Janessa Siquig Heygi Astronomy P.2 22 January 2018 Cultural Constellations Constellations are groups of stars in the sky. Some constellations appear to look like shapes, objects, animals, or people. Many cultures over time had personal beliefs on how different constellations were formed or mythical tales about what shape, animal object, or person they appeared to look like. Scientists also played a large part and a more scientifically correct part in improving our understanding of constellations. Galileo Galilei, as an example first used an optical telescope systematically, and with that discovered numerous constellations. Long ago, it was a Greek belief that Zeus put a huge lion in the sky, and it lived in the city of Nemea.
The lion terrorized the people in that area who had tried to kill him numerous times unsuccessfully. Heracles (known to us as Hercules) was ordered by the king to kill the lion. When he reached the place where the beast lived, Heracles thought that all of his weapons were no good against the lion. He strangled the lion to death using his hands instead. Heracles then used the lion’s pelt as a coat and the head as a helmet.
Leo is one of the oldest constellation in the sky. “Archaeological evidence suggests that Mