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Full text of "Star-gazer's hand-book; a brief guide for amateur students of astronomy"

' '3RARY 



GIFT OF 
BOHEMIAN CLUB 




cusv 



STAR-GAZER'S HAND-BOOK 



A Brief Guide for 



Amateur Students of Astronomy 



BY 



HENRY W. ELSON, Ph. D. 



Author of " Side Lights on American History," Etc. 



fflcw 

STURGIS & WALTON 

COMPANY 

1910 

All rights reserved 






. OOP t- 









ASTRONOMY DEFT," 




Copyright, 1902 
BY HENRY W. ELSON 



PREFACE 

IN presenting the subject of Astronomy at 
Teachers' Institutes and similar gatherings, I have 
frequently been requested to recommend a hand- 
book for ready reference by which one pursuing 
the subject without a teacher might not only learn 
the general facts of Astronomy, but also trace out 
the constellations and learn the mythological 
stories in connection with them. I know of 
several excellent books on the subject, but none 
containing this last-named feature and I decided 
to write one. I stated this fact to a Teachers' 
Institute (in Montgomery Co., Pa.), and stated 
also that, owing to other work in hand, I could 
not do this within a year, whereupon the teachers 
to the number of three hundred and forty-two 
sent in their names as advance subscribers, if I 
would prepare the book immediately. This re- 
quest could not be ignored, and hence this booklet 
is issued a year sooner than intended by the 
writer. 

In the first part I have given in a form as con- 
densed as possible, the main astronomical facts 
according to the latest discoveries, but have made 
no pretense of entering into higher mathematical 
Astronomy. Those wishing to become specialists 
in the subject cannot confine themselves to this 
little book. 

In the second part, which treats of the Constel- 
lations, I have omitted all that are visible only in 
the southern hemisphere, and a few unimportant 
ones in the north, especially those of modern in- 

701028 8 



4 PREFACE 

vention. In giving the names of the stars I have 
used only the names given by the ancients, as these 
are far more poetic and attractive than the names 
of the Greek Alphabet, as used generally by 
astronomers. This modern method of naming 
the stars is necessary to astronomers, but not to 
those who desire to remember the names of only 
a few of the brightest stars in each constellation. 

H. W. E. 

PHILADELPHIA, PA., 

January, 1902. 



INTRODUCTION 

Astronomy. The study of Astronomy is one 
of the most delightful and soul-inspiring of all 
studies. It lifts the soul above earthly things 
and leads one to contemplate the immensity of 
the Universe. " We love to look at a star, " said 
Victor Hugo, "for two reasons because it is 
bright and because it is impenetrable. " " Two 
things fill me with unceasing awe, " said the great 
German philosopher, Kant, " the starry heavens 
above and the moral law within." 

The history and the destiny of the heavenly 
bodies we cannot know in this life, but we may 
know something of their immense distances from 
us and from one another, and of the laws that 
govern them in their sublime, silent revolutions 
through eternal space. As we gaze into the deep, 
measureless heavens and note the suns and worlds 
in their unceasing motions through the boundless 
depths of space, we feel as at no other time the 
meaning of the Psalmist's words, "Great and 
marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty. " 

We may divide the Universe into three parts: 

First, the EARTH the great globe on which we 
live, turning on its axis once in twenty-four hours, 
speeding around the sun at the rate of nineteen 
miles per second, and so poised in its course as not 
to fall into the sun, nor to fly away into space. 
Second, the SOLAR SYSTEM the Sun, a great ball 
of fire in the sky, and his family of planets, eight 
large dark bodies, including the earth ; and many 
smaller ones, all revolving around the sun in the 
same direction (from west to east) within a belt 
of the sky called the Zodiac, 16 in width. Third, 
the SIDEREAL HEAVENS the vast, unmeasured 
space beyond our system in which are all the 
fixed stars. 

5 



STAR GAZER'S HAND-BOOK 

CHAPTER I 

THE SOLAR SYSTEM 

The Sun. The most glorious object ever be- 
held by human eyes is the sun. The sun is a 
globe of fire, in a molten state, and it radiates 
light and heat in all directions. A portion of this 
light and heat reaches us, and without it there 
could l)e no life upon the earth. The heat of the 
sun is so great that any substance known to us, 
if thrown into that cauldron, would instantly be 
reduced to vapor. The diameter of the sun is 
866,400 miles, and if he were a hollow globe and the 
earth were placed at his center, the moon could still 
hold her course in her orbit, and there would yet 
be nearly 200,000 miles beyond the moon's orbit 
to the surface of the sun's shell. The volume of 
the sun is 1,300,000 times that of the earth. The 
density of the sun, however, is but one- fourth 
that of the earth, and his actual mass but 330,000 
times the mass of the earth, and 750 times the 
mass or weight of all the planets combined. 

The visible surface of the sun, called the pho- 
tosphere, is composed of white-hot gaseous and 
semi-liquid matter, which, in its furious boiling, 
throws out jets reaching to the height of 60,000 
miles. The heat is supposed to be generated by 
a contraction of the sun upon itself, at the rate of 
about six feet per century. If this be true, the 
time must come, many million years hence, when 
the process can go on no longer and the sun will 

7 



8 

become a dark and cold body. The sun revolves 
on his axis in twenty-five and one-fourth days. 
He holds the planets in their orbits by the great 
Newtonion law of gravitation by which every body 
in the universe attracts every other body in pro- 
portion directly to the mass of each and inversely 
to the square of the distance between them. 

So great is the sun's attraction that a man of ordi- 
nary size would weigh, on its surface, twenty-seven 
times as much as on the earth's surface, or about 
five thousand pounds, and he would be crushed to 
death by his own weight. Great dark spots are 
often seen on the sun's surface, and if greater than 
27,000 miles in diameter, they can be seen with 
the naked eye. In 1858 there was one 150,000 
miles in diameter. The sun is surrounded by an 
atmosphere without which his rays would be twice 
as hot as they are and would be bluish in color. 

One of the most momentous of modern astro- 
nomical discoveries is that the sun, with all his 
family of planets, is moving through space at the 
rate of about twelve miles per second, toward the 
constellation Lyra; but how great may be this 
revolution or how many thousands of years may 
be required to make it we have no knowledge. 

The Earth. The age and origin of the earth 
are utterly unknown to us. While a firm believer 
in the Bible, I can readily accept the theory that 
the days of creation mentioned in Genesis were 
days, not of twenty-four hours each, but of long 
periods of time, aggregating perhaps millions of 
years. According to the Nebular Hypothesis the 
earth, as well as the other planets, was originally 
a part of the sun, and in the remote past was 
sloughed off into space, and in the course of ages 



THE SOLAR SYSTEM 9 

its heat was radiated into space until its surface be- 
came cold and solid, and it became the home of 
plants and animals and men. The earth revolves 
around the sun in a fixed path called its orbit. 

The orbit of the earth is an ellipse, and the 
earth is some three million miles nearer the sun 
in January than in July. Here then arise two 
questions that must be answered with some care : 
Why does not the earth fall into the sun ? and why 
does it not fly away into space ? The earth is acted 
on by two powerful forces, the attraction of the sun, 
which tends to draw it toward that body ; and the 
tendency to fly away, as a drop of water on the 
rim of a revolving wheel tends to fly away from 
the wheel. To answer the first question, let us 
begin with July, when the earth is at aphelion, 
farthest from the sun. For five months after this 
time the earth is approaching the sun and the 
sun's attraction increases its speed until, in De- 
cember, it is flying considerably faster than in 
July. The tendency, therefore, of the earth to 
fall into the sun is counteracted by the increased 
speed of the former, which increases its tendency 
to fly away from the sun, as the drop of water 
tends to leave the wheel when the motion of the 
latter is increased. 

The earth, therefore, swings around nearer the 
sun in January, and its increased speed causes it 
to again recede from the sun. This receding con- 
tinues for five months. Why then does not the 
earth continue its flight until the sun's attraction 
is overcome ? Because the motion of the earth is 
now retarded during these five months by the con- 
tinued attraction of the sun, which tends to draw 
the earth back again. At length the power of the 
sun gains the mastery and the earth swings around 



10 STAR GAZR'S HAND-BOOK 

in July and again approaches the sun. Thus the 
earth is perfectly poised between these two mighty 
forces, and so it flies in its orbit on and on for- 
ever. If, however, the earth's speed reached 
twenty-six miles or more per second, instead of 
nineteen, the sun's power could not hold it and it 
would fly away into the region of darkness, and 
so distant are the stars that it would not reach the 
nearest of them for many thousands of years. 

The Moon. The larger planets all have moons 
or satellites. One of them has eight moons. The 
earth has one. Our moon is a dark, cold body. 
Half of the moon, when not eclipsed, is always 
lighted by the sun. If the entire lighted surface 
is turned toward us, we see the full moon ; if half 
of it, we see a half moon ; if one-fourth of it, we 
see the first quarter or the last quarter. These 
are known as the moon's phases.* 

The moon's mean distance from the earth is 
240,000 miles. It is 2160 miles in diameter, the 
surface being about one-fourteenth the surface of 
the earth, or four and a half times that of the 
United States. Weight on the moon is about one- 
sixth that on the earth's surface, and a man of or- 
dinary size would weigh some twenty-five pounds 
on the moon, and with ordinary strength he could 
jump sixty or seventy feet, or throw a ball half a 
mile. 

