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Is it too early to have favourites? February 11, 2011

Posted by Marie in Constellations, Look up, Stars.
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It may be early days, but I think I have discovered my favourite constellation already!

Big, beautiful, and instantly recognisable, Orion dominates the (clear!) night sky at this time of year.

I love it for many reasons.  One is that it was the first constellation I learned to recognise – it’s unmistakable.

Another is that the geek in me always thinks of Star Trek when I see it.  Why?  Well the bottom right star (if you’re looking directly at the constellation) is called Rigel, and planets of that name are referenced several times in Trek films and TV episodes.  (Sorry.)

Third reason – Betelgeuse, at the top left ‘shoulder’, was the first time I realised that not all stars are white.  Even to the naked eye, Betelgeuse is orangey-red.  Go on, go and have a look.  And it is e-nor-mous.

Look at this:

If  Betelgeuse was placed where our sun is, it would almost fill up to the edge of Saturn’s orbit.  Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter – gone!

I came home from work recently, in the rain, with a dark, cloud-filled sky.  No chance of looking up and seeing anything.  Later that evening, I went to get something from the car, and Orion literally took my breath away.  The clouds had cleared, and I hadn’t expected to see it there; it was just magnificent.  It’s around for a while longer, so go and admire!

Ophiuchus – the ‘new’ zodiac sign? January 29, 2011

Posted by Marie in Astrology, Astronomy, Bad Astronomy, Constellations.
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As it’s my birthday today, I thought I would reflect on the effect the stars have on me because of the day I was born.  So here is my conclusion:

NOTHING

Earlier this month, I noticed that the word Ophiuchus was trending on Twitter.  Now aside from it being a strange word to see,  I also thought it odd because of what it was.

With my (still) limited knowledge of astronomy, I at least know that Ophiuchus is a constellation in the night sky.  Wikipedia tells me its name is from the Greek meaning serpent-bearer,  and that it was one of the 48 constellations originally listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy.

2nd century? Hardly counts as new, then.  So why the fuss?

Well, my research (sounds good doesn’t it, but basically I googled it!) uncovered this:

Ophiuchus is a constellation lying between Scorpius and Sagittarius, but it’s not counted as a zodiac sign.  The sun’s path takes it through the constellations which are recognized as the 12 zodiac signs (Aquarius, Pisces etc).  The sun also passes through Ophiuchus, but because Ophiuchus is much fainter than Scorpius next to it, it’s not included in the zodiac.  On top of that, it wouldn’t have been good to have 13 constellations – too unlucky!

So Ophiuchus got bumped.

If you’re interested to know why the ‘new zodiac sign’ began trending in the first place, Phil Plait explains it much better than I ever could in this article.

If you’re interested in knowing what your ‘new’ horoscope will be, you can look here.

I was also amused to read these people reacting to the fact that they are now a different star sign.

Apparently I’m no longer an Aquarian, I’m a Capricorn.  Whatever that means.  As I said:

NOTHING

One thing’s for sure though – I now know how to spell Ophiuchus!

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