June marks the beginning of summer, a time when many of us find ways to finally observe something. Whether you're camping, visiting friends on the Upper Peninsula or simply relaxing in the garden, the stars and constellations can be enjoyed from almost every vantage point. But even if you are familiar with the summer constellations, a rudimentary knowledge of their history and mythology can arouse interest in an otherwise unique star formation.
Let's start with the Big Dipper, which is actually part of the constellation Ursa Major, the Big Bear. It's the third largest constellation, and its boundaries contain many more stars than the seven that make up the Big Dipper. Looking south, you can look straight up and you can easily see it to the west with Leo the Lion. Search between the two constellations for three pairs of faint stars known as the three leaps of the gazelle. According to an ancient legend, the dark sky between the Big Bear and the Lion is known as the pond. The gazelle jumped into the pond to escape the lion. With a little imagination you will quickly see the gazelle plunging in three long leaps through the shallow pond.
Now follow the arch to Arcturus. In other words, follow the path formed by the stars in the grasp of the car to the first bright star you see, Arcturus. Five thousand years ago, while the ice age still lingered in Europe, the Sahara desert was green and fertile, and shepherds criss-crossed the plains with newly domesticated cattle, goats, and sheep. Surely they looked into the sky and imagined that under the stars. Arcturus lies at the foot of the old constellation Bootes, the shepherd. The name is mentioned in Homer's Odyssey and in the sky the shepherd drives the bear, rather than a cow, sheep or goat. In fact, the name Arcturus means "guardian of the bear".
Arcturus is notable for being the star who opened the Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago in 1
This month in history:
2. June: Surveyor1 lands on Moon – 1966
5. June: Regular observation of Neptune by Voyager 2 – 1989
10. June: Mars Rover "Spirit" launched – 2003
16. June: Valentina Tereshkova is the first (and only single) woman in space – 1963
18. June: Sally Ride becomes first American woman in space – 1983
22. June: Detection of liquid water on Mars announced by NASA – 2000
30. June: Tunguska strike flattens hundreds of miles of the Siberian forest – 1908
– Peter Burkey is a resident of Holland. Contact him at [email protected]