* When the moon is full she is always opposite the 
sun in the heavens. If you see a full moon on the 
meridian, i. e., directly south of the zenith, it is mid- 
night. A full moon in the morning must be in the west ; 
in the evening, it must be in the east. A half moon on 
the meridian indicates evening, if the light side is turned 
toward the west ; if toward the east, it is morning before 
sunrise. 



THE SOLAR SYSTEM 11 

The moon turns on her axis once with each 
revolution around the earth twenty-nine and a 
half days. The same side of the moon is there- 
fore always turned toward us and no human 
being ever saw the other side ; but owing to her 
librations we can see about four-sevenths of the 
surface. We see the reflected sunlight from the 
otherwise dark surface of the moon ; and if one 
could view the earth from the moon he would see 
a large bright globe, four times as great in di- 
ameter as our moon, which would show the same 
phases, full earth, half earth, first quarter, last 
quarter, etc. When the new moon appears in the 
west, the entire body can be seen in dim outline. 
This is caused by a full earth. 

The moon is without an atmosphere, and as 
atmosphere is essential to life and sound, there is 
no life and no sound on our satellite. The imagi- 
nation cannot picture a more lonely and dreary 
waste than is the surface of the moon. The sur- 
face is marvelously rugged and mountainous. 
There are about three thousand extinct volcanoes 
visible through the telescope, and the highest 
mountain peaks probably exceed in height any 
upon the earth. There is no water on the moon, 
but there may be ice in the deep places and where 
the sun does not shine the temperature is doubt- 
less 300 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit. 

Eclipses. When the moon comes directly be- 
tween the sun and the earth, the sun is eclipsed. 
It happens that the diameter of the sun is four 
hundred times that of the moon, and he is four 
hundred times farther from us than the moon, 
and hence they seem to be about the same size 
half a degree in diameter. From this fact the 



12 STAB GAZER'S HAND-BOOK 

moon crossing the sun?s disc is just large enough 
to cover it and produce a total eclipse. If, how- 
ever, the moon is in apogee, at her farthest point 
from the earth (for her orbit is an ellipse and her 
distance from the earth varies a few thousand 
miles), she is not large enough to cover the entire 
surface of the sun, and a little rim of light is seen 
all around her. This is called an annular eclipse, 
from the Latin annulus, a ring. A total eclipse 
can occur only when the moon is in perigee, i. e., 
nearest the earth. A partial eclipse occurs when 
the moon does not squarely cross the face of the 
sun, but covers only part of it. The deep shadow 
of a total eclipse is called the umbra ; the partial 
shadow, the pen-umbra, from the Latin words 
pene, almost, and umbra a shadow. A total 
eclipse of the sun is one of the grandest scenes in 
nature, as it reveals the sun's corona, a beautiful 
crown of light which cannot be seen at any other 
time. But its occurrence is rare at any one place 
because the moon's shadow is narrow not over 
a hundred miles in width. 

The next total solar eclipse in the United States 
will be on June 8, 1918, and it will sweep from 
Oregon to Florida. The longest duration of a 
total eclipse of the sun is a little over seven min- 
utes, but there has been none of that length for 
a thousand years. The next will occur in India 
in 1955. 

There must be at least two solar eclipses (not 
necessarily total) every year, and there may be 
five never more than five and this only when 
the first comes in January. A solar eclipse occurs 
when the moon crosses the ecliptic, i. e. , the sun's 
apparent path in the heavens. If the moon's 
orbit were in the same plane as the earth's orbit, 



THE SOLAR SYSTEM 13 

there would be a solar eclipse every month, but 
the plane of the earth' s orbit and the plane of the 
moon's orbit are inclined five and one-seventh 
degrees. The moon crosses the ecliptic every six 
months (or twenty days less owing to the proces- 
sion of the equinoxes) and at each crossing there 
must be a solar eclipse. But since the sun re- 
quires thirty-seven days to pass the moon's node, 
and the moon's revolution around the earth is 
made in twenty-nine and one-half days, there may 
be two partial solar eclipses at one passing of the 
node. 

An eclipse of the moon occurs only at full 
moon, and then only when near her node, or the 
crossing of the ecliptic. It is always about fifteen 
days before or after an eclipse of the sun. 

The shadow of the earth is a cone in form. It 
extends into space opposite the sun for 857,000 
miles, where it tapers to a point. If the sun and 
earth were of equal size, this shadow would be a 
cylinder, and would extend indefinitely into space. 
It might then eclipse a planet or any body receiv- 
ing [its light from the sun, but never the fixed 
stars, because they shine by their own light. As 
it is, this shadow can eclipse the moon only, as it 
is the only heavenly body within 857,000 miles 
of the earth. 

The diameter of the base of this cone-shadow 
is co-equal with the earth's diameter, 8000 miles, 
and at the moon's distance, 240,000 miles, it is 
yet nearly 6000 miles in diameter. The moon is 
but 2160 miles in diameter, and she can there- 
fore easily be totally eclipsed by the earth's 
shadow. A total lunar eclipse may continue for 
several hours, not only because the shadow is so 
much broader than the moon, but also because she 



14 



STAR GAZER'S HAND-BOOK 



is sweeping through the sky in the same direction 
as the shadow. 

The Planets.- The planets, or "wanderers," 
are the heavenly bodies that revolve forever about 
the sun, tethered by his powerful attraction, all 
moving with marvelous harmony in fixed ellip- 
tical orbits. The eight great planets in the order 





a 














a! 


eg 


S 












Mean Dis. fro 
Million M 


|| 
II 


| 


P 


jj 

6 


Number 
Moons 


MERCURY, 
VENUS, . . 


36 
67 


88 days 
225 " 


88 days 
225 " 


3,000 
7,700 


Pale Ash 
Bright Straw 







EARTH, . . 


93 


365 " 


24 hours 


7,920 




1 


MARS, . . . 


141 


687 " 


24 " 


4,200 


Reddish Ochre 


2 


JUPITER, . 


483 


12yrs. 


10 hrs. 10 min. 


87,000 


Silver 


5 


SATURN, . 


886 


30 " 


10 " 12 " 


71,000 


Dull Yellow 


8 


URANUS, . 


1780 


84 " 


10 " 


31,700 


Pale Green 


4 


NEPTUNE, 


2790 


165 " 


Unknown 


34,500 


Pale Green 


1 



NOTE. Round numbers are usually given in the above 
table because more easily remembered. Neptune, since 
its discovery in 1846, has been considered as marking 
the remotest boundary of the solar system ; but on ac- 
count of disturbances in the orbits of comets and other 
bodies, some leading astronomers have come to believe 
that there is yet an undiscovered planet three times as 
far from the sun as that planet. It is further believed 
that this planet is the largest of them all and requires a 
thousand years to make a revolution around the sun. 
The nearer a planet is to the sun the greater his attrac- 
tion ; but this is counteracted by its swifter motion. 



PLATE !, ''*'-.,* 

July i, 9.00 t*.> IMS. f > 




NOTE These plates, not in the first edition, have been added to 
aid the reader in tracing out the constellations. Each plate 
represents the entire visible heavens and is vastly better than 
star-maps that show only part of the sky. Plate I represents the 
sky on July i, o P. M.; plate II on October I; plate III on 
January i and plate IV on April i. 

Remember that, unlike a land-map, the East is on the left 
and the West on the right. First find the P9lar Star in the 
center of the Arctic Circle, then find the circum-polar con- 
stellations as described on page 29 and following. In plate I 
notice that Arcturus is a little to the right, i. e. a little west of 
the zenith, while Vega is nearing the zenith from the east. Far 
in the south is Antares, and so on. 



PLATS,- II. 

Octdbe'r'j, g.co P.M. 




In plate II, tkree months later, the summer stars have 
moved far to the west. Altair and Delphinus have passed the 
meridian and the great square of Pegasus (of which the first 
letter of the word on the map is near the center) is nearing 
the zenith. Always study the sky and the description in con- 
nection with the plate. 



January i, 9.00 P. 'M. ' 




Plate III gives us tke most brilliant view of the sky in the 
year. Aldebaran and the Pleiades are near the Zenith and 
Orion a little to the southeast. Still further southeastward is 
Sirius, the brightest of all the stars, and Procion and Castor 
and Pollox higher up. Notice the great line of bright stars 
between the Pole and Pleiades, sweeping from Capella through 
Perseus and Andromeda to Pegasus. 



IV. 

April i, 9.00 P. M. 




Plate IV shows the winter constellations passing to the 
west. Regulus in Leo is on the meridian; the Great Dipper 
is nearing the Zenith and Arcturus, which we noticed in 
Plate I, is now reigning monarch of the east. 

Note that in all the plates the Polar Star alone remains in 
one place. 



THE SOLAR SYSTEM 15 

of their distance from the sun are : Mercury, 
Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and 
Neptune. Besides these there are many small 
ones between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. 
Mercury and Venus are often called inferior 
planets, because nearer the sun than the earth, 
while those farther from the sun than the earth 
are called superior planets. Again, Mercury, 
Venus, Earth, and Mars are called terrestrial 
planets and the other four the outer planets. 
The four outer planets are much larger than the 
terrestrial planets. To show size, distance from 
the sun, rotation, etc., in condensed form for 
ready reference, the foregoing table is given. 

