Thursday, October 29, 2009

Aquarius the Water Bearer

Over the next few weeks we'll focus on three hard-to-find, but interesting zodiac constellations. First up: Aquarius the Water Bearer.

According to Greek mythology, Aquarius represents a teenager named Ganymede, Prince of Troy. Once upon a time, The Head Honcho, The Big Cheese, Zeus, was thirsty. Despite all of his mighty powers, Zeus liked to be served by both gods and mortals. And since he was forever thirsty he decided to employ Ganymede to be his full-time water bearer. Instead of sending a formal invitation to join the staff on Mt. Olympus, Zeus sent down his pet eagle to snatch the boy up off the streets of Troy. Ganymede goes from a prince, to a servant, to almost god-like as a constellation. What an up and down story. Ganymede is also the name of Jupiter's moons (the largest in the solar system).

Aquarius is tough to imagine but easy to find. Just look to the left of Jupiter at night and that's where his stars lie. Good luck picturing a young man pouring water to the southern horizon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Big Week in Astronomy

I'm taking one week off from mythology to talk about the big week Astronomy had in the news last week.

1) A new, gigantically huge and diffuse ring was discovered around Saturn. Astronomers with the Spitzer Space Telescope discovered this ring by detecting its heat (just barely hotter than absolute zero). The ring ranges from 3.7 to 7.4 million miles from the planet technically making it the largest thing in the solar system. See:

2) President Obama held the first ever Star Party on the White House lawn. Dozens of amateur astronomers brought telescopes to the White House and the first family saw Jupiter and other objects through the telescopes. The President delivered a great speech on the importance of science. Hopefully this will be the first of many such Star Parties.

3) Our attempt to blow up the Moon did not work out. The LCROSS mission slammed a rocket into the south pole of the Moon to see what water might come up. Although the event was not seen from Earth as expected, astronomers are still poring over the data and expect to share their findings soon. See: It wasn't nearly as destructive as when the evil Chairface Chippendale tried to write his name on the Moon in an animated episode of the Tick.