original large star group, Argo Navis, the great ship 
in which Jason sailed to find the golden fleece, into four separate 
groups, the sail, the stern, the keel, and the compass. There have 

100 The Friendly Stars 

been many new constellations added to the southern sky, regions 
invisible in the latitudes where the ancient astronomers made 
their observations. Also, the modern astronomers have straight- 
ened out the once irregularly curved boundaries until they now 
consist of arcs of circles. 

Many of the modern constellations are of little interest or im- 
portance, having been composed to provide a scientific genealogy 
for the few inconspicuous stars occupying stray spots in the sky 
not covered by the original constellations. The ancient astron- 
omers referred to these as the "unformed stars." But, for astro- 
nomical reference, it is often useful to have a map of the sky in 
which no blank spots occur. Hence, though the areas are gen- 
erally poor in stars and often of little interest, they are neces- 
sary additions to the astronomer's system of mapping the sky. 

Many of the newer constellations, especially those in the south, 
do not follow the ancient pattern. They are named for such as- 
tronomical or scientific instruments as the sextant, the octant, the 
telescope, the dock, the graving tool, the microscope and others. 
They are, in consequence, devoid of the romantic and historical 
interest that the ancient constellations commanded. Fortunately, 
the first astronomer to map the southern stars, Bayer, followed 
the ancient tradition and introduced groups of particular beauty 
and interest in the more brilliantly populated starry realms. 

Fourteen of the principal constellations have already been de- 
scribed more or less fully in the introduction to the first-magni- 
tude stars. With these as connecting links we shall proceed to 
identify and trace the other important constellations visible in 
the northern latitudes. 

The Little Bear and Polaris 

FIVE major constellations are always above the horizon in our 
latitudes: Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and 
Draco. We can see them on any clear night from sunset to dawn. 
They are all in the north and revolve slowly in a small circle 
around the north pole once every twenty-four hours. In one 
sense the most important of these six constellations is Ursa 
Minor, or the Little Bear. The reason of its importance is that 
the north pole lies within its boundaries. 

The north pole is nothing more than the point where the 
imaginary polar axis of the earth would touch the sky if it 
were extended that far. But since the earth revolves on its axis, 
the entire heavens seem to us to revolve around its extension; so 
the north pole is to our view the center of the universe and the 
most important point in the skies. 

Of all the stars that can be seen by the naked eye the one 
nearest to the north pole is Polaris, or Alpha Ursae Minoris. It 
is called the Pole Star, or the North Star, and is ordinarily re- 
garded as marking the exact point of the north pole. It is, in 
truth, about one degree from the polar point and revolves 
around it each 24 hours in a little circle two degrees in diam- 
eter. A diameter of two degrees is nearly four times the apparent 
diameter of the moon, which is only a little more than half a 
degree. But the moon, by reason of its brilliancy, seems to cover 
more space on the sky than it really does, so we must make allow- 
ance for that fact in such a comparison. 

To find the exact location of the pole, draw a line from Polaris 
to Mizar, the middle star in the handle of the Great Dipper. 
Mizar is on the other side of the pole from Polaris and almost 
exactly opposite; and the line will pass through the pole, which 
lies about one degree from Polaris. 


102 The Friendly Stars 

Within the little cirde that Polaris makes around the pole are 
many stars that are not visible to the naked eye. As many as 
eighty have been seen through the telescope, while as many as 
two hundred have been seen on the photographic plates. 

Owing to what is known as the precession of the equinoxes, 
the pole does not always point to the same spot in the sky. It 
describes a little circle of its own once in every twenty-five thous- 
and years, and as it journeys it confers the distinction of being 
the Pole Star upon several different stars. In about two hundred 
years from now it will approach our present North Star, Polaris, 
to within a little less than half a degree. The circle that Polaris 
will then make around the pole will have a diameter of about 
fifty-three minutes, which is slightly less than twice the diameter 
of the moon. After that, the pole will begin to move away from 
Polaris* and in about twelve thousand years will be within 
five degrees of the beautiful Vega, and she will be our Pole Star 
for the next three thousand years. Then the pole will slowly 
recede from Vega, and in another twelve thousand years Polaris 
will again become the Pole Star. So, in spite of all these changes, 
each generation during these thousands of years will have its 
Pole Star. For the change takes place so gradually that a single 
generation is not conscious of it. The change has been marked, 
however, over historical time. Some 2,000 years ago the "guard 
stars," Beta and Gamma Ursae Minoris, were nearer the celestial 
poles than was the star that we call Polaris. Hence it was cus- 
tomary for the early navigators to steer by the guard stars rather 
than by Alpha Ursae Minoris, Around 3,000 B.C., Alpha Dra- 
conis was the pole star. 

Polaris is the brightest star in the constellation of Ursa Minor, 
or the Little Bear. Its Greek letter name is Alpha Ursae Minoris. 
It was also called in former times Cynosura, meaning the end of 
the dog's tail. It is at the end of the tail of the Little Bear: and 
tfaane is some reason to think that the Little Bear was once 
thought to be a dog instead of a bear. Our word "cynosure" gets 
its meaning from Polaris, which is the center of attraction in the 

In the Little Bear, as in the Great Bear, the distinctive feature 
of the constellation is the Dipper. It is formed of seven stars and 
somewhat resembles the Great Dipper: but its handle is curved 

The Little Bear and Polaris 




towards, rather than away from, the bowl, which gives it some- 
thing more the appearance of a saucepan than of a dipper. 

The only other stars of any importance in the constellation 
are the two outer stars of the bowl of the Dipper. The brighter 
one is a second-magnitude star, Beta Ursae Minoris, sometimes 
called Kochab. The other is Gamma Ursae Minoris, a third- 
magnitude star. They correspond in position to the pointers 
in the Great Dipper, and are sometimes called the "guardians 
of the pole." 


The Great Bear and the Seven Stars of 
The Dipper 

T TNLIKE the Little Bear, the Great Bear can be traced in the 
heavens with reasonable accuracy. It looks rather more like 
a rodent than a bear, and its long tail seems somewhat out of 
place. Still one can distinctly follow the outlines of a clumsily 
shaped four-legged animal, which, perhaps, is as appropriately 
called a bear as anything else. It is rather surprising, however, 
that many ancient peoples in widely separated continents have 
referred to this constellation as a bear. 

The most conspicuous part of the constellation is the Great 
Dipper, The handle of the Dipper is the tail of the Bear, and 
the four stars forming the bowl lie in the hind part of the body. 
The tip of the Bear's nose is marked by a star lying about twenty- 
five degrees from the root of the tail, and a line from the nose 
through the two stars forming the top of the bowl of the Dipper 
marks the back of the Bear. Its right fore-foot is indicated by two 
stars about fifteen degrees south of its nose. The stars connecting 
this foot with the body show a prancing, double-jointed sort of 
a leg. Similar pairs of stars indicate the position of the other 
three feet, which can be appropriately connected with the body 
without much trouble, the whole forming an animal so huge that 
it might well give over its watch on Orion, since even so mighty 
a hunter as he would scarcely attack it. 

Ursa Major is a beautiful constellation and would be remark- 
able even if its only distinction were that of including the seven 
bright stars of the dipper. These stars are well worth a closer 
acquaintance because of their many points of individual interest 
and beauty as well as their special interest as a group. With the 
exception of Orion, there is no other constellation with so many 


The Seven Stars of the Dipper 105 

bright stars in so dose a group. Alioth, the third star from the 
end of the handle, is the brightest of them, and barely escapes 
being a first-magnitude star. All the others are of the second 


magnitude except Megrez, which lies at the point where the 
handle joins the bowl of the Dipper. This is a third-magnitude 


Alioth is five and a half degrees from Megrez, or Delta, the 
faintest star of the seven, and is four and a half degrees from 
Zeta, or Mizar. The name AJjoth means the "tail sheep/' 

Alkaid, the star at the end of the handle of the Dipper, is the 
third in order of brightness in the group, though no longer ago 
than 1847 it was said by Herschel to be the brightest. The differ- 
ence in brilliancy between Alkaid and Alioth is hardly discernible 
by the ordinary eye. Alkaid is a white star and is approaching us 
at the rate of about seven miles a second. Its name means "the 
chief." The star is frequently called Benetnasch. It is seven 
degrees from Mizar, the star next to it in the handle of the 
Dipper, and twenty-six from Dubhe. 

Dubhe, or Alpha Ursae Majoris, is the pointer nearest the pole 
The name means the "she-bear." Dubhe lies in the back of the 
Great Bear, ten degrees from the star that begins the tail of the 
Bear; It is the second in order of brightness in the constellation. 
Dubhe is yellowish in color and shows some similarity to 
Capella. It is a double star. Its smaller companion is about three 
magnitudes fainter than the larger star, being of the fifth magni- 

106 The Friendly Stars 

tude. This makes a great difference in the brilliancy of the two 
stars, the brighter one being sixteen times brighter than the 
other. Dubhe is a little more than twenty-eight degrees from 
Polaris; ten degrees from Megrez, the other star at the top of 
the bowl of the Dipper; twenty-six degrees from Alcaid, the star 
at the end of the handle, and a trifle over five degrees from the 
other pointer. It is approaching us at the rate of five miles a 

The other pointer is Merak, or Beta Ursae Majoris. It is fifth 
in point of brightness in the constellation, its magnitude being 
2.37, and is a very beautiful white star' with a greenish tinge. It 
is approaching us at the rate of about seven miles a second. 

From Phecda, or Gamma Ursae Majoris, the other star at the 
bottom of the bowl, it is four and a half degrees to Megrez, or 
Delta Ursae Majoris, the faintest star of the seven bright ones in 
the Dipper. Its magnitude is 3.30. Megrez is also whitish; like 
Phecda, it is slightly tinged with yellow. Its name means "the 
root of the tail," which describes its situation in the Great Bear. 
It is the star that joins the handle to the bowl in the Dipper. It 
is five and a half degrees from Alioth, the brightest of the seven, 
and is thirty-two and a quarter degrees from the pole. 