Jupiter is known as the giant planet. His vol- 
ume is greater than that of all the other planets 
together more than 1200 times the size of the 
earth. Saturn comes next and is larger than all 
the rest combined, excluding Jupiter. In regard 
to size the planets are divided into four pairs. 
Jupiter and Saturn constitute the first pair, their 
respective diameters being each above 70,000 
miles. The second pair are Uranus and Neptune, 
with diameters above 30,000 miles. The earth 
and Venus, each with a diameter a little less than 
8000 miles, constitute the third pair, while the 
smallest of the planets are Mars and Mercury. 
The planets nearest the earth go through the same 
phases as the moon, but these changes cannot be 
seen without optical aid. 

Visibility. Two of the planets, Mercury and 
Venus, are nearer the sun than we are and can 
never be seen opposite the sun in the sky, nor 
even on the meridian. Mercury is visible at cer- 
tain seasons, hovering near the sun in the evening 



16 

just after dark or in the morning before sunrise 
never more than '18 from the sun. Venus may 
be seen as high as 47 from the sun, morning or 
evening.* She is the most brilliant object in the 
heavens except the sun and moon. The planets 
are all non-luminous and shine by reflected light 
from the sun. Mars when on the same side of 
the sun with the ea " may come within 36,000,000 
miles of the latter and at such times he is a very 
bright and beautiful object ; but when opposite 
the earth he is about seven times as far away as 
when nearest. Jupiter is, next to Venus, the 
brightest of the planets, while Saturn, which is 
surrounded by a vast circle of rings, probably of a 
gaseous nature, shines like ap. ordinary first mag- 
nitude star. >Uranus seems like a star of the sixth 
magnitude, and is seldom seen by the naked eye, 
while Neptune is nevt visible except through the 
telescope. Two or throe of the planets are visible 
at some hour of almost any clear night. They 
are never seen in the zenith or north of it, nor low 
in the southern horizon, but always within thu 
belt of the zodiac the path of the sun and moon. 
To find them, consult an almanac. Once found, 
they are not hard to keep track of. 

Are the Planets inhabited ? This ques- 
tion has been widely discussed, but all opinions 
on the subject are mere conjecture. With some of 
the planets, however, a negative answer seems 
conclusive. Mercury and Venus have the same 
side always turned toward the sun. On these 
planets the sun never rises and never sets. On 



*Any good almanac will tell when Venus or Mercury 
is morning or evening star. 



THE SOLAR SYSTEM 17 

the one side of each is perpetual day and per- 
petual summer (much hotter than our own), 
while the opposite side is enveloped in eternal 
darkness. Such creatures as ourselves could 
scarcely exist on either of these globes, except it 
would be around the belt of twilight, and this is 
not at all probable. 

The two outer planets of the Solar system, 
Uranus and Neptune, from which the sun would 
seem only like a brilliant star, receive so little 
light and heat from the orb of day that it would 
seem impossible that such beings as we are could 
exist there. There is no known reason, however, 
why some form of animal life should not be found 
on these planets. Of Jupiter and Saturn we may 
say that it is almost certain that no life exists on 
these vast globes. The reason is not far to seek. 
Astronomers generally agree that they are not yet 
fully cold, are possibly in a semi-molten state; 
though their heat is so far gone that they are no 
longer self-luminous. 

This leaves us Mars alone, the most interesting 
of all the planets aside from our own. The 
aspects of this planet seem to present all the con- 
ditions necessary to sustain life. The light and 
heat from the sun, while much less than received 
by us, are quite sufficient to sustain life. Air 
and water seem to be present, and so every condi- 
tion of animal and vegetable life. But we have 
no positive knowledge on the subject. The most 
powerful telescopes reveal certain markings that 
seem like canals and variable polar caps that look 
like ice or snow ; but they tell us nothing further. 
Mars is probably inhabited ; but we have no means 
of proving that it is. 

The general belief that there are other worlds in 



18 STAR GAZER'S HAND-BOOK 

our solar system or in other systems which are 
inhabited by intelligent beings cannot be proved, 
but the opposite belief is narrow and untenable. 
Our earth is but a tiny speck in comparison with 
the universe. How can one believe that an all- 
wise Creator would people this one little ball with 
creatures after His own image and leave all the 
rest of creation a lifeless waste ? Would a farmer 
who owned a thousand acres of land be content 
with raising one ear of corn, or one hill of pota- 
toes ? The Creator has told us only a little about 
Himself in the Bible. We cannot conceive of 
Him as limited in power, x>r of an end to space, 
or of a beginning or an end of tune. 

Some heavenly bodies are far gone in their life 
history and the conditions of animal life are no 
longer present; others seem to be in process of 
formation. It is most reasonable to believe that 
the one may have been the home of life in the 

rt and that the other may be so in the future, 
other worlds are inhabited, such inhabitants 
may be creatures similar to ourselves ; but we do 
not know. 



CHAPTER II 

COMETS AND METEORS 

Comets. From ancient times comets have 
been regarded with much superstition ; but mod- 
ern astronomers have discovered that comets travel 
through space in accordance with fixed laws, and 
are as harmless as other heavenly bodies. 

A comet is composed of three parts, 1, the 
nucleus, the star-like point ; 2, the coma, or hair 
surrounding the nucleus, and 3, the tail. The 
nucleus and coma are together called the head. 
The nucleus of a comet is probably solid matter, 
but is very small as compared with the smallest 
of the major planets ; the coma is vaporous, while 
the tail, often many million miles in length, is 
immeasurably thinner and lighter than the air 
we breathe. Comets are drawn from the depths 
of space by the sun's power ; they sweep around 
the sun with great velocity and then flee away 
again into unknown regions. In the preceding 
chapter it was explained how the earth, while 
approaching the sun from July to December, in- 
creases in speed, and how this greater velocity 
increases the centrifugal power and causes it to 
fly away again. The same is true in a far greater 
degree in the case of comets. For years they are 
approaching the sun and their speed increasing 
until, when they rush round that orb, it is some- 
times with the frightful velocity of a million miles 
an hour. This speed was reached by the great 
comet of 1843, which was visible in daylight. It 

19 



20 STAR GAZER'S HAND-BOOK 

swept within 50,000 miles of the sun's disc, al- 
most grazing his glowing surface, and then sped 
away into space to return no more for five hun- 
dred years. 

Most comets belong permanently to the solar 
system. They travel in very eccentric ellipses and 
return at regular periods, three years or more. 
Some fly beyond the orbit of Neptune and more 
than a century is often required for a revolution. 
Other comets visit our system once and sink away 
again into the unknown depths of the skies never 
to return. If a comet's velocity at ninety million 
miles from the sun exceeds twenty-six miles a 
second, the sun has no power to hold it and it flies 
away to be seen no more. Sometimes, however, a 
comet of this class comes so near to Jupiter, or 
some other great planet, that its course is dis- 
turbed by his attraction, its velocity lessened, and 
it becomes a permanent member of the solar sys- 
tem. Jupiter is known to have caught eighteen 
comets in this net, while Saturn, Uranus, and Nep- 
tune each have a few. The reason why comets 
do not seriously disturb the planets in their orbits 
is that the former are so small that their attractive 
power is not greatly felt. 

Sometimes a comet in passing very near the 
sun is torn to pieces by his enormous attraction. 
The fragments then continue separately in the 
same path as before. This occurred with the lost 
Biela's comet in 1846, and with others since then. 
At each return to perihelion the fragments are 
further disintegrated until they are divided into 
millions of meteoric particles, and these still con- 
tinue in the orbit of the original comet. 

No other appearance in the skies has excited 
such consternation through many ages as the 



COMETS AND METEORS 21 

approach of comets. But there is little to fear. 
The tail of a comet is so thin that it could do us 
no harm. In 1861 the earth passed through a 
comet's tail with no ill effects. The coma, how- 
ever, if it reached our orb would doubtless vitiate 
our atmosphere and cause serious damage, but 
such a contact is not at all likely to happen. But 
if the nucleus of a large comet were to strike the 
earth squarely, it would no doubt generate great 
hea,t and destroy all life upon our globe. It has 
been calculated, however, that the chances are 
that a comet will not strike the earth oftener than 
once in fifteen million years. 

Examples. The shortest period of all comets 
is that of Encke's Comet, which returns to the 
sun every three and one-half years. It swings 
out beyond the orbit of Mars, but not as far as the 
orbit of Jupiter. Halley's Comet has a period of 
nearly seventy-six years. Its last visit was in 
1835, and it will come again in 1910. In 1811 a 
great comet appeared, which, from the shape of 
its orbit, is not expected to return for 3000 years. 
Biela's Comet, with a period of six and a half 
years, was torn to pieces by the sun about fifty 
years ago, and has not been seen since, but at the 
time it should appear there is always a shower of 
meteors which are no doubt fragments of this 
comet. Donati's Comet of 1858 will not appear 
again for 2000 years. The great comet of 1861, 
which swept the earth with its tail, will come 
again in 400 years. In 1882 a great comet passed 
between the earth and the sun and was visible in 
daylight. There are about thirty comets each cen- 
tury that are visible to the natural eye, and about 
three hundred visible through the telescope. 



Meteors. There are vast numbers of small 
bodies flying round the sun too small to be 
seen through the telescope. Many of them are no 
larger than ordinary shot. If a ball is thrown into 
the air filled with dust it strikes many of the dust 
particles. So the earth in its orbit comes into 
contact with multitudes of these small bodies, 
which, when they strike our atmosphere, are soon 
highly heated by friction and reduced to vapor, 
the larger ones being readily seen as a streak of 
white light across the sky. They are often called 
shooting stars. It is believed that millions of these 
meteors come into contact with the earth every 
day, and that but for the friendly mantle of the 
air, all living beings on the earth would be pelted 
to death. Sometimes a meteor passes through the 
air and reaches the earth, when it is called a 
meteorite. A meteorite is composed chiefly of 
iron or stone. 

Meteoric Showers. Sometimes there is a 
much greater fall of meteors than ordinary. The 
greatest meteoric shower on record occurred in 1833. 
Whatever may be the origin of ordinary meteors, 
it is certain that showers of meteors are the frag- 
ments of shattered comets. A shower similar to 
that of 1833 occurred in 1799, and another in 
1866. These are called Leonids, because they 
seem to emanate from the constellation Leo. They 
are found in the track of a comet whose period is 
a little over thirty-three years. The earth crosses 
this path about November 14, of each year and 
the shower always occurs on or very near that 
date. 

On the tenth of every August, between mid- 
night and sunrise, a considerable number of 



COMETS AND METEORS 23 

meteors may be seen. These are called Perseids, 
as they seem to radiate from Perseus. They pur- 
sue the track of Swift's Comet, whose period is one 
hundred and twenty years. These small bodies 
are distributed throughout the entire vast course 
of that comet, many hundred millions of miles, 
and every time the earth crosses this path 
(Aug. 10), some of the Perseids are encountered. 
When the earth crosses the path of the lost Biela's 
Comet (especially every sixth year, the period of 
the comet), meteors are seen. These are called 
Bielids. 



CHAPTER III 

THE SIDEREAL HEAVENS 

When we go out on a clear, moonless night, and 
gaze into the deep celestial vault above us, we are 
struck with awe and wonder at the interminable 
vastness of the visible universe. And how our 
awe is increased when we consider that, except 
perhaps three or four visible planets, every glitter- 
ing star in the sky is a mighty blazing sun, some 
of them a thousand times greater than our own 
sun that their distances from us and from one 
another are so stupendous as to baffle all human 
understanding that many of them are doubtless 
the centers of revolving worlds, so far away that 
the telescope cannot reveal them. 

Fixed Stars. We speak of the stars as "fixed," 
because year after year they seem to occupy the 
same place in the sky. It is true they rise and 
set, as the sun and moon, and, owing to the revo- 
lution of the earth around the sun, they gain four 
minutes every day (and this amounts to twenty- 
four hours in a year), but in one year from any 
moment of observation the stars will again occupy 
the same places precisely. More strictly speak- 
ing, however, the stars are not fixed ; they are all 
moving, some with incredible velocity, but so 
great are their distances from us that their relative 
positions seem unchanged for thousands of years. 
Absolute rest is a thing unknown in nature. 
Nothing seems more fixed to us than the solid 
24 




THE SIDEREAL HEAVENS 25 

earth. Yet the earth turns on its axis at the rate 
of a thousand miles an hour, speeds around the 
sun at nineteen miles a second, and is traveling 
with the sun through space at the rate of twelve 
miles per second. So the stars are all, as far as 
known, performing sublime revolutions through 
celestial spaces. 

Number. The number of stars visible to the 
naked eye is about 5000, not more than half of 
which can be seen at any one time. To see the 
entire 5000 on any one night one would have to 
observe from the equator and watch from sunset 
till sunrise. The number of stars visible through 
the telescope reaches nearly a hundred million. 
It is believed further that the dark bodies in the 
heavens far outnumber the bright ones, but only 
the latter are visible, even through the telescope. 

Size. The dimensions of some of the twink- 
ling orbs that bespangle the night skies are vast 
beyond conception. A lofty mountain peak seems 
to us a gigantic object indeed ; but what a speck 
it is compared with the earth, which weighs six 
sextillions of tons. But it would take hundreds 
of thousands of earths to equal the sun, and yet 
some of the stars which have been measured are 
thousands of times larger than the sun. 

Celestial Distances. The distance of a star 
is measured by taking its angular measurement 
and then repeating it six months later, when the 
earth has traveled half way round the sun and is 
180,000,000 miles from the first point of measure- 
ment. Thus a triangle with the star at the apex 
is formed. One side and two angles are known, 



26 STAU I;A/KK * HAND-noou 

and by a well-known rule of trigonometry the 
other dimensions may be t'ouiul. Only approx- 
imate results can he obtained. 

Of all the astonishing revelations of the heavens, 
celestial distances are the most astonishing. Tho 
human niiiul is bailled and confounded at an 
attempt to :';rasp the appalling space that separates 
us from the nearest of the stars. Compress the 
solar system, nearly six hillion miles in diameter, 
into a space one foot in diameter; the sun would 
be a tiny dot in the center, and the nearest iixed 
star, on this scale, would bo five-sixths of a mile 
away. How lonely and isolated is our system 
in space 1 and perhaps all other systems are 
equally so. 

The nearest of the fixed stars is Alpha Cen- 
tauri not visible north of the latitude of Ten- 
nessee -and this star is 'J7.\000 times as far from 
lisas we are from tin 4 sun, or twenty-five trillion* 
of miles. Other stars have been measured that 
are more than forty times as far away. 

The Light Year. The unit of celestial meas- 
urement is the light year the distance that li^ht 
travels in a year. The velocity of light is 186,000 
miles per second. It travels around the earth 
eight times in a second, or four times while a 
pedestrian is taking a step. Were the sun blotted 
out of the sky wo would discover the fact eight 
minutes later, as it requires eight minutes for 
light to travel from the sun to the earth. Light 
travels to the moon in loss than a second and a 
half, and to Neptune in four and a half hours. 
The nearest fixed star is four and a third light 
years from the earth. Some have boon found to 
be nearly two hundred light years from our 



THE SIDEREAL HEAVENS 27 

system, and it is believed that there are stars 
whoso light has been speeding toward us for 
thousands of years and has not yet reached us. 

Arcturus is one of the finest first magnitude 
stars in the summer sky. It is mentioned in the 
Book of Job, and in many ancient writings. It 
is one of the most distant stars yet measured- 
one hundred and sixty light years and it is trav- 
eling toward us at the marvelous speed of two 
hundred miles per second. But no one need fear, 
for it would take 150,000 years to reach the point 
where wo now are, and long ere then our system 
will be far away. For an express train, running 
sixty miles an hour, day and night, to cover the 
distance between us and the moon would re- 
quire five and a half months ; to reach the sun 
would take nearly 180 years, while the distance to 
Arcturus would require eighteen hundred million 
years. 

Nova Perse i. Now and then a star is seen to 
blaze forth for a few days or weeks and then fade 
away into invisibility. This may be caused by its 
contact with a planet or a comet. The most 
notable recent occurrence of this sort took place in 
February, 1901. A star called Nova Persei (the 
new star in the constellation Perseus), hitherto a 
faint star, blazed out into one of the first magni- 
tude, but after a few days it faded away into a 
ninth magnitude star. Astronomers have agreed 
that the light and heat of this great sun must 
have increased thus suddenly 10,000 fold. Two 
deeply impressive thoughts here come to mind. 
First, if this mighty sun was the center of a 
system of worlds, and these worlds were the 
homes of living beings, all must have perished 



28 STAB GAZER'S HAND-BOOK 

within a few hours. Second, this appalling con- 
flagration actually took place a hundred years 
ago, for the star is a hundred light years from the 
earth. 

Magnitude. About twenty of the brightest 
stars in the sky are known as first magnitude 
stars, not that they are nearer, but brighter, and 
probably larger than the average. Some sixty of 
the next brightest are of the second magnitude, 
and so on. Stars dimmer than the sixth magni- 
tude are not visible to the naked eye, but the tele- 
scope reveals them up to the eighteenth magni- 
tude. The ancients gave fanciful names to many 
of the brighter stars ; but modern astronomers 
have adopted the Greek alphabet with the geni- 
tive of the Latin name of a constellation. Thus 
Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, 
is called Alpha Lyrae, and Riegel, the second 
brightest in Orion, is called Beta Orionis. We 
shall, however, use the ancient names in the fol- 
lowing study of the constellations in cases where 
the stars have such names. 

The following brief study of the constellations 
will, it is believed, enable a careful student to 
trace out the chief ones without further aid, but 
a planisphere or star-map will be found a great 
help. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE CIRCUM-POLAR CONSTELLATIONS 

The stars around the north celestial pole never 
set in our latitude ; they simply whirl around the 
pole once in twenty-four hours. The north pole 
of the sky is the point that would be reached by 
the north pole of the earth were it extended on 
into space. If we were on the equator, the north 
celestial pole would lie On the northern horizon ; 
if we are 40 north of the equator, it is 40 from 
the horizon ; if we were at the north pole of the 
earth, the celestial pole would be in the zenith. 
The following observations assume that the ob- 
server is about 40 north of the equator. There 
is a second magnitude star so near the north 
celestial pole that we call it the North Star, or Pole 
Star, though it is one and a half degrees, or three 
moon widths, from the pole. It should be the first 
star learned by the observer. 

Ursa Minor, the LITTLE BEAR, also known as 
the LITTLE DIPPER. This constellation attracted 
much attention in ancient times because of the 
Pole Star. The dimensions of this star are very 
great and it is forty-seven light years from the 
earth. It may be found in three ways. 1. It is 
the end of the handle of the Little Dipper. 2. It 
is almost in line with the "pointers" of the 
Great Dipper. 3. It is half way between the 
middle of the handle of the Great Dipper and 
Cassiopeia. The handle of this Dipper is curved 

29 



30 

and composed of very dim stars, but the two stars 
at the end of the bowl are brighter. The name of 
the one at the bottom is Kochab. 

Ursa Major, the GREAT BEAR, known also as 
the GREAT DIPPER. This is a large constellation, 
but only the seven stars composing the " dipper" 
are conspicuous, and we confine our notice to 
them. This figure is too well known to need 
description. The names of these seven stars be- 
ginning with the end of the handle are Alkaid y 
Mizar, Alioth, Megrez, Phecda, Merak and Dubhe. 
These are all second magnitude except Megrez, 
which is third magnitude. 

Dubhe is twenty-nine degrees from the Polar 

Star ; the top of the dipper is ten degrees in 

length and the bottom eight degrees ; the two 

pointers are 5 apart. These distances should be 

, carefully remembered for future use. 

Mythology.* Calisto was the daughter of 
Lycaon, King of Arcadia, and was an attendant 
of the goddess Diana. Jupiter fell in love with 
the beautiful princess Calisto, and his wife Juno 
became enraged with jealousy and changed the 
princess into a bear. 

Calisto, however, had borne to Jupiter a son 
named Areas, who became a famous hunter. One 
day while hunting in the Arcadian forest he came 
upon a bear, and was about to slay it, not know- 

* This feature, the mythology of the constellations, has 
no relation to the modern study of astronomy, and it is 
therefore omitted from nearly all recent books on the 
subject. It is here inserted because it adds much interest 
to the study of the stars, and is constantly referred to 
in the Greek and Roman classics. 



THE CIRCUM-POLAR CONSTELLATIONS 31 

ing that it was his mother. Jupiter then inter- 
fered and changed Areas into a bear also and 
translated both to heaven. Calisto became Ursa 
Major andArcas Ursa Minor. When Juno learned 
of this she was greatly displeased, and she went 
to Tethys, wife of Oceanus, the Ocean, and 
begged her to promise never to receive these bears 
beneath her waves. Tethys promised, and as a re- 
sult these constellations never set, but whirl for- 
ever round the pole. 

Draco, the DRAGON. The following descrip- 
tion will answer only in summer. Half way be- 
tween the two dippers is a row of faint stars, from 
three to eight degrees apart, curving around the 
bowl of the Little Dipper 8 to 10 from it, turn- 
ing to the west and making a coil back toward 
the south, ending with four stars in an irregular 
square, forming the head of the dragon. The two 
southernmost of these four stars are the eyes ; they 
are brighter than any others in the dragon, and 
are 16 a little west of north from the fine star 
Vega. The one nearest Vega is Etanin, the one 
further west is Alwaid. 

Myth. There are various legends of the 
Dragon. One is that it was the one that guarded 
the golden apples in the famous garden of Hes- 
perides at the foot of Mt. Atlas in Africa. It was 
slain by Hercules and Juno gave it a place in the 
sky. Another is that this was the Dragon that 
fought with Minerva in the battle of the giants, 
and Minerva hurled it into the sky and twisted it 
round the pole where it remained. 



CHAPTER V 

THE SUMMER CONSTELLATIONS 

NOTE. The following is adapted to 9 P. M. July the 
first. The Heavens present the same appearance at 11 
p. M. a month earlier, or at 7 P. M. (if it were dark) a 
month later. The stars are nearly four minutes earlier 
each day, amounting to two hours a month. This is due 
to the earth's progress in its orbit. 

Bootes. (pro. Bo-o' tes) the BEAR DRIVER or 
HUNTSMAN. This constellation is marked by the 
second brightest star in the sky, Arcturus, sur- 
passed only by Sirius. Arcturus may be easily 
found. It is now a little west of the zenith and 
shines with a reddish lustre. A straight line 
drawn through Alkaid and Mizar (the two stars 
at the end of the Great Dipper handle) will fall 
about 8 east of Arcturus. West of this star are 
three dim ernes forming a triangle, and east of it 
are three almost in line, while north of it, about 
ten degrees, are three others almost in line, the 
middle one being very dun. Still further toward 
the pole are three stars forming a triangle. No 
star hi the constellation except Arcturus, is 
brighter than third magnitude. 

Of the mythology of Bootes there are various 
versions ; but it is generally agreed that he is a 
huntsman chasing the two bears around the pole. 
He holds two dogs by a leash, one of which, Cor 
Coroli, about 12 southwest of Alkaid, is plainly 
visible. 
32 



THE SUMMER CONSTELLATIONS 33 

Virgo, the VIRGIN. Southwestward from 
Arcturus and about half way from that star to the 
horizon there is a beautiful 1m (first magnitude) 
star called Spica. Northwestward and northeast- 
ward from it are scattered a number of small stars 
all belonging to the same Constellation Virgo. 
This is one of the twelve constellations of the 
zodiac. The student should carefully locate the 
belt round the heavens called the zodiac and learn 
the twelve constellations in it called the signs of 
the zodiac. The sun, moon and all the planets 
revolve within this belt and never leave it. 

Myth. Some say that this virgin was Isis, the 
sister of the Egyptian god Osiris, who was basely 
murdered by Typhon. Isis is following her brother 
to the grave weeping bitterly. The Egyptians 
attributed the yearly inundations of the Nile to 
the profusion of her tears. 

Libra, the BALANCE or SCALES. This is an 
inconspicuous constellation also belonging to the 
zodiac. It is east and a little south of Virgo and 
between that and Corvus, to be noticed later. The 
virgin is holding the balance in her hand, and the 
balance indicates that when the sun enters this 
sign in September the days and nights are equal 
all over the world. 

Corvus, the CROW. Southwest from Spica 
near 20 and near the horizon are four stars forming 
a quadrilateral, wider at the base than at the top . 
This constellation is called Corvus. Apollo, sus- 
pecting the fidelity of his sweetheart, sent a crow 
to watch her. The bird performed its duty so 
faithfully that it was given a place in the sky. 



34 

Coma Berenices, BERENICE'S HAIR, is a beau- 
tiful cluster of small 5m and 6m stars, about a 
dozen of which are visible to the naked eye on a 
clear night. The cluster is on the meridian early 
in May. It is due north from Corvus and about 
20 west from Arcturus. 

Myth. Berenice was the wife of Evergetes, 
King of Egypt, and noted for her wonderful 
hair. The King on starting out on a dangerous 
military expedition vowed that if successful he 
would dedicate his wife's hair to the goddess of 
beauty. He was successful, and the hair was re- 
moved from the queen' s head, placed in the tem- 
ple of Venus, from which it was soon after stolen. 
The King was very angry, but his astronomer, 
Conon, appeased him by saying that Jupiter had 
taken the hair and placed it in the sky, and he 
pointed out this constellation which has since been 
known as Berenice's hair. 

Corona Borealis, the NORTHERN CROWN. 
Southeast from the northern triangle in Bootes 
there is a beautiful semicircle of stars, the brightest 
of which is in the middle and is named Alphacca. 
This star is about 12 east from Acturus, and a 
little north. 

Myth. Ariadne the daughter of Minos, King 
of Crete was deserted by her husband Theseus 
and she was so disconsolate that Bacchus took 
pity on her and gave her a beautiful diadem con- 
taining seven stars. This at her death was placed 
among the constellations. 

Hercules. The scattered stars between Co- 
rona Borealis and Vega constitute the constella- 



THE SUMMER CONSTELLATIONS 35 

tion Hercules. None is very conspicuous. The 
southernmost one, in the head of the hero, is called 
Ras Algethi. 

Myth. Hercules was one of the most cele- 
brated of the ancient demigods and was the son 
of Jupiter and Alcmena. While yet a babe in his 
cradle but eight months old, the jealous Juno sent 
two serpents to destroy him, but he strangled 
them. After he was grown he accomplished 
many feats of strength. Jupiter bound him to 
the service of King Eurystheus for twelve years, 
after which he was to have a place among the 
gods. This king imposed on him twelve tasks, 
known as the Twelve Labors of Hercules, the 
last of which was to bring to earth the three- 
headed dog Cerebus, which guarded the entrance 
to Hades. He died at length from wearing a 
poisoned tunic, given him by his jealous wife, and 
was translated to the skies. He is pictured with 
his head toward the south, his foot on the head of 
the Dragon, with the skin of the Nemaean lion 
over his shoulder, and the head of Cerebus in his 
hand. 

Ophiuchus and Serpens, the SERPENT BEARER 
AND THE SERPENT. These two constellations are 
usually given as one, and it is difficult to dis- 
tinguish them as Ophiuchus holds the serpent in 
his arms. It is a very large constellation, with 
no very bright stars, situated just south of Her- 
cules and Corona Borealis. The irregular line of 
stars south of Alphacca in the Crown are the 
serpent' s head. The head of Ophiuchus is north- 
ward and is near that of Hercules. One fairly 
bright star, Ras Alhague, marks the head and is 
but 5 from Ras Algethi, 



36 STAR GAZER'S HAND-BOOK 

Myth. Ophiuchus is said to be ^Esculapius, 
the son of Apollo and the most celebrated physi- 
cian of antiquity. He is known as the inventor 
and god of medicine. So great was his skill, that 
he often raised the dead, and Pluto complained to 
Jupiter that the lower regions were becoming 
depopulated. He accompanied the Argonauts on 
the famous expedition for the golden fleece. 
Many ancient symbols of this god represent him as 
an aged man with a long flowing beard and bearing 
a serpent. So we find him in the constellation. 

Scorpio, the SCORPION. Scorpio is one of the 
most beautiful and conspicuous of the summer 
constellations, and it is one of the twelve signs of 
the zodiac. It lies near the horizon, south of 
Ophiuchus and Serpens. It contains one fine 
1m star, Antares, and several 2m stars. Antares 
is of a reddish color and reminds one of the planet 
Mars. Westward and a little north from it are 
several 2m stars, forming an arc of a circle, and 
with Antares they form the figure of a fan. South 
and east from Antares there is a curved line of 
stars, forming the tail of the scorpion. The con- 
stellation can easily be found by anyone from the 
above description. 

Myth. This is the scorpion that Juno sent to 
sting to death the hero Orion, who had boasted 
that there was no animal on earth that he could 
not conquer. This closes the account of what we 
may call the summer constellations, except the 
stars lying low on the horizon south of Libra and 
Virgo. These belong to Centaurus the Centaur, a 
fabulous monster half man, half horse. This con- 
stellation is a very fine one, but only a small por- 
tion of it can be seen in the United States. It con- 
tains the nearest of the fixed stars Alpha Centauri. 



CHAPTER VI 

AUTUMN CONSTELLATIONS 

October 1, 9 p. M. 

Lyra, the LYEE. The Lyre is just east of 
Hercules and passes the meridian at 9 P. M., about 
the middle of August. It is noted for its one 
beautiful silver 1m star, Vega, the reigning mon- 
arch of the night sky, since the passing of Arc- 
turus. Vega is twenty-seven light years, or one 
hundred and fifty-eight trillions of miles from our 
system. There are but five other stars easily 
visible in Lyra. Three of them are just east of 
Vega and form a triangle. The other two are 
a little further south and also east of Vega, the 
six forming a figure resembling a lyre. One of 
these dim stars is a double one and another is 
variable. 

Myth. This is the lyre of the great musician, 
Orpheus, presented to him by Apollo. So en- 
chanting was the music of Orpheus that the 
rivers ceased to flow and the wild beasts and 
mountains came to listen. The nymph, Eurydice, 
was charmed by his music ; he fell in love with 
her and they were married. But their happiness 
was short-lived. A serpent bit her foot and she 
died. Orpheus then resolved to enter the lower 
regions to recover his bride. He took his harp 
with him, and so ravishing was his music that 
the wheel of Ixion stopped, the stone of Sisyphus 
stood still, and Tantalus forgot his thirst. Pluto 

37 



38 STAR GAZER'S HAND-BOOK 

and his wife Proserpine were so charmed that they 
promised to restore Eurydice on the condition 
that Orpheus would not look back while passing 
out. He agreed, but as he was nearing the regions 
of the upper air his desire to see his long-lost 
bride, who was following and whom he had not 
yet seen, overcame him. He looked back and 
saw her, but she instantly vanished, and he never 
saw her again. He wandered aimlessly about the 
earth until his death, when his Lyre was placed 
in the sky. 

Aquilla, the EAGLE. This constellation is 
about 30 southeast of Vega and is noted for its 
1m star, Altair. This is the brightest star in 
the Milky Way, and is ninety-four trillions of 
miles from the earth. It is between two 3m stars, 
and the three are directly in line with Vega. 

Myth. This is said to be the eagle whose form 
Jupiter assumed when he carried off Ganymede to 
replace Hebe as cup-bearer to the gods. 

Sagittarius, the ARCHER. Directly south from 
Vega and Altair and near the horizon we find the 
beautiful zodiac constellation Sagittarius. It is 
directly east from Scorpio. The main part of this 
constellation is composed of seven bright stars, six 
of which form two triangles both pointing down- 
ward and slightly eastward. These triangles may 
be imagined as suspended by a cord over the sev- 
enth star of the group, a little above and half way 
between them. A few other stars of this constel- 
lation are found northeastward from this group. 

Myth. The stories of the Archer are very con- 
flicting. We give the one accepted by the Greeks. 



AUTUMN CONSTELLATIONS 39 

The Archer is the famous Centaur Chiron, son of 
Saturn. He was famous for his knowledge of 
music, medicine, and shooting, and he taught 
mankind the use of plants and herbs. He was 
slain by Hercules, according to Ovid, and Jupiter 
placed him among the stars. 

Capricornus, the GOAT. This constellation of 
the zodiac is not at all conspicuous. It is east of 
Sagittarius and somewhat higher. A straight line 
drawn through Vega and Altair and continued 23 
beyond the latter will reach the head of the Goat. 
By this means it may readily be found. The body 
of the Goat is composed of the dim stars scattered 
further toward the east. 

Myth. This was the god Pan, who, with other 
deities, was feasting on the bank of the Nile when 
the giant Typhon appeared among them. They 
all fled and assumed different shapes. Pan be- 
came a goat and plunged into the Nile. Jupiter 
then translated the goat to the skies, and we have 
the constellation Capricorn. 

Delphin, the DOLPHIN. A very attractive little 
star cluster is the Dolphin, often called Job's Cof- 
fin. It is northeast from Altair, some 13 and is 
composed of five 3m stars,* four of which form the 
figure of a diamond. 

Myth. Arion, a famous lyric poet and musi- 
cian, was a native of Lesbos. He went to Italy 
and amassed a fortune by his art. When return- 
ing by water to his native island the sailors 

* This constellation has eighteen stars, but, as in the 
description of all the others, only those easily found are 
mentioned. 



40 

resolved to murder him for his wealth. He begged 
them to permit him first to play on his lute. As 
he played the dolphins, attracted by his music, 
swarmed about the ship. He then sprung into 
the sea, and one of these creatures bore him safe 
to shore on its back and it was given a place 
in the sky. 

Cygnus, the SWAN.* This is a very remark- 
able and beautiful constellation, situated in the 
Milky Way, directly east of Lyra and north of 
Delphin. The brightest star, Deneb, is 30 di- 
rectly north of Delphin. The Swan, with wide- 
spread wings, is flying down through the Milky 
Way, the head being almost midway between 
Vega and Altair. The 3m star in the beak is 
Albireo. Deneb is in the base of the tail which 
points toward Cassiopeia. 

Myth. Various fables are given of the origin 
of this constellation. The one mentioned by 
Virgil and Ovid is that the constellation took its 
name from a young man named Cygnus, a rela- 
tive of Phaeton. Cygnus mourned deeply at the 
untimely death of his relative (see Fluvius Eri- 
danus), and the gods were so pleased that they 
gave him a place in the sky. 

Pegasus, the FLYING HORSE This is also a 
very conspicuous constellation, and is noted for 
its fine square, known as the Great Square of 
Pegasus. The four stars forming it are from 14 
to 16 apart, and the two furthest west are about 
40 east of the Dolphin. The square crosses the 
meridian about Nov. 1, at 9 P. M., and is easily 

* Called also the Northern Cross.. 



AUTUMN CONSTELLATIONS 41 

found. The names of the four stars are Markab, 
farthest to the southwest ; Sheatj in the northwest ; 
Alpherat, northeast, and Algenib, in the southeast. 
All except Algenib are 2m. Alpherat, however, 
though necessary to make up the square, belongs 
not to Pegasus, but to Andromeda, to be noticed 
later. Pegasus is a large constellation, and in- 
cludes the stars between the square and the dol- 
phin, one of which, Enif, is of the 2m. 

Algenib and Alpherat are almost on the line of 
the equinoctial colure, or prime meridian of the 
heavens. From this line, which is in Astronomy 
what the meridian of Greenwich is in Geography, 
is measured the longitude of the sky, known aa 
right ascension. 

Myth. Pegasus is the fabled horse that sprung 
from the blood of Medusa after Perseus had cut 
off her head (see next chapter). The horse was 
presented by the gods to Prince Bellerophon, to 
aid him in conquering the Chimera, a hideous 
monster that vomited flames. After slaying the 
monster, Bellerophon attempted to fly to heaven 
on his winged horse, but Jupiter, displeased at his 
presumption, sent an insect to sting the horse. 
This so unsettled the rider that he fell back to 
earth ; but the horse continued its flight and was 
placed among the constellations. 