The most variously interesting of all the stars of the Great 
Dipper is Mizar, or Zeta Ursae Majoris/ the star next to the one 
at the end of the handle. It is fourth in order of brightness 
among the seven, its magnitude being 2.05, almost an exact 
second-magnitude star. The light from Mizar takes about 80 
years to reach the earth. 

Mizar can always be known by its having a tiny companion so 
near it as to be sometimes not easy to see. Its name, Alcor, means 
"the near one." It was formerly known as "the test," because it 
was supposed to test the eyesight to see it. It is really not so 
difficult to see, however, for it is only a fourth-magnitude star 
and is separated from Mizar a distance equal to almost one-third 
of the apparent diameter of the moon. The greater light of 
Mizar is what makes it seem so obscure. When Alcor is once 
known, it never fails to attract, for it is a peculiarly beautiful 
little star, very white and very piercing in its brightness. We have 
already noted that ail of the Dipper stars with the exception of 
Dubhe and Alkaid are members of a giant moving cluster. Alcor 

The Seven Stars of the Dipper 107 

is also a member of this group. Thus Mizar and Alcor are not too 
distant from one another. 

But Mizar has other stars nearer it than Alcor. It is the center 
of its own great system of stars. It has the distinction of being the 
first double star discovered by the telescope, a discovery made 
as long ago as 1650. When the spectroscope came into use, Mizar 
was again the first to open up a new line of discovery, being 
the first star discovered by the spectroscope to be a binary. The 
brighter of the two stars into which it was separated by the tele- 
scope was shown by the spectroscope to be also double. So the 
star as we see it is really three stars all united into one system. 
The pair of stars that require a spectroscope to separate them 
revolve around each other in a little more than twenty days and 
radiate about forty times as much light as the sun. 

In England the Dipper is often called the Plough and some- 
times Charles's Wain, or simply the Wagon. As noted earlier, 
all of its stars except Dubhe and Alkaid are moving through 
space in the same direction and at about the same rate of 
speed, which indicates that they may all be of one system, 
or, at least, of a common origin, and thus be associated in 
reality as well as to our view. Since Dubhe and Alkaid do not 
belong to the cluster and are moving through space in a very 
different direction, the dipper will become somewhat misshapen 
in the course of centuries. In about 50,000 years it will appear 
more like a lopsided steamer chair. 

Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and the Dragon 

/CASSIOPEIA lies on the other side of the pole from Ursa 
Major and almost directly opposite the Dipper. Its chief 
naked-eye stars, seven in number, form a figure somewhat re- 
sembling a chair in shape. They are nearly as conspicuous 
among the circumpolar stars as the Dipper and are about the 
same distance from the pole. 

On account of the faintness of the little star Kappa (*), on the 
front edge of the seat of the chair, some persons leave it out 
of consideration and fancy the remaining stars outline a some- 
what distorted "W." 

Gamma (y) Cassiopeia? is at present the brightest star in the 
constellation, and is of the second magnitude. Its light varies 
irregularly, and for a short time it once rivalled Deneb in 
brightness. Alpha is a shade less bright, and Beta is also of the 
second magnitude. Delta (8), the first star in the back of the 
chair, is dose to the third magnitude in brightness. Epsilon ( c ) , 
at the top of the back, is of the third magnitude; and Kappa, 
already referred to as the little star on the front edge of the seat, 
is a fourth magnitude star. Eta (if), half-way between Alpha and 
Gamma, is an interesting binary, or double star. The two stars 
composing it complete a revolution around each other every 
five hundred years, and are comparatively near to us, being 
only about eighteen light years away. 

Only two stars in Cassiopeia have individual names. Alpha is 
sometimes known as Schedar, and Beta was formerly called Caph. 
Polaris is just about half-way between Caph and Megrez, the star 
that joins the handle to the bowl of the Dipper, and is on the 
same side of the pole with Caph. 


Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and the Dragon 




Next to Cassiopeia is Cepheus, the king, her husband. He 
stands with one foot on Polaris and his head reaching to Andro- 
meda. The constellation has only one second-magnitude star, 
Alpha, which was formerly called Alderamin, meaning "the 
arm." This star and Beta, a rather bright third-magnitude star 
lying eight degrees nearer the pole than Alpha, point almost as 
directly to Polaris as the well-known pointers. They are a little 
nearer the pole than the pointers and are about three degrees 
farther apart. 

When Cassiopeia is east of the pole Cepheus is just above her. 
When she is above the pole, he is west of her; and when she is 
below it, he is just east of her. 


The only other important constellation among those around 
the north pole is Draco, or the Dragon. It is supposed to repre- 
sent, and does somewhat suggest, a great dragon that winds in 

110 The Friendly Stars 

and out among the circumpolar stars in graceful serpent-like 
convolutions. It is the Dragon on which the giant Hercules rests 
one foot. Its head is marked by a four-sided figure a short dis- 
tance northwest of Vega, containing two bright and two faint 
stars. Since the head of Draco never sets, it is interesting to watch 
it when Vega is below the horizon, and one sometimes has a 
feeling that by a good big stretch on the tip of his toes he could 
see the bright Vega just below the shining eyes of the Dragon. 
The rest of the constellation is outlined by a number of faint 
stars. It runs a short distance towards Cygnus, and then with 
some well-marked undulations it runs up towards Cepheus until 
it is between Cepheus and the Little Dipper. There it turns, 
makes a sweep around the Little Dipper, and, running between 
it and Ursa Major, ends just above the bowl of the Great Dipper. 

The two brightest stars in Draco are the ones in the head. The 
brightest is the one nearest Vega, which is Gamma ( y ) Draconis, 
sometimes called Etamin. The other is Beta (0) , with the 
individual name of Alwaid. Gamma is a second-magnitude star, 
and Beta is of the third magnitude. Gamma is a beautiful orange- 
colored star and is about 80 light years away from the earth. 

A small star near the tail of the Dragon, lying half-way be- 
tween Mizar, of the Great Dipper, and the lower star in the bowl 
of the Little Dipper, is noted as having been the Pole Star four 
thousand years ago. Its name is Thuban, and it is the Alpha of 
the constellation, though Draco now contains a number of other 
stars that are brighter. 

From the Hunting-Dogs to the Arrow 


JUST under the handle of the Great Dipper is a collection of 
J faint stars called Canes Venatici, or the Hunting-Dogs. The 
only naked-eye star of any importance in it is Alpha, commonly 
called Cor CarolL It gets its name from a modern attempt to 
make a constellation in honor of King Charles IL of England. 
The name means "the heart of Charles/' When the handle of the 
Great Dipper is turned towards the west, Cor Caroli hangs under 
it in a very conspicuous position and is a star that one would 
naturally notice and inquire about. It forms a triangle with 
Arcturus and Alkaid, or Benetnasch, the star at the end of the 
handle of the Dipper. It is one of the brightest of the third- 
magnitude stars. It is also a double star, with a companion of 
about the fifth magnitude; but the two are too close together to 
be separated by the naked eye. 


Canes Venatici is a sort of connecting-link between the strict 
circumpolar constellations and those that make a somewhat 
larger circle around the pole and are not visible all the time. 
Perhaps the easiest way to find them is to look for them one by 
one as they follow each other up from the eastern horizon. Canes 
Venatici is supposed to represent two hunting-dogs on the trail 
of the Great Bear, and they are naturally followed by the hunter, 
or the bear-driver, Bootes, which rises next The constellation is 
represented by a kite-shaped figure that rises about eight o'clock 
early in March. One can find it easily by the great star Arcturus, 


112 The Friendly Stars 

with which we are already familiar, and which lies in the knee 
of the hunter. It is a very pretty constellation and of some 
astronomical interest, but it is not remarkable to the ordinary 
view except for its one brilliant star. 


Corona Borealis, or the Northern Crown, is a semicircle of 
stars that rises just east of the northern part of Bootes. Its chief 
star Alphecca (Alpha Coronae) comes into view just an hour 
and a quarter later than Arcturus. It is of the second magnitude, 
though much fainter than the brightest second-magnitude stars. 
The constellation as a whole is a rather brilliant one, notwith- 
standing that it has no star brighter than the fourth magnitude 
except Alphecca. There are seven principal ones, and most of 
them are of the white, twinkling kind, so that the crown is full- 
jewelled. The entire constellation is only about fifteen degrees 


Next after Corona rises Hercules, one of the large constella- 
tions. It begins just south of the head of Draco and runs to 
within four degrees of the equator. The chief stars composing it 
delineate a giant upside down, as shown in the diagram on the 
opposite page. 

This constellation represents Hercules kneeling and with one 
foot on the head of the dragon, Draco. Many authors have 
placed a dub in his hand, but the concept of a kneeling giant 
carrying a club seems somewhat out of place. The reviser of this 
book (DHM 1963) has made a special study of the origin of this 
constellation. He believes that he has found the answer in 
diagrams and pictures of Hercules drawn on ancient pottery of 
Greece. Apparently the proper representation is that Hercules 
holds in his outstretched hand a bow. He is kneeling to gain 
stability. He has just shot the arrow, the constellation Sagitta, 
which is flying towards two birds, Cygnus and Aquila. The 
pottery fragment dearly showed the kneeling Hercules holding 
the bow, the flying arrow, and the Stymphalian birds as the 

From the Hunting-Dogs to the Arrow 





target. Many of the older sky maps represented Lyra also as a 
bird, a vulture. An alternative name for Lyra m these older 
maps was Vultur. 

In the legends of Hercules we find that one of the tasks he 
was assigned during the performance of his twelve labors was 
the shooting of the birds that haunted the marsh Stymphalis. 
These birds were fierce, brazen-clawed and brazen-beaked. It 
seems entirely fitting that the constellation should depict the 

114 The Friendly Stars 

famous giant performing one of his twelve great labors. 

Hercules has no star as bright as the second magnitude, but 
has many of the third and fourth magnitudes, and has also 
several double stars. The constellation is directly north of 


Lyra, or the Lyre, is the next constellation eastward from the 
northern part of Hercules. It contains the brilliant Vega, and its 
form has already been described. In addition to Vega, it has a 
famous star, Epsilon ( ) ; a variable star, Beta (), whose chang- 
ing light results from the eclipses of two stars revolving around 
one another; and a rare nebula, known as the Ring Nebula, on 
account of its shape. Epsilon can be divided into two stars by 
a sharp eye, and to try to see them is an interesting exercise. 
Each of the two is again double. Vega and Epsilon, with Zeta 
(), the star nearest to Vega in the parallelogram described on 
page 27, form an equilateral triangle each side of which is two 
degrees in length. This will enable one to find Epsilon. 

According to legend, Lyra represents the invention of the 
musical instrument by the god, Mercury. He found a tortoise 
shell and strung strings across it, finding that the plucking of 
the strings gave out sweet music One is not quite sure whether 
Lyra was supposed to represent the musical instrument itself or 
the tortoise whose shell became part of the instrument. Most of 
the early maps show it as a stringed instrument, however. But the 
representations consistently add wings and a bird's head to 
the instrument itself. This probably comes about because of con- 
fused mythology. We have already noted that Lyra sometimes 
has been referred to as Vultur, the vulture. Hence the bird's 
head may very well represent the head of the vulture. On the 
other hand, a badly drawn tortoise head might readily have been 
mistaken for the head of a bird in some artistic rendition of the 
constellation. So the beginnings of this beautiful group are lost in 

Gygnus, the Swan, is the constellation that holds Deneb. In 
its rising, Cygnus follows Lyra, and has been fully described in 
the chapter on Deneb. 

From the Hunting Dogs to the Arrow 115 


In Aquila we recognize the bright Altair, which, with its two 
companions, already known to us, serves to indicate the constel- 
lation. Exactly eight degrees below Altair when it is on the 
meridian is a conspicuously variable star (Eta Aquilae), which 
changes from the third to the fifth magnitude every seven days. 
Its changes are well-marked to the unassisted eye and make it an 
interesting object to follow from night to night. It is best seen 
in the early autumn, when Aquila is on the meridian during 
the first part of the evening. The two companions of Altair are 
Beta and Gamma Aquilae. Beta is south of Altair, and Gamma is 
north of it. The line joining the three stars is just five degrees in 
length. Aquila is supposed to represent an eagle flying towards 
the east and across th Milky Way. 

The Dolphin, or Job's Coffin, in the shape of a diamond, is 
just east of Aquila and a little farther north than Altair. Three 
of the stars composing the diamond are a little variable; one of 
them is a double star, and another is a spectroscopic binary, 
which is also suspected of being a triple star. 

Near the Dolphin is an equally miniature constellation, 
Equuleus, the small horse. This constellation lies in the area of 
the sky devoted to aquatic creatures. The reviser of this book, 
therefore, prefers to regard Equuleus as a Sea Horse rather than 
an ordinary horse. This makes it an appropriate companion to 
the nearby Dolphin. 

Sagitta, or the Arrow, lies in the Milky Way, north of Aquila 
and south of Cygnus. It is composed of five stars so arranged as 
to suggest an arrow pointing towards the east. Though a very 
small constellation, it is pretty and easily found. As previously 
noted, Sagitta naturally fills the position of the arrow shot from 
the bow of Hercules. 


From the Winged Horse to the Bull 

TP HE next constellation of any Importance that we may expect 
to see in the east is Pegasus. Nearly three hours after Altair is 
in view, the principal stars of Pegasus are seen coming up over 
the horizon a little north of east. It is a large constellation com- 
posed in the main of small stars. The chief figure consists of a 
large square called "the square of Pegasus." Each side is nearly 
eighteen degrees long, and the four stars composing it are suf- 
ficiently bright to make the square a significant figure in the sky. 

On the northeastern corner of the square is a small triangle 
which serves as an identifying mark. The star on this corner of 
the square is called Scheat. It is Beta Pegasi and the third star in 
order of brightness in the constellation. Alpha Pegasi (sometimes 
called Markab, the "Saddle") is on the southeastern corner of 
the square. Alpha is slightly brighter than Beta. Algenib, or 
Gamma Pegasi, marks the other lower or southwestern corner. 
This star is somewhat less bright than Beta. The star in the 
fourth corner of the square, which is the brightest of them all, 
really belongs to Andromeda, though, in effect, two constella- 
tions share the star. It was formerly Alpha Andromedae and also 
Delta Pegasi: but it is now not included in Pegasus, although it 
is dearly necessary to complete the asterism called the Square of 
Pegasus, Its individual name is Alpheratz. The brightest star 
belonging to the Pegasus family is Enif, or Epsilon Pegasi. It 
lies about ten degrees east of the little diamond of the Dolphin. 

Pegasus is supposed to represent the winged horse, the favorite 
of the Muses. But as to its position in the sky authorities differ. 
Some depict the horse as rising upside down, with his fore-feet 
pawing the air up towards Cygnus and the top of his head resting 
on the urn of Aquarius, But if one adopts that position, Pegasus 
never entirely rights himself in his journey across the skies, as 


From the Winged Horse to the Bull 117 

some of the figures of other constellations do. In this representa- 
tion, ever on his back, he goes pawing across the heavens and 
down "into the depths of the ocean" symbolic, perhaps, of the 
condition ascribed to those who ride him. 

However, there is an entirely different picture, one more con- 
sistent with the mythology of the group. In this representation 
the square no longer outlines the body but the wings. The entire 
figure is reversed, top for bottom. The important effect of this 
inversion is that the front feet of the winged horse now rest 
directly on Aquarius. The legend is that the horse struck the 
rocks with his forefeet, causing a fountain to flow from them, 
the fountain of Hippocrene. The reviser of this book prefers 
this second representation. 


The constellation Andromeda is supposed to represent a beau- 
tiful lady chained to the rocks. She was the daughter of Queen 
Cassiopeia and King Cepheus, who are near her in the skies and 
have been described, and she was brought to this situation be- 
cause her mother boasted too much of her beauty. 

The constellation is more than thirty degrees in length and is 
outlined by a row of four bright stars, beginning with the one 
in the corner of the square of Pegasus and running northeast 
across the heavens in a slightly curved and easily traced line 
under Cassiopeia. Andromeda and the square of Pegasus are 
shown in the illustration, together with the "segment of Perseus," 
which lies next to Andromeda. 

The main stars in the two constellations are thought to sug- 
gest an immense dipper; but for that matter one can find a 
whole tinshop of dippers in the sky if his mind runs that way 
and he is willing to admit a variety of styles in this useful 

Andromeda rises cradled on the rock to which she is bound, 
her head lifted gently into view by the great square of Pegasus, 
on which it rests, and her feet, very properly, coming up last. 
But she sets in a most undignified fashion, drawn down head first 
by the flying Pegasus, her feet waving above the horizon after 
the rest of her is out of sight. The four chief stars forming the 


The Friendly Stars 

From the Winged Horse to the Bull 119 

curved line are Alpheratz, or Alpha Andromedae, which marks 
the head; Delta, lying in the shoulder, from which an arm is 
outstretched towards the north; Beta, or Mirach, marking the 
girdle; and Gamma, or Almach, indicating the foot. They are all 
second-magnitude stars except Delta, which is of the third magni- 
tude. Almach is a noted triple star which can be separated by 
the telescope. The components are orange, emerald, and blue. 

A short distance north of Beta is the famous Andromeda 
Nebula, the brightest nebula in the entire sky. To the naked 
eye it appears as a fuzzy star. A binocular, however, or a 
small telescope will show it as an oval patch of haze. This 
object, M31 and its faint companion M32, are galaxies, Milky 
Way systems like our own. The larger contains perhaps a hun- 
dred billion stars, revolving in a sort of stellar pinwheel. Light 
from the Andromeda Nebula takes about one and a half million 
years to reach us. Large telescopes break the structure up into 
separate stars, though the hazy background of light comes from 
the billions of stars too faint to be seen individually. 

The Andromeda Nebula has one other distinction. Since you 
can see it with the unaided eye, it is undoubtedly the most 
distant object that anyone can see without telescopic aid. The 
eye, however, even with the help of the largest telescope, does 
not show the true spiral structure and individual details. It 
takes photography to reveal the beauties of this nebula, which 
is the nearest example of billions of other spiral galaxies, indi- 
vidual clouds of stars that lie, here and there, like oases in the 
empty universe of space. In the southern sky appear two nearer 
galaxies, irregular in shape, the large and the small Magellanic 
Clouds. These two galaxies are about 100,000 light years distant. 


The hero that rescued Andromeda from her woeful plight was 
Perseus, and he also is enshrined in a constellation that adorns 
the sky in the region a little north of Andromeda. Perseus lies 
in a very brilliant part of the Milky Way and is a beautiful 
constellation. The principal figure in it is a curved line of stars 
called the "segment of Perseus," running from Cassiopeia towards 

120 The Friendly Stars 

Capella. Near the center of the segment is Mirfak, or Alpha 
Persei, a bright second-magnitude star, the brightest in the con- 

The most noted star in Perseus is Beta, or Algol. It lies a little 
southeast of Mirfak and forms a triangle with it and Almach, the 
star in the foot of Andromeda. Algol varies in brightness from 
second to third magnitude once in about every three days (2 days, 
20 hours, 48 minutes, and 55 seconds) . 

The name Algol signifies "the Ghoul." Indeed, the original 
representation of Perseus depicts him as holding in his hand the 
severed head of the Gorgon Medusa, the sight of which was 
supposed to turn a person into stone. It is doubtful indeed that 
the star received its name from the peculiar variation. The anci- 
ents were probably unaware of the "winking" that seemed to 
lend to the star a sort of demoniac quality. 

Since Algol varies at such short intervals and so markedly, it 
has long been an object of interest even to the naked-eye observer. 
The mystery of its changes has been made clear by the spectro- 
scope, and it is now known to be a spectroscopic binary with an 
invisible companion that eclipses it about once in three days. 
The eclipse lasts about eighteen minutes, and for that length of 
time it is a faint third-magnitude star. Then it regains its bright- 
ness and remains a second-magnitude star until the next eclipse. 

Algol is interesting to observers in the latitude of New York 
City a$ being the only star as bright as the second magnitude that 
comes very near the zenith, or the point directly over our heads, 
on its course across the heavens. When on the meridian it is 
only about one-tenth of a degree from our zenith. Algol rises 
about an hour earlier than Capella. Perseus has two very beauti- 
ful star dusters which make a splendid display with the aid of 
ordinary opera-glasses. 


Auriga rises next after Perseus in the northeast. It is the 
constellation that contains the charming Capella, which is, of 
course, its brightest and most important star. Its five brightest 

From the Winged Horse to the Bull 121 

stars outline a five-sided figure that somewhat resembles a 
shield. Aside from Capella, the constellation has only one star as 
bright as the second magnitude. This is Beta Aurigae, or Men- 
kalinan. The other three stars of the pentagon are of the third 

The mythological significance of Auriga is somewhat confused. 
Many of the atlases depict Auriga as a goatherd holding a small 
she-goat in his arms. Indeed, the term "Capella" does mean the 
"goat star." There is the possibility, however, that the goat star 
received its designation because its appearance in the sky pre- 
saged the rising of the constellation of Capricornus, the Sea 
Goat. Capricornus was supposed to bring torrential rains and 
hence the recognition of its rising was important to the ancients. 
On the other hand, there, is an entirely different potential 
representation of Auriga. Many authorities have depicted Auriga 
as the Charioteer. The question is, then, who is riding in this 
chariot and why? Resolution of this enigma has been a particu- 
larly interesting problem to the reviser of this book. The answer 
seems to be relatively simple. The charioteer is none other than 
Neptune or Poseidon, god of the sea. Whenever the sea god rose 
from the waves and ventured forth on land he was supposed to 
ride in a chariot drawn by sea horses. Or, in other representa- 
tions, this chariot was a sort of sea chariot drawn by sea horses 
whose reins Neptune held in his hands. In the vicinity of ancient 
Rome, many fountains or mosaics depict Neptune rising from 
the sea, riding in the chariot and driving the sea horses before 

How appropriate it is that Neptune should be in this partic- 
ular place in the sky. For indeed it was Neptune who formed the 
base of the entire legend linking the constellations of Cassiopeia, 
Andromeda (daughter of Cassiopeia), Perseus, and Cetus. It 
was Cassiopeia who offended the sea nymphs by boasting that 
she was fairer than they. Thus she was banished to the sky, to 
swing around the pole, half time head downward. And, as 
additional punishment, Neptune chained her daughter to a 
rock and sent the Sea Beast, Cetus, to ravage the coast and devour 
the maiden. It was Perseus, riding in on Pegasus the winged 
horse, who rescued the maiden. The lost meaning of the constel- 
lation of Auriga is thus reconstructed. The five-sided figure may 

122 The Friendly Stars 

well be the chariot on which Neptune is riding, surveying the 
havoc his orders produced. 


Just below, or east, of Andromeda is a pretty little constel- 
lation called Triangulum, or the Triangle. There are only five 
stars in it, and the brightest one is only of the third magnitude. 
Two others are of the fourth, and two of the fifth magnitude. It 
rises about half an hour after Andromeda. 


Next east of Triangulum is Aries, a small but important constel- 
lation. Its importance consists in its being one of the constella- 
tions of the Zodiac, which mark the path of the sun. The sun 
passes through it from April 15th to May 13th; so that six 
months later it is exactly opposite the sun in the skies and rises 
just as the sun sets. It is the first sign of the Zodiac; but owing to 
the precession of the equinoxes the signs of the Zodiac do not now 
correspond with the constellations of the same name. From the 
middle of March to the middle of April, when the sun is in the 
sign of Aries, it is in the constellation Pisces; and when it is 
really in the constellation Aries, it is said to be in the sign 

The chief stars of Aries form a triangle in size about like 
Triangulum, and the two constellations are sometimes mistaken 
for each other by observers not entirely familiar with these con- 
stellations. It should be remembered that Triangulum rises first 
and is about half-way between Aries and Andromeda, and that 
the apexes of the two triangles point in different directions. 

The chief star of Aries is HamaL It rises about three-quarters 
of an hour after Algol and about fifteen minutes before Capella, 
It is the brightest star in the constellation and is of the second 
magnitude. The next brightest is Beta Arietis, or Sheratan. It is 
about oneialf a magnitude less bright than Hamal and is about 
three degrees below, or east of, it in the sky. The two stars mark 
the base of the two horns of Aries, or the Ram. 

From the Winged Horse to the Bull 123 


Taurus is the splendid constellation in which Aldebaran lies, 
and can always be recognized by that bright star. It is the third 
constellation and second sign of the Zodiac. The sun passes 
through it from May 13th to June 18th, so it may be seen rising 
as the sun sets six months later from the middle of November 
to the middle of December. 

Taurus contains the cluster of the Hyades, which are supposed 
to rule over wet weather and are sometimes referred to in poetry 
as the "moist Hyades." Aldebaran, as we have seen, is one of this 
cluster. The cluster outlines the face of the Bull. Above it are 
the Pleiades, which lie in the Bull's shoulder. The tips of the 
horns are indicated by two stars near Auriga. One of these stars 
is shared by both constellations to complete the legendary out- 
lines. However, it officially belongs to Auriga* 

The Bull rises backward, with its head lowered under the 
threatening arm of Orion, and it backs all the way across the 
heavens, going down without having made the terrible onset 
that it all the time promises. 


The Mystery of the Pleiades 

F all the groups of stars in the heavens none has excited so 
universal and so romantic an interest as the Pleiades. The 
magic of their quivering, misty light has always made a strong 
appeal to men of imagination. Minstrels and poets of the early 
days sang of their bewitchment and beauty, and many of the 
great poets, from Homer and the author of Job down to Tenny- 
son and the men of our own day, have had their fancy enlivened 
by them, and in one form or another have celebrated their sweet- 
ness and mystery and charm. Men of fancy have compared the 
Pleiades to a swarm of fire-flies, to bees, to a rosette of diamonds, 
and to shining dew-drops, while less ecstatic minds have com- 
pared them to a hen and chickens and the seven virgins. Even 
people who do not know them by sight and have not felt "the 
sweet influences of Pleiades," vaguely recall some story about a 
lost Pleiad that stirs an emotion suggesting something romantic 
and sad. 

The Pleiades form, in truth, a delightful group of twinkling, 
unfathomable stars, singularly fascinating and singularly persist- 
ent in their brilliancy. Of the six that can usually be seen with 
the naked eye, all but one are of the fourth magnitude and are 
not much brighter than the tiny Alcor, Mizar's companion. Yet 
often when the moon is full and many of even the third-magni- 
tude stars axe practically extinguished by its greater brilliancy, 
the Pleiades hang in the sky like a small luminous cloud dis- 
tinctly visible and commanding admiration. When the moon is 
dark, they are hardly less conspicuous than a first-magnitude 
star, and one sometimes fancies what a splendid great star they 
would seem to us if they would only huddle a little closer to- 
gether so that we could see them as one. 

Still, even on the surface of the sky just as we see them, they 


The Mystery of the Pleiades 125 

are not so close together as we often regard them. The full moon, 
which to casual observation seems to cover an area so much 
greater than they, can move about among them, most of the time 
covering only one visible star at a time. This occurs when the 
Pleiades are occulted by the moon, a phenomenon that is some- 
times seen, since the Pleiades lie within four degrees of the center 
of the Zodiac, in which, as we know, lies the path of the moon. 
The whole constellation covers a space of a little more than three 
square degrees, while the apparent diameter of the moon is but 
little more than half a degree. It is hard to believe that four or 
five moons together would be required to cover the little dipper 
of the Pleiades from our view entirely, but it is true. The moon 
appears much larger to us because of its brilliancy. Its size as 


Ta X9 eta 



compared with other objects in the heavens is very deceptive. 

The principal stars of the Pleiades form an outline resembling 
a tiny short-handled dipper. I have more than once been asked 
if this was the Little Dipper. The Pleiades, of course, lie in an 
entirely different place from the true Little Dipper, the one that 
has Polaris at the end of its handle. The Pleiades lie in the con- 
stellation Taurus. They rise just an hour earlier than Aldebaran 
and are visible at the same seasons as that bright star. We see 

126 The Friendly Stars 

their shining light during the first cold evenings of autumn. O 
Hallowe'en they are about half-way up from the horizon betwee 
nine and ten o'clock. In the winter, the Pleiades are high in th 
sky during the early evening, tending more and more towarc 
the west as the season advances. In March they set between nin 
and ten o'clock, and in April they disappear from the evenin 

Any one can see the six principal stars of the Pleiades; man 
can see seven, and sharp eyes can distinguish anywhere from eigt 
to eleven. There are so many stars in the group that are jm 
beyond the limit of easy visibility that to any eye the numte 
varies according to the clearness of the atmosphere and othe 
physical causes. Even from moment to moment they twinkle i: 
and out of our vision. It was no doubt this characteristic tha 
suggested the simile of a "swarm of fire-flies." There are, in fac 
more than three thousand stars in this small group. They canno 
all be seen with a telescope, but they have recorded the fact c 
their existence on the photographic plates. 

Photography, too, has disclosed the extent and complexity o 
a vast body of nebulous matter "a cosmical fog," it has beei 
called which hangs around the Pleiades like a great veil, gathei 
ing itself into wisps here and there and in some instances makinj 
something like festoons from one star to another. Slight traces o 
this great cloud of nebula were first seen visually through tb 
telescope, but only within the last few years have the extent an< 
significance of the enveloping cloud been learned. 

The chief stars of the Pleiades group have the same genera 
motion in the heavens, and more than forty of the fainter one 
have been observed and are found to be moving along with tin 

The Pleiades appear to be a great system of stars, perhap 
evolving from the tremendous mass of nebula in which it i 
engulfed. In comparison with Alcyone and other Pleiades 0113 
sun is small indeed, and at the same distance would be visible 
only with a good telescope. The distance of the Pleiades froir 
w is about 400 light years. 

In keeping with the magnificent scale on which the whole 
system is constructed is the distance of the individual stars in 11 
from each other. The diameter of the duster is of the order oi 
thirty light years. Yet so distant are they from us that with thii 

The Mystery of the Pleiades 127 

vast space between the individuals the group shows to us only 
the tiny cluster of twinkling stars, small enough barely to cover 
the jewels in Orion's belt. 

We may know more about the Pleiades as time goes on, but 
they will never be any nearer to us or any brighter to our view. 
They may indeed in future ages be even less bright, for every 
second of our lives the distance between us and them is increased 
by many miles. Our sun, with us, his children, is travelling 
through space away from the Pleiades at the rate of about six 
miles a second, while they are headed towards another part of 
the universe and travelling at no less a rate. And yet, in seeming 
contradiction to this, under an old Hindu conception of the ma- 
terial universe, Alcyone, the brightest star in this group, was 
supposed to be the center around which our sun with all its 
planets and other suns with their planets were revolving in 
immense orbits. This idea is not correct, even though it reappears 
perennially, supported not by astronomers or scientists but by 
speculative philosophers expounding the metaphysical thought 
of the East. 

The nine brightest stars of the Pleiades bear the names of 
Atlas and his seven daughters and their mother, the nymph 
Pleione. Atlas is the star at the end of the handle of the dipper 
formed by the stars. Pleione, the mother, which lies just above 
him, may be the lost Pleiad, since it is difficult for some persons 
to see her. Alcyone, the brightest of them all, is of the third 
magnitude, and lies at the joining of the bowl and the handle 
of the dipper. Electra, the second star in point of brightness, lies 
in the bottom of the dipper and is of the fourth magnitude. It 
is but a shade brighter than Atlas, and the ordinary eye can see 
no difference between the two. Maia, which lies about the middle 
of the top rim of the bowl; Merope, in the back corner of the 
bowl, and Taygeta, at the front edge of the brim, are all fourth- 
magnitude stars. Celaeno, a little fainter, is about half-way be- 
tween Electra and Taygeta; and Asterope, the faintest of her 
family, lies a short distance above Taygeta. Asterope is of the 
sixth magnitude, and very few persons can see it without the aid 
of a glass. 

From the persistence of the story of the "lost" Pleiad and the 
almost universal reference to them as "the seven stars," it has 
been suggested that one of the fainter ones may formerly have 

128 The Friendly Stars 

been brighter, but it is not certain which one. Electra is sonic 
times mentioned as having veiled her face on account of thi 
destruction of Ilium, and sometimes as having been carried oi 
by Canopus. If she is the lost one, it is in no physical sense, fo 
she still shines the second in brightness of them all. The like i 
true of Merope, often reputed to be the lost one because sh< 
married the mortal Sisyphus, but she is still among the SH 
brightest Pleiades. Celaeno has been reported to have been strud 
by lightning and thus lost, fading to the seventh magnitude anc 
therefore difficult to see with the naked eye. Pleione, the mothei 
star and of the seventh magnitude, is the one commonly assignee 
the role of the lost Pleiad. 

From the Twins Back to the Hunter 

n EMINI is the constellation of the Twins, already described, 
^It rises about the same time as Taurus and is next north of 
it. Gemini is the fourth constellation and third sign of the 
Zodiac. The sun passes through it from June 18th to July 18th. 
Hence it can best be seen from October to May, 


Canis Minor lies south of Gemini and is already known to us. 
It is the constellation containing Procyon; and though it has 
seven other stars, none of them is of any particular interest. It 
represents a very small dog on the back of a' unicorn. The Uni- 
coni is a constellation in itself, known as Monoceros, but it is 
insignificant and contains no star brighter than the fourth 


This is a small constellation containing no star brighter than 
the fourth magnitude, and out of its fifteen naked-eye stars only 
four are as bright as that. It is the fourth sign and the fifth con- 
stellation of the Zodiac After leaving Gemini, the sun passes 
through Cancer from July 18th to August 7th, The constellation 
includes most of the stars in the region between Pollux and 
Regulus. Its most interesting feature is Praesepe, a beautiful star 
duster shaped somewhat like a beehive and lying about ten 
degrees south of Pollux. It is visible to the unaided eye and a 
particularly beautiful object in a small telescope or binocular. 



The Friendly Stars 

Leo the Lion is the constellation containing the first-magni- 
tude star Regulus, with which we are already familiar. Leo is the 
fifth sign and the sixth constellation of the Zodiac, and the sun 
is travelling through it from August 7th to September 14th. It 
is best seen from January to June. It is supposed to represent a 
couchant lion and is one of the rather conspicuously displayed 

It contains three stars of the second magnitude, Beta, Gamma, 
and Delta Leonis. Gamma is the brightest star in the blade of 
the Sickle. Beta, more frequently called Denebola, Delta, some- 




times called Zosma, and Theta form a conspicuous triangle. 
Zosma lies in the back of the lion, at the beginning of the tail, 
and Denebola marks the tuft at the end of the tail. The triangle 
is visible in the northwest in the early summer for nearly two 
hours after the Sickle has set. 


Just east of Leo is a small duster of stars called Berenice's Hair. 
It is interesting mainly because of its delicate beauty. 

This brings us back to Bootes in our circuit of the constella- 
tions south of those surrounding the pole and north of the 
equator. The next round will include the constellations coming 
within our view that lie either in part or wholly south of the 


Constellations Wholly or in Part South of 
the Equator 


COUTH of Coma Berenices and Bootes lies Virgo, the sixth 
sign and the seventh constellation of the Zodiac It lies about 
half north and half south of the equator and is one of the largest 
of the constellations, but not one of the richest in stars. Virgo 
contains only about thirty-eight or forty naked-eye stars within 
its boundaries. One of these is Spica, already known to us. The 
next brightest is Gamma, a remarkable binary lying about ten 
degrees north of Spica. It has a period of one hundred and eighty- 
five years. It is of the third magnitude. All the others are of the 
third magnitude or less. The sun occupies Virgo for forty-three 
dayC passing through it from September 14th to October 29th. 
Its stars being comparatively faint and much scattered, Viigo is 
difficult to trace. It is supposed to represent a goddess with wings, 
bearing a sheaf of wheat in one hand. Spica, as we have noted, 
represents the ear of wheat. The constellation occupies all the 
space from Leo to Libra on the west and east, and from Bootes 
on the north to Hydra on the south. Denebola, Spica, Arcturus 
and Cor Caroli form a large diamond, almost fifty degrees in 
length, called "the diamond of Virgo." 


Libra, or the Scales, is a small constellation lying wholly south 
of the equator, into which the sun passes when it leaves Virgo on 
October 29th. It occupies this constellation until November 21st 



The Friendly Stars 



Libra has no star brighter than the third magnitude. Its chief 
stars form a four-sided figure that is easily identified. 

Libra is visible during the summer months crossing from 
southeast to southwest, where it disappears in November. 


Scorpius is known to us through its brightest star, Antares. It 
has in addition four stars of the second, seven of the third, and 
nine of the fourth magnitude. It is the ninth constellation and 
the eighth sign of the Zodiac, and is occupied by the sun from 
November 21st to December 16th. Scorpius is the most southerly 
of the constellations marking the path of the sun, and is farther 
south than any other constellation of which we have a complete 
view. But inasmuch as the sun does not pass through the most 
southerly part of Scorpius, it is not the constellation that con- 

Constellations South of the Equator 133 

tains the point farthest south in the Zodiac We can see it from 
about June 1st until late in October. 


Sagittarius is the ninth sign and tenth constellation of the 
Zodiac. In it lies the most southerly point of the Zodiac. The sun 
enters it on December 16th and reaches the most southerly point 
of its path five days later, December 21st. Sagittarius lies in the 
Milky Way east of Scorpius. It can be easily recognized by a little 
figure resembling a dipper turned upside down, an asterism 
known as the "Milk Dipper" because it lies in the Milky Way. It 
is very conspicuous during August and September. 



Sagittarius represents a centaur in the act of shooting an arrow. 
The curved line of stars represents the bow; the one extending 
into the Milky Way and the one farthest east in the Dipper 
represent the arrow and the bent arm pulling the cord. Sagit- 
tarius has two stars of the second magnitude, nine of the third, 
nine of the fourth, and twenty-eight of the fifth magnitude. The 

134 The Friendly Stars 

Milk Dipper is almost seventy degrees directly south of Vega 
and is almost as far south of the equator as Vega is north of it. 


Ophiuchus and Serpens also lie on both sides of the equator. 
They form a sort of combination constellation that occupies the 
space between Hercules on the north and Scorpius on the south. 
Ophiuchus and Serpens contain no very bright stars. The com- 
bined figure represents a man bearing a serpent The two legs 
of Ophiuchus run down to Scorpius, and the head bumps into 
the head of Hercules, which is on the southern end of that 
constellation. The serpent is more easily traced. Its head is just 
south of the Northern Crown, and thence it winds down along- 
side the head of Hercules, across Ophiuchus, and up on the 
eastern side of him to Aquila. 

Celestial cartographers have divided the single constellation 
into two distinct and separated parts called* Serpens Caput or 
Head of the Serpent and Serpens Cauda or Tail of the Serpent. 
Serpens is a distinct and pretty line of small stars, fairly dose 
together and sometimes almost in pairs, winding around through 
this region of the skies; and it is particularly well defined in 
August and September, when it is rather low in the southern 


Capricornus, or the Sea Goat, the tenth sign and eleventh 
constellation of the Zodiac, lies southeast of Aquila. The sun oc- 
cupies it from January 18th to February 14th. It has no con- 
spicuous stars, and no figure definitely outlined that can be 
described; and yet on a clear night the comparatively faint stars 
dancing about in it may suggest a goat, if one does not try to 
be too definite. Alpha and Beta, which are in the head of the 
Goat, lie about twenty degrees south of Altair and point towards 
it They are about two and one-half degrees apart, and are 
attractive out of all proportion to their brilliancy. Near Alpha is 
a faint fifth-magnitude star that is even a better test of vision 
than AJcor. Capricornus lies east of Sagittarius and south of the 

Constellations South of the Equator 135 


Aquarius covers the part of the Zodiac that the sun occupies 
from February 14th to March 14th. The best time to observe the 
constellation is when it is farthest from the sun, in August, 
September, October, and November. Aquarius has three stars of 
the third magnitude and none brighter. It, is of a peculiar and 
straggling shape, extending around Capricornus on the north 
and east. The eastern part of it is south of Pegasus, and the west- 
ern part is south of Delphinus. It is supposed to represent a man 
pouring water from an urn. Its distinctive feature to the naked 
eye is a waving line of faint twinkling stars that somewhat 
suggest a stream of water, and which lead down to our old 
acquaintance Fomalhaut, in the mouth of the Southern Fish 
(Piscis Austrinus). A bright Y-shaped asterism marks the water 
jar. Aquarius is the eleventh sign and the twelfth constellation 
of the Zodiac. 