Pisces Australias, the SOUTHERN FISH. This 
constellation is interesting only because it contains 
Fomalhautj a fine 1m star. It is easily found. 
Draw a line through Sheat and Markab and pro- 
duce it about two-thirds of the way from the lat- 
ter to the southern horizon, where it will fall just 
east of Fomalhaut. This star ia in the mouth of 



42 STAB GAZER'S HAND-BOOK 

the fish, which receives the stream of water poured 
from the urn of Aquarius. 

Aquarius, the WATER BEARER. Between 
Pegasus and Fomalhaut are scattered many dim 
stars, which the ancient imagination resolved into 
a man holding an urn and pouring from it a 
stream of water into the mouth of the Southern 
Fish. 

Myth. This was the beautiful Phrygian youth, 
Ganymede, son of the king of Troy. While at- 
tending his father's flock on Mt. Ida, Jupiter 
took him up to heaven to replace Hebe as cup- 
bearer to the gods hence he is pictured with an 
urn. 



CHAPTER VII 

WINTER CONSTELLATIONS 

January 1, 9 p. M. 

Cepheus. This constellation belongs by loca- 
tion to the last chapter ; or, like Cassiopeia, it 
may have properly been placed with the circum- 
polar constellations. But I have reserved it for 
this place because it belongs to a remarkable 
group, a royal family, that I wish to notice 
together. 

Cepheus is not a bright constellation and not so 
readily found by amateurs as many others. If a 
straight line be drawn from the Pole Star half way 
between Cygnus and Pegasus it will pass through 
Cepheus, which is about half as far from the pole 
as is Cygnus. There are three 3m stars, the one 
furthest south being Alderamin. The mythology 
will be given under Perseus. 

Cassiopia, the QUEEN IN HER CHAIR. 
This is one of the most attractive of the constella- 
tions. It is the same distance from the Pole Star 
as the Great Dipper, and is directly opposite to it, 
and, like Cepheus, it never sets. There are five 
2m and 3m stars in the form of a wide W, and 
supposed to resemble a chair. The star furthest 
west is called Caph ; it is in line with Alpherat 
and Algenib on the prime meridian and these 
three form a straight line with Polaris. The name 
of the star next to Caph is Schedar. It will be 

43 



44 

noticed that Cepheus is enclosed by Cygnus, Ursa 
Minor, and Cassiopeia, and is about the same dis- 
tance from each. 

Andromeda, the CHAINED LADY. This con- 
stellation is just south from Cassiopeia. It con- 
sists of many stars, only a few of which are 
conspicuous. As we have noticed, one star of 
Andromeda, Alpherat,belongs to the Great Square 
of Pegasus. The chief remaining stars of this 
constellation may readily be found by drawing a 
line diagonally across the square from Markab 
through Alpherat. Continue the line east 7 from 
Alpherat to a 3m star, and on the same line 7 
still further is Merach, a 2m star, which, with a 
few dim ones above and below it, form the girdle 
of the Princess. Continue the line 10 or more to 
another 2m star, Almach, the last important star 
in Andromeda. 

Perseus. If we continue the slightly curved 
line on which we found all the principal stars of 
Andromeda, some 12 east beyond Almach, we 
reach Mirfak, the brightest star in Perseus. 

Perseus is east of Andromeda and directly north 
of the Pleiades. It contains many fine stars, one 
other, Algol, being 2m. Algol is one of the most 
wonderful stars in the sky. For about two and 
one-half days it is a 2m star when its light slowly 
fades for three and a half hours until it is a 4m 
star, but after three and a half hours more it re- 
gains its original brightness. This was noticed 
by the ancient Arabs, as the name they gave it 
shows. Algol means demon. For many ages the 
cause of the variation was unknown. But it is 
now known that Algol has a dark companion 



WINTER CONSTELLATIONS 45 

around which it revolves, and which hides part 
of its light at each revolution. Algol may easily 
be located. A line drawn to it from Mirfak and 
another from Almack, forms a right triangle at 
Algol, which opens directly toward Cassiopeia. 
Algol has a small star very near it and nearly 
south of it, by which it may also be known. The 
other conspicuous stars of Perseus are scattered 
on each side of Mirfak, forming an irregular line 
toward Cassiopeia. 

Myth. The mythological stories of the four 
above-named constellations are inseparable. 
Cepheus was King of Ethiopia ; Cassiopeia was his 
wife and Queen, and Andromeda was their daugh- 
ter. Cassiopeia was a queen of matchless beauty, 
and she boasted that she was more beautiful than 
Juno and the sea nymphs, or Nerides. Juno 
and the nymphs were highly insulted and they 
complained to Neptune, and he sent a frightful 
monster to ravage the coast of Ethiopia. Cepheus 
and his Queen consulted the oracles and were in- 
formed that nothing short of the sacrifice of their 
daughter Andromeda to the jaws of the sea- 
monster would appease the wrath that had been 
awakened. Andromeda was therefore chained to 
a rock to await her doom when Perseus with his 
feet- wings came flying through the air. 

Perseus, the son of Jupiter and Danae, was cast 
as soon as born into the sea with his mother. 
They were rescued by a fisherman and carried to 
the king of one of the islands of the Cyclades 
where Perseus grew to manhood. At a feast of 
the King Perseus engaged to bring him the head of 
Medusa, one of the three Gorgons, which had 
power to turn to stone anything they looked upon. 



46 

Mercury lent him wings for his feet, and a dagger. 
He found the gorgons sleeping, cut off the head of 
Medusa, and fled with it bleeding through the air. 
When he came upon the princess Andromeda, 
chained to a rock, he fell in love with her and 
proposed to her father that he would save her 
from the monster, if she might marry him. 
Cepheus promised and Perseus turned the eye of 
the reeking head upon the monster and changed 
it to stone. The nuptials were soon celebrated 
and the royal family lived happily. All of the 
four were translated to the sky after death. Per- 
seus in the constellation still holds the head of 
Medusa, and the eye with which he destroyed the 
sea-monster is the blinking star, Algol. 

Aries the RAM. Aries is 19 almost directly 
south of Almack in Andromeda ; but between the 
two are three dim stars known as Triangula, 
forming a long slim triangle. 

Aries is the first sign in the zodiac. It will be 
noticed that the zodiac is now mounting higher 
toward the zenith, as the sun in summer is much 
higher in the heavens than in winter. But it 
should be remembered that the zodiacal constel- 
lations viewed in winter are high as they are op- 
posite the sun in the heavens, and those viewed 
in summer are low. 

There are but two bright stars in Aries, but 5 
apart. The one further east is Hamal and the 
other Sheratan. Just south of Sheratan and very 
near it is a dim star. 

Myth. This is the ram, according to fable, 
that bore the golden fleece to recover which the 
world-famous Argonautic Expedition was under- 



WINTER CONSTELLATIONS 47 

taken by Jason, and his companions. On this 
ram Phryxus and his sister Helle were borne 
through the air to escape their cruel step-mother 
Ino. Helle became dizzy and fell into the strait, 
which was ever after called the Hellespont. 

Pisces, the FISHES. This zodiac constellation 
occupies a large space between Aries and Aqua- 
rius, but contains no bright stars. But there is 
one very attractive feature. Immediately south 
of the Great Square of Pegasus there are seven 
5m stars forming almost a perfect circle or poly- 
gon. This can be seen only when the night is 
clear and moonless. 

There are two fishes in the constellation ; the 
Northern Fish, south of Andromeda, and the 
Western Fish, south of Pegasus. 

Myth. When the hundred-headed giant Ty- 
phon put the gods to flight on the banks of the 
Nile, they assumed different shapes for the time 
to escape his fury. Venus and her son Cupid 
became fishes and two r fishes were accordingly 
placed among the constellations. 

Cetus, the WHALE. As the whale is the 
largest of living creatures, Cetus covers a greater 
space than any other constellation. But it con- 
tains few bright stars. It lies south of Aries and 
Pisces. A 2m star called MenJcar is 37 directly 
south of Algol. Menkar also forms an equilateral 
triangle with the Pleiades and Hamal. Note 
further that this star with four lesser ones forms a 
small pentagon. This is in the nose of the whale. 
The body extends westward and includes many 
stars south of Pisces. One of these is very re- 



48 

markable and is known as Mir a Ceti, the wonder- 
ful star of the Whale. For three months it is a 
2m star, when it gradually fades away and cannot 
be seen with the naked eye for eight months. 
Then it comes back again and so continues in 
periods of eleven months. Mira is directly south 
of Hamal in Aries, and when on the meridian is 
exactly between the horizon and the zenith. 

Myth. Most ancient writers consider this the 
sea-monster that was sent to destroy Andromeda 
and was slain by Perseus. It was placed among 
the stars to commemorate the valor of Perseus. 

Auriga, the CHARIOTEER. This constellation 
is east of Perseus and a little further from the pole. 
It is noted for its one brilliant 1m star Capella, 
24 east of Algol. The constellation is supposed 
to represent the figure of a man with a goat in his 
left hand and a bridle in his right. Capella is in 
the goat near the left shoulder and a 2m star, 
formerly called Menkalinan 7 east of it is in 
the right shoulder. South of Capella 18 is a 2m 
star named Nath and forms with it and Menka- 
linan a long triangle. 