Of this constellation all we need to know is that it consists of 
Fomalhaut and the few fifth-magnitude stars surrounding it. 


Cetus is a large constellation lying almost entirely south of 
the equator. It represents a huge sea monster and is sometimes 
called the Whale. The head, marked by a small pentagon of 
stars, is on the equator and lies directly below Aries, about 
twenty-two degrees south of the principal star (Hamal). The 
body stretches along below Pisces and down to Aquarius, over 
a distance of more than forty degrees. The body is outlined by 
a four-sided figure easily distinguishable in this rather sparsely- 
starred region, and the tail is marked by the only second magni- 
tude star in the constellation a pretty yellow star sometimes 
called Diphda. The most noted object in Cetus is the star Mira 
(The Wonderful), its Greek letter name being Omioron CetiL 
It is a remarkable variable star and changes in light all the way 
from the second to the ninth magnitude. It is bright enough to 

The Friendly Stars 

be visible about a month or two each year, and reaches a maxi- 
mum of brightness about every eleven months. However, its 
maxima are not easily visible each year because some occur at 
seasons of proximity to the sun. Sometimes it is barely visible 
and at other maxima may attain the second magnitude. Once, 
in 1779, it is reported to have been as bright as Aldebaran. It 
has been under observation for more than three hundred years. 


Orion is the most brilliant of all the southern constellations. 
It has been fully described in the chapter on "Orion's Bright 
Stars." It rises just after Taurus and is visible from late October 
to May. 


Lepus, or the Hare, is a small constellation just south of Orion. 
It is very pretty in the winter, but too low down in the sky to 
be seen dearly except when Orion is well up in the heavens. 


Eridanus is a stream of stars beginning just west of the Orion 
Nebula and meandering west and south among the stars until it 
disappears below the southern horizon. Achernar, its only first- 
magnitude star, is too far south for us to see it. Though most of 
the stars are faint, the constellation is easily traced because so 
few stars lie near it. 


Canis Major, or the Great Dog, lies just east of Lepus and 
south of Monoceros. It can always be identified by its bright star, 
Sirius. Canis Major represents a dog standing on his hind feet 
and pawing in the air in front of Lepus, the Hare. Sirius marks 
the nose of the dog; Adhara, a star nearly as bright as the first 
magnitude, is in the flank; and Mirzam, or Beta, scarcely less 

Constellations South of the Equator 137 

bright, is in one fore-paw. There are two other second-magnitude 
stars, making the constellation, as a whole, one of considerable 
brilliancy, even without the great Sirius. It contains forty-one 
stars that can be seen without a glass. 


Hydra, the Water Snake, is a straggling constellation that 
covers between ninety and one hundred degrees in its length, 
and has but one star of any considerable brightness. This is a 
second-magnitude star, sometimes known as Cor Hydrae (the 
Heart of the Snake), sometimes as Alpha Hydrae, and sometimes 
as Alphard, the Solitary One. It is a reddish star, about twenty 
degrees south and a little west of Regulus; and, as its name in- 
dicates, Alphard has no other 'bright star very near it. 

Cor Hydrae rises about half an hour later than Regulus, 
reaches the meridian three-quarters of an hour earlier, and sets 
two and one-half hours before Regulus disappears. The Water 
Snake itself has its head directly south of Praesepe in Cancer 
and about half-way between Procyon and Regulus. The body 
runs southeasterly (outlined by Alphard and numerous faint 
stars), below Leo and Virgo, and ends under Libra. Except for 
its one bright star, Hydra is of no particular interest. 

The back of Hydra serves as a resting-place for two very pretty 
constellations known as Corvus the Crow and Crater the Cup. 
Corvus lies a little to the southeast of Spica, and has four prin- 
cipal stars forming a four-sided figure with a little star out at 
one side, making the outline somewhat resemble that of Libra. 
The four stars are rather bright third-magnitude ones, and the 
constellation is a conspicuous one during the spring and early 
summer months when Virgo and Leo are in prominent places 
in the sky. 


Pisces is the twelfth sign and first constellation of the Zodiac 
It has no bright stars, and is best described as the body of stars 
occupying the space from Aquarius to Aries and running bdow 
Andromeda and Pegasus and north of Cetus. 

138 The Friendly Stars 

Pisces is supposed to represent two fishes tied together with 
ribbons, a very inappropriate combination; and it is not im- 
possible to imagine that the faint stars running through it do 
outline something of the sort, but certainly not with any defi- 
niteness. The reviser of this book maintains that the lines repre- 
senting the cords or ribbons originally were streams of water 
sprayed from the mouths of the two fishes and splashing against 
the back of Cetus. 

Pisces should not be confused with Piscis Austrinus, or the 
Southern Fish, which is an entirely different constellation. The 
most important thing about Pisces is that in it lies the point 
where the ecliptic, or path of the sun, crosses the equator. This 
point is passed by the sun on its way north in the spring and is 
called the vernal equinox. The line running from one pole to 
the other and passing through the vernal equinox is the one 
from which astronomers measure the right ascension of the stars 
(equivalent to longitude on the earth). For this reason Pisces is 
an interesting constellation, and it is to be regretted that it has 
no bright star to mark so important a point. However, since the 
vernal equinox slowly moves, occupying each of the twelve Zo- 
diacal constellations in turn, over an interval of 25,000 years, 
no star could represent the equinoctial point for very long. 


Individuality of the Stars 

TA7E ought now to begin to feel at home in the presence of 
the general company of stars. We have been introduced to 
most of the choicer and greater individuals among them and 
have had a general view of their brilliant assemblage as it ap- 
pears from night to night and from season to season and a slight 
insight into their common life. If any permanent relation is to 
ensue we must now each for himself make our own friends 
among them. What most interests one may not most interest 
another. We do not feel alike in regard to people or other ob- 
jects in nature, so why should we in regard to the stars? The 
more individuality any thing or person has, the surer are we to 
have a decided feeling of attraction or repulsion for it, a readi- 
ness to admit it to our regard or to let it pass with the unnum- 
bered individuals that make no impression upon us. 

More than any other natural objects, the stars, as they appear 
to us in the skies, seem to me to have individuality. Each lovely 
flower that we see is one of a species, and however much charac- 
ter we may find in the species, every individual is known only by 
its being a duplicate of thousands of others in petal, sepal, sta- 
men, and anther. The shy hermit-thrust and the friendly robin 
in then- perfect normal state must conform to then* kind even to 
the color of their bills. But there is only one Vega, one Gapella, 
one Arcturus, and they are no more duplicated in nature than 
they are in name. 

What the general character of a star assumes to us depends 
upon ourselves, the peculiarities to which we are sensitive and 
the play our fancy takes in the interpretation of them. But the 
traits that go to make up this general character have their basis 
in facts and are by no means products of a freakish imagina- 
tion. Nearly every one has some sensitiveness to color and will 


140 The Friendly Stars 

receive an impression when he marks Antares as red, Vega as 
bluish, Castor as tinged with green, and the various other stars 
as having their own peculiar tints. This will have an additional 
meaning, perhaps, when he remembers that these great white 
stars with tints of various colors represent extremely hot stars. 
It will then be but natural to remember that Capella, Procyon, 
Pollux, and Arcturus and the other stars of a like yellow hue are 
somewhat cooler; while Antares, Betelgeuse, and Aldebaran 
and similar red stars are the coolest of all. Betelgeuse even al- 
lows his eyelids to droop at intervals and thus becomes a variable 
star, which is thought to be one of the marks of advanced age in 
star life. 

One must also get some impression of individuality as he 
learns something of the motion and distance and dimensions of 
a star. Our personal estimate of a star and relation to it can- 
not but be influenced by such a fact as that Spica and Deneb 
are twelve and forty times respectively more distant than com- 
paratively near Altair. Or we may learn that one star whirls 
around its companion in seven hours and another spends hun- 
dreds of years accomplishing the same task. One star may fly at 
the rate of two hundred miles in a second and another loiters 
along at a pace scores of times slower. One star is plunging 
towards us and another is receding from us, and whatever its 
rate or direction, each star is pursuing its own peculiar path. 

The length of its stay with us, the time of year that we see it 
most, and the personal association we have with it must also 
have some effect on our relation to a star. There must always be 
less of intimate pleasure in the presence of a star like Fomal- 
haut, for instance, which comes for only a few months each year 
and makes a short, swift passage along the southern edge of our 
skies, than with such stars as Capella and Vega, who turn their 
shining faces towards us throughout the entire night so many 
months in the year. There is likely to be more warmth of feel- 
ing for the bright Spica, who shines during all the rich soft 
nights of summer, than for the much brighter Rigel, who dances 
along almost exactly the same path during the cold, crisp win- 
ter nights. Certain stars that may have the intensest charm and 
companionability for us if we first learn to know them as they 
hang during the rich black nights under the great dome that 
arches over spacious fields and valleys, may scarcely attract a 

Individuality of the Stars 141 

passing thought from us if we meet them first in the narrow al- 
leyways of the city streets, or even in the hazy, half-lighted at- 
mosphere that envelops the higher points in the city. 

Even the name of a star imparts some flavor to one's general 
notion of it. Some names are essentially feminine, some distinctly 
masculine, some have a meaning that cannot be overlooked, and 
some appeal to one's fancy by mere association of sound. 

As we come into closer acquaintance with the stars and give 
heed to them, such characterization comes about as naturally 
as it does with any other objects that play into our lives. In my 
journal of out-door things I find mention of perhaps thirty or 
more stars that seem to me to have well-defined traits which 
are indissolubly attached to my idea of the star. Antares, for 
example, seems old but important and impressive, Capella fair 
and mature, Vega young and fresh and joyous, Arcturus full of 
dignity, Sirius brilliant without much impressiveness, Betel- 
geuse gloomy even to the point of being foreboding, and sug- 
gestive of the sullen redness of the light before whose warning 
eye the swift electric trains come to a dead stop. Dubhe and 
Merak seem fair and smiling as they graciously point the way 
to the North Star, Mizar suggests friendliness, Alcor faithful- 
ness, Aldebaran sturdiness, the Pleiades delicate charm, Fomal- 
haut serenity, Castor and Pollux gentleness and kindness and 
affection, Mira instability, and Polaris its opposite stability and 

Many more might be added to this list, but I have no desire 
or expectation that others may have the same impressions that 
I have concerning individual stars. Circumstances may lead them 
to lay stress upon quite different traits which are as truly char- 
acteristic of the star as the ones that have appealed most to me. 
These have been mentioned to indicate the pleasant familiarity 
that one may assume with the individuals composing this great 
body of nature that lies above our eyes every night of our lives, 
and to create this sort of an interest in them has been the sole 
aim of this book. 


ACHERNAR (Alpha Eridani) ,11; pro- 
nunciation, 11; magnitude, 81. 

Acrux (Alpha Crucis), 11, 77, 81. 

Adara (Epsilon Canis Majoris) , 136. 

Albireo (Beta Cygni) , a double star, 

Alcor, companion to Mizar, 77, 106- 

Alcyone, 127. 

AMebaran (Alpha Tauri) , pronunci- 
ation, 11; chapter xi; color, 48; in 
constellation Taurus, 48; location, 
48; meaning of name, 49; winter 
star, 49; brilliancy, 50; lies in 
moon's path, 50; "royal" star, 50; 
when visible, 50; magnitude, 81. 

Alderamin (Alpha Cephei) , 109. 

Algenib (Gamma Pegasi) , in the 
square of Pegasus, 116. 

Algol (Beta Persei) , 120; known as 
"The Ghoul" or winking star, 120; 
magnitude, 120, 

Alioth (Epsilon Ursae Majoris), in 
the Great Dipper, 105. 

Alkaid (Eta Ursae Majoris) , 105. 

Almach (Gamma Andromedae) , 120. 

Alpha Andromedae (Alpheratz) , 119. 

Alpha Arietis (Hamal) , 122. 

Alpha Canum Venaticorum (Cor 
Garoli), 111.' 

Alpha Cassiopeiae (Schedar) , 109. 

Alpha Centauri (Rigil Kent), 12; 
pronunciation, 10; double star, 12; 
nearness to earth, 12; Southern 
Star, 12; magnitude, 81. 

Alpha Cephei, 109. 

Alpha Coronae Borealis (Alphecca), 

Alpha Crucis, 11; pronunciation, II; 
magnitude, 81. 

Alpha Draconis as Pole Star, 102. 

Alpha Hydras (Cor Hydrae) , 137. 

Alpha Pegasi (Markab) , 116. 

Alpha Persei (Mirfak) , in the seg- 
ment of Perseus, 120. 

Alpha Ursae Majoris (Dubhe) , 105. 

Alpha Ursae Minoris (Polaris) , 6, 

Alphecca (Alpha Coronae) , chief star 
in Corona Borealis, 112; rising of, 

Alpheratz (Alpha Andromedae) , 116, 

Altair (Alpha Aquilae) , 11; pro- 
nunciation, 11; chapter vm; how to 
locate, 35; when visible, 36-59; 
development, 39; distance from the 
earth, 39; magnitude, 81. 

Alwaid (Beta Draconis) , 110. 

Andromeda, 117; the constellation, 
117; diagram, 118; famous nebula, 

Antares (Alpha Scorpii) , 2; Southern 
Star, 7; pronunciation, 11; chapter 
nc; location, 40; Southern Star, 40; 
when visible, 40-43; color, 43; in 
the constellation Scorpius, 43; red 
giant, 43; binary system, 44; dis- 
tance from the earth, 50; "royal" 
star, 50; magnitude, 81. 

Aquarius (The Water Bearer) , 135; 
related to Pegasus, 116. 

Aquila (The Eagle), 115; stars of, 

Archer, the (Sagittarius) , 1 13. 

Arcturus (Alpha Bootis), splendor, 
2; pronunciation, 10; chapter rv; 
brilliancy, 20; how to locate, 20; 
rising time, 20-21; color, 21; diame- 
ter, redjeiant, 21; distance from the 
earth, 22; speed, 22; in the constel- 
lation Bootes, 23; magnitude, 81; 
part of the diamond 01 Virgo, 131. 

Argo Navis, 99. 

Arided, see Deneb. 

Aries (The Ram) , 122; first sign of 
the Zodiac, 122. 



The Friendly Stars 

Arrow, the (Sagitta), 115. 

Asterism, 12, 99. 

Asteropc, 127. 

Atlas, a double star, 127; one of the 

brightest stars in the Pleiades, 127. 
Auriga (The Charioteer), 19; 120- 



Becrux (Beta Gratis) , 11, 77. 

Bellatrix, in Orion, 55. 

Benetnasch, set Alkaid. 

Berenice's Hair (Coma Berenices) , 90. 

Beta Andromeda (Mirach) , 119. 

Beta Aquilae, 115. 

Beta Anetis (Sheratan) , 122. 

Beta Auriga? (Menkalinan) , 121. 

Beta Canis Majoris (Mirzam) , 156. 

Beta Cassiopeia; (Caph) , 108. 

Beta Centauri, 11; pronunciation, 11; 
magnitude, 31. 

Beta Cephei, 109. 

Beta Ceti (Diphda) , 1S5. 

Beta Crutis (Becrux) ,11; pronunci- 
ation, II; magnitude, 81. 

Beta Draconis (Alwaid) , 110. 

Beta Leonis (Denebola) , 68. 

Beta Pegasi (Scheat), 116. 

Beta Persei (Algol) , 120. 

Beta Ursae Majoris (Merak) , 106. 

Beta Ursae Minoris (Kochab) , 103. 

Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis) , 3; pro- 
mmtiatkm, 11; irregular variable, 
52; red giant, 52; distance from the 
earth, 54; magnitude, 81. 

Big Dipper, set Great Dipper. 

Binaries, spectroscopic, 97. 

Binary systems, chapter xx. 

Bootes, 23; 111-112. 

Bull, the (Taurus) , 48, 123. 

CANCER (The Crab) , 129; fourth sign 

of the Zodiac, 129; Praesepe in, 129. 

Canes Venatici (The Hunting-Dogs) , 

Canis Major (The Great Dog) , 136. 

Canis Minor (The Smaller Dog), 

Canopos (Alpha Carinae) , brilliancy, 
11; distance from the earth, 11; 
pronunciation, 11; ran away with 
one of the Pkiades, II, 128; South- 
ern Star, 11; magnitude, 81. 

Capella (Alpha Auriga), 3, 19; pro- 
nundation, 10; chapter m; bril- 
liancy, 17; how to find, 17; rising 
time, 17-18; when visible, 17-18; 
color, 18; rarefied body, 18; a 
double star, 18-19, 92; magnitude. 

Caph (Beta Cassiopeiae) , 108. 

Capricornus (The Goat), 134; rela- 
tion to Auriga, 121; tenth sign of 
the Zodiac, 134. 6 

Carina, (The Keel) , 99. 

Carlyle, Thomas, quoted, 99. 

Cassiopeia, chapter xxiv. 

Castor (in Gemini) , 57; brilliancy, 
57; rising, 57; course, 58; supersti- 
tion, 58; distance from the earth, 
59; a multiple star, 59, 90. 

Ceteno, 127. 

Cepheus, chapter xxiv. 

Cetus (The Whale) , 135. 

Clusters, moving, 90. 

Coma Berenices, 90. 

Concerning the brightest stars, chap- 
ter n. 

Constellations, chapters xxi-xxix; for 
details refer to constellation name. 

Cor Caroli (Alpha Canum Venati- 
corum), 111; part of the diamond 
of Virgo, 131. 

Cor Hydrae (Alpha Hydrae) , only 
bright star in Hydra, 137. 

Corona Borealis (Northern Crown), 
112. ; 

Corvus (The Crow) , 137. 

Crab Nebula, 88. 

Crater (The Cup) , 137. 

61 Cygni, 34. 

Cygnus (The Swan) , 34, 114. 

Cynosura (Polaris) , the end of the 
dog's tail, 102. 

DELPHINUS (The Dolphin, or Job's 
Coffin), 35, 38, 115. 

Delta Andromedae, 119. 

Delta Cassiopeiae, 108. 

Delta Leonis (Zosma) , 130. 

Delta Pegasi (Alpheratz) , 116, 119. 

Delta Ursae Majoris (Megrez) , 105. 

Deneb (Arided) , (Alpha Cygni), 
head of Northern Cross, 6; pro- 
nunciation, 11; chapter vn; rising 
time, 30; when visible, 30-33; 
meaning of the name, 32; color, 
33; distance from the earth, 33; 
supergiant, 33; magnitude, 81. 

Denebola (Beta Leonis), location, 
68; meaning of name, 68; part of 
the diamond of Virgo, 131. 

Diamond of Virgo, 131. 

Diphda (Beta Ceti) , 135. 

Distances of the stars, chapter xrx. 

Dog Stars, the two, chapter xrv; see 
also Procyon and Sirius. 

Dolphin, the (Job's Coffin) , see Del- 

Double stars, chapter xx. 


Draco (The Dragon) , 109-110. 
Dubhe (Alpha Ursae Majoris) , 105. 
Dust, interstellar, 71. 


Electra, 127. 

Emerson, quoted, 4. 

Enif (Epsilon Pegasi) , 116. 

Epsilon Canis Majoris (Adara) , 136. 

Epsilon Cassiopeia, 108. 

Epsilon Lyrae, a double-double star, 


Epsilon Pegasi (Enif) , 116. 
Epsilon Ursae Majoris (Alioth) , 105. 
Eridanus (The River) , 136. 
Eta Aquilae, variable star, 115. 
Eta Cassiopeiae, double star, 108. 
Eta Ursse Majoris (Alkaid) , 105. 
Etamin (Gamma Draconis) , 110. 

FOMALHAUT (Alpha Piscis Austrini), 
when visible, 2; Southern Star, 7; 
pronunciation, 11; chapter x; bril- 
liancy, 45; location, 45; rising time, 
46; "royal" star, 46; nearness to 
earth, 47; magnitude, 81. 

GAMMA ANDROMEDA (Almach) , 1 19. 
Gamma Aquilae, 115. 
Gamma Cassiof>ei2e, 108. 
Gamma Draconis (Etamin) ,110. 
Gamma Pegasi (Algenib) ,116. 
Gamma Ursae Majoris (Phecda) , 106. 
Gamma Ursae Minoris, 103. 
Gemini (The Heavenly Twins) , 

chapter XHI, 129; see also Castor 

and Pollux. 
Goat (Capricornus) , relation to 

Auriga, 121. 
Gravitation, 95. 
Great Bear (Ursa Major), 12-15; 

the stars of, chapter xxin; always 

visible, 104; its stars form the 

Great Dipper, 104. 
Great Dipper, the 6, 105; see also 

Great Bear. 

Great Dog (Canis Major) , the, 136. 
Guard stars, 102-103. 

HADAR (Beta Centauri) , 11. 

Hamal (Alpha Arietis) , chief star 

in Aries, 122. 
Heavenly Twins, v the (Gemini), 

chapter XIIL 

Harvard Photometry, 79. 
Hercules, 110, 113; diagram, 113. 
Hunting-Dogs, the (Canes Venatici) , 


Hyades, the, 48-49, 90. 
Hydra (The Water Snake) , 157. 



JOB'S COFFIN, see Dolphinus. 
Jupiter, the planet, 15-16. 

Kappa Orionis (Saiph) , 55. 
Kochab (Beta Ursae Minoris) , 103. 


Leo (The Lion) , 130; Denebola, 130; 
fifth sign of Zodiac, 130; Regulus, 

Leonids, 69. 

Lepus (The Hare) , 136. 

Libra (The Scales) , 131. 

Light, of the stars, chapter xvra; 
stellar magnitude, 78-83; speed of 
light, 87. 

Little Bear, the (Ursa Minor) , chap- 
ter xxii; north pole within its 
boundaries, 102; Polaris, 102. 

Little Dipper (Ursa Minor), see 
Little Bear. 

Little Dog, see Canis Minor. 

Lost Pleiad, the, 127. 

Lyra (The Lyre) , 29, 114. 


Maia, 127. 

Markab (Alpha Pegasi), 116. 

Mars, the planet, 15-16. 

Megrez (Delta Ursae Majoris) , 106. 

Menkalinan (Beta Aurigae) , 121. 

Merak (Beta Ursae Majoris) , 106. 

Mercury, the planet, 15. 

Merope, 127. 

Meteors, 69. 

Milk Dipper, the, in Sagittarius, 133. 

Milky Way, 71. 

Mira, the Wonderful (Omicron 

Ceti) , 76. 

Mirach (Beta Andromedae) , 119. 
Mirfak (Alpha Persei) , 120. 
Mirzam (Beta Canis Majoris) , 136. 
Mizar (Zeta Ursae Majoris) , 77, 106; 

first double star discovered, 94; 

quadruple star, 96. 
Monoceros (The Unicorn) , 136. 
Moon, apparent diameter of, 125. 
Multiple stars, 97. 

NAMES OF THE STARS, chapter xro. 

Nebula, Orion, 55. 

Neptune, the god, associated with 

Auriga, 121. 
Neptune, the planet, 15. 
Newton, Sir Isaac, 95. 
North Star, the (Polaris) , 6, 101. 
Northern Cross, the (Cygmis) , 6. 


Northern Crown (Corona Borealis), 

Number of stars, chapter xvi. 

OMICRON CETI (Mira, the Wonder- 
ful), 155-136. 

Ophiuchus and Serpens, 154; loca- 
tion, 154; when visible, 154. 

Orion, and a frosty night, 2; chapter 
xn; bright stars in, 52; mythology, 
52; sword of, 52; belt of, 55; most 
admired, 55; nebula, 55; "trape- 
zium," 55; when visible, 56; three 
kings, 156. 


Parallax of a star, finding the, 88. 

Pegasus (The Winged Horse), 116- 

Perseus, 119; segment of, 120. 

Phecda (Gamma Ursae Majoris) , 106. 

Photometer, 79. 

Pisces (The Fishes) , 157. 

Piscis Austrinus (Southern Fish), 

Planets, the, 15; colors of, 16. 

Pleiades, the, 49; lost, 11, 127; mov- 
ing cluster, 90; chapter xxvn; in- 
fluence of, 124; location of, 124; 
principal stars in, 125; brightest 
stars of, 126; distance from the 
earth, 126; enwrapped in cosmical 
fog, 126; time of rising, 126; num- 
ber of stars in, 127. 

Pleione, the lost Pleiad, magnitude, 

Pluto, the planet, 15. 

Polaris (Alpha Ursae Minoris) , 6, 

Pole Star, see Polaris. 

Pollux, pronunciation, 11; in constel- 
lation Gemini, 57; winter star, 57; 
superstition, 58; distance from the 
earth, 59. 

Praesepe, a star cluster in Cancer, 90. 

Procyon, pronunciation, 11; a winter 
star, 65; in Canis Minor, 64; 
meaning of name, 64; the smaller 
Dog Star, 64; a double star, 65; 
nearness to earth, 65; magnitude, 

Proper motion of a star, 92. 

Proxima (Alpha Centauri) , 12. 

Puppis, the Stern, 99. 

Pyxis, the Compass, 99. 


Red giants, nature of, 22, 43. 

Regulus (Alpha Leonis) , pronuncia- 
tion, 11; chapter xv; location, 66; 
brilliancy, 67; when visible, 67; 

The Friendly Stars 

distance from the earth, 68; in con- 
stellation Leo, 68; meaning of 
name, 68; magnitude, 81. 

Rigel (Beta Orionis) , a southern 
star, 7; pronunciation, II; brilli- 
ancy, 54; color, 54; distance from 
the earth, 54; location, 54; rising, 
54; a winter star, 54; magnitude! 

Rigil Kent (Alpha Centauri) , 10, 12. 

Ring Nebula, the, 114. 

Rising and setting of the stars, the, 
chapter I. 

River, the (Eridanus) , 156. 

"Royal" stars, 50. 

SAGITTA (The Arrow) ,115. 

Sagittarius (The Archer), 115; ninth 
sign of the Zodiac, 115. 

Saiph (Kappa Orionis) , 55. 

Saturn, the planet, 15-16. 

Scheat (Beta Pegasi) ,116. 

Schedar (Alpha Cassiopeiae) , 109. 

Schmidt camera, 75. 

Scorpius, 152; eighth sign of the 
Zodiac, 152. 

Segment of Perseus, 120. 

Serpens (The Serpent) , 154; see also 

Sheratan (Beta Arietis) , 122. 

Sickle, the (Leo) , 150. 

Sinus (Alpha Canis Majoris) , depar- 
ture of, 7; location, 7; southern 
star, 7; pronunciation, 10; compan- 
ion of, 22, 44, 64; brilliancy, 61; 
Dog Days, 61; Dog Star, 61; in 
Canis Major, 61; a winter star; 61; 
course, 62; Orion's Dog, 62; rising, 
62; when visible, 62; color 63; dis- 
tance from the earth, 65; magni- 
tude, 81. 

Sound, speed of, 87. 

Southern Fish, see Piscis Austrinus. 

Southern stars, 7; chapter xxix. 

Speed of light, 87. 

Spica (Alpha Virginia) , southern star, 
7; pronunciation, 11; chapter v; 
brilliancy, 24; how to find, 24; 
color, 25; distance from the earth, 
25; hour of setting, 25; meaning of 
name, 25; when visible, 25; mag- 
nitude, 81; part of the diamond 
of Virgo, 151. 

Square of Pegasus, 116. 

Stars, the, time of rising and setting, 
5, 8; chapter n; pronunciation, 10- 
11; colors of, 62-65; magnitudes, 
81; binary systems, chapter xx; 
multiple, 97; individuality of, chap- 
ter xxx. 



Sun, the, distance from the earth, 87. 
Sword of Orion, 55. 

TAURUS (The Bull), 48, 123; the 
Hyades in, 123; and Orion, 123; 
the Pleiades in, 123; second sign of 
the Zodiac, 123; stars in, 123. 

Taygeta, 127. 

Theta Leonis, 130. 

Theta Orionis, double star, 94, 96. 

"Three Kings," the, 55. 

Thuban (Alpha Draconis) , formerly 
the Pole Star, 102- 

Trapezium in Orion, see Theta 

Triangulum, stars in, 122. 

Twins, Heavenly (Gemini) , chapter 


Two Dog Stars, the, chapter xrv; see 
also Procyon and Sirius. 

URANUS, the planet, 15. 

Ursa Major, see Great Bear. 
Ursa Minor, see Little Bear. 

VEGA (Alpha Lyrae) , harbinger of 
spring, 1, 2; rising, 6, 27-29; pro- 
nunciation, 10; chapter vi; com- 
pared with Arcturus, 26; brilliancy, 
27; how to find, 27; in constella- 
tion Lyra, 29; when visible, 29; 
magnitude, 81. 

Vela (The Sail) , 99. 

Venus, the planet, 15-16. 

Virgo (The Virgin), 131; sixth sign 
of the Zodiac, 131. 

Virgo, Diamond of, 131. 

WAIN, 107. 

White dwarfs, 22, 44, 64, 65. 

Winged Horse, see Pegasus. 

Zosma (Delta Leonis) , 130.