Myth. One version of this constellation is that 
Auriga is Erichthonius, King of Athens. He was 
the inventor of chariots and had great power in 
managing horses. For these excellences he was 
translated to the skies. 

Taurus, the BULL. This constellation is di- 
rectly south of Perseus and Auriga and is remark- 
able for two well-know star clusters the Hyades 
and the Pleiades. 



WINTER CONSTELLATIONS 49 

The Hyades is in the shape of the letter V and 
the end star of one side is the 1m star Aldebaran. 

The Pleiades or seven stars are a beautiful clus- 
ter 11 northwest from Aldebaran. They cross the 
meridian at precisely 9 p. M. on Jan. 1. 

Myth. Europa was the daughter of Angenor 
and princess of Phoenicia. She was rarely beautiful 
and Jupiter, becoming enamored of her, assumed 
the form of a snow-white bull and approached her 
as she was gathering flowers. She caressed the 
beautiful animal and was encouraged to mount 
his back. The bull then rushed to the sea, 
plunged in, and carried Europa to Crete, and 
from her Europe took its name. The bull was 
afterward placed among the constellations. 

The Pleiades were seven sisters, daughters of 
Atlas and the nymph Pleione. One day, when 
strolling through the forest, the huntsman Orion 
came upon them and was so attracted by their 
beauty that he pursued them. They fled ; Orion 
was about to overtake them when Jupiter changed 
them to doves and took them to heaven. The 
fact that there are but six visible has two explana- 
tions. One is that one of them, Merone, married 
a mortal and her light was put out for the act. 
Another is that one of them, Electra, was so grieved 
at the fall of Troy that never could she bear again 
to be seen by human eyes. In the midst of the 
group there is one sister brighter than the rest. 
Her name is Alcyone. The telescope reveals 200 
stars in this cluster. 

Orion, the HUNTEK. This is the finest and 
most brilliant constellation in the sky, and the 
only one in the north containing two 1m stars. 



50 STAR GAZER'S HAND-BOOK 

There is a well-defined quadrilateral. The 1m 
star farthest to the northeast is Betelgeux, and its 
companion, 2m, some 7 west of it, is Bellatrix. 
These are in the shoulders. The other two are 
15 south of these. Rigel, a 1m star, is farthest 
southwest. In the center are three remarkable 
stars in line, very near together, forming the belt, 
while suspended from it is the sword, composed 
of a dim line of stars pointing downward. In 
front of the hero, who faces the Bull in a menac- 
ing attitude, and almost south of Aldebaran, is a 
semi-circle of dim stars forming the lion-skin 
shield. 

Myth. Orion, the son of Neptune, was the 
greatest hunter in the world. He boasted that he 
could conquer any animal, whereupon a scorpion 
rose from the earth and stung him to death ; and 
he still seems to fear that creature, for this con- 
stellation sets at the rising of Scorpion. The con- 
stellation Orion is mentioned in the books of Job 
and Amos, and in the writings of Homer and 
Virgil. 

Fluvius Eridanus, the RIVER Po. The 
few stars immediately south of Orion belong to 
Lepus, the Hare ; and those south of Lepus lying 
along the horizon belong to Colomba, Noah's 
Dove. The River Po is composed of the scattered 
stars lying south of Taurus and Cetus, but is 
scarcely desirable to trace it out. 

Myth. The Po River was made memorable in 
many ways, and especially through its connection 
with the fable of Phaeton. This youth was the 
son of Phoebus, who had control of the sun in 



WINTER CONSTELLATIONS 51 

his daily revolutions. Phaeton begged his father 
to permit him to guide the sun's chariot for one 
day. The request was granted, but no sooner had 
the youth taken the reins than the sun departed 
from his track, and the heat became so great as to 
threaten a vast conflagration of heaven and earth. 
Jupiter, seeing the disorder, struck Phaeton dead 
with a thunderbolt, and he fell from heaven into 
the Po. The great heat produced on this occa- 
sion is said to have dried up the blood of the 
Ethiopians and turned their skins black. The 
fable probably arose from some extraordinary 
term of heat in remote antiquity, and this tradi- 
tion of it alone has reached us. 



CHAPTER VIII 

SPRING CONSTELLATIONS 

April 1, 9 p. M. 

Canis Major, the GREAT DOG. This is south- 
east from Orion about 30, and is famous for its 
great star, Sirius y by far the brightest in the 
heavens. Sirius is probably two hundred times 
as large as our sun and is fifty trillions of miles 
from us so far that at cannon-ball speed the dis- 
tance could be covered only in five million years. 
A line drawn from Sirius through the belt of 
Orion and produced to the Pleiades, is almost a 
straight line, and falls just west of Aldebaran. 
The ancients believed that Sirius caused the ex- 
cessive heat of summer, and the days of his reign 
were called Dog Days. At this season the star is 
not visible because it is overhead in daytime. The 
Egyptians noticed that the overflow of the Nile 
was always presaged by the rising of Sirius, which, 
like a faithful watch-dog, warned them of the in- 
undation. The stars lying near this one belong 
also to this constellation. 

Canis Minor, the LITTLE DOG. Northeast 
from Sirius 26, and forming with it and Betelgeux 
a perfect equilateral triangle, is another 1m star 
called Procyon. It is the chief star in the Little 
Dog, and is diagonally across the Milky Way 
from the Greater Dog. 
52 




SPRING CONSTELLATIONS 53 

Myth. Canis Major and Canis Minor are sup- 
posed to be the two hounds of the mighty hunter 
Orion. The dim stars lying between the two dogs 
belong to Monoceros, the Unicorn. 

Gemini, the TWINS. About 20 north of Pro- 
cyon are two bright stars near together. They are 
the famous twins of ancient mythology, Castor 
and Pollux. Pollux is the further south and is 
rated a 1m star, while Castor is 2m ; though it is 
difficult to distinguish between them, and Castor 
was formerly the brighter. These two stars are 
in the heads of the twins, who are in a sitting pos- 
ture and their feet are toward Orion. The 
various stars scattered in that direction form the 
bodies and feet. 

This is the highest constellation in the zodiac. 
The sun enters it on the 21st of June, when it is 
of course invisible. Six months later it is on the 
meridian at midnight. 

Myth. Castor and Pollux were the twin sons 
of Jupiter and Leda, Queen of Sparta. They ac- 
companied the Argonauts in quest of the golden 
fleece, and won the admiration of all by their 
prowess. Castor excelled as a trainer of horses, 
and his brother for his bravery with arms. The 
Roman armies often persuaded themselves to be- 
lieve that in the midst of battle these two gods 
often appeared to give them victory. The twins 
were also the protectors of navigation. St. Paul 
sailed in a ship whose sign was Castor and Pollux 
(Acts 28: 11). The ancients often swore by the 
twins, and the expression ' ' By Gemini " is some- 
times heard to this day. 

Argo Navis, the SHIP ARGO. Southeast 



54 STAR GAZER'S HAND-BOOK 

from Canis Major are several stars of this constel- 
lation scattered along the horizon, but the finest 
ones in it are not visible in the United States. 
South of Sirius 36 is Canopus, a fine star of 
the 1m. 

Myth. This is the famous ship in which Jason 
and his fifty- four companions, called Argonauts, 
from the name of the ship, sailed to Colchis in 
quest of the golden fleece. Some suppose, how- 
ever, that the famous expedition never occurred, 
and that the story was founded on traditions of 
Noah and the flood. 

Hydra and Crater, the WATER SERPENT and 
the CUP. Between Argo Navis on the west and 
Corvus on the east is an irregular line of stars 
higher above the horizon than Argo. This is the 
Water Serpent. Its head, composed of four stars, 
forming a rhomboid, exactly as far from the hori- 
zon as Procyon and about 20 east of it. The cup 
is much further east, the same height as Corvus 
and about 22 west of it. It contains six stars, 
forming a crescent opening to the west. The body 
of the serpent lies beneath the cup and extends 
on eastward. 

Myth. This Hydra was the hundred-headed 
monster that infested the region of Lake Lerna. 
It was destroyed by Hercules, as one of his twelve 
labors, and Juno, ever jealous of the fame of that 
hero, gave the serpent a place among the stars. 

Cancer, the CRAB. This is a very inconspicu- 
ous constellation of the zodiac just east of Gemini, 
and west of Leo. Neither as a constellation nor 
in its mythology does it present anything very in- 
teresting. 



SPRING CONSTELLATIONS 55 

Leo, the LION. This large and attractive con- 
stellation of the zodiac lies between Cancer and 
Virgo. It contains one 1m star, Regulus, which 
with five others further north arranged in a semi- 
eircle, form the Sickle, the most conspicuous ob- 
ject in the constellation. There are two or three 
bright stars northeastward from Regulus, and one 
2m star 25 east of it named Denebola. Denebola 
forms an almost equilateral triangle with Spica 
and Arcturus. This brings us entirely round the 
heavens, whence we began with the summer con- 
stellations. 

Myth. This is the Nemean Lion slain by 
Hercules. So says the Greek fable, but the 
Egyptian charts placed a lion in this part of the 
sky long before the birth of the fabled Hercules. 
No modern imagination, however, can trace the 
form of a lion in the constellation. 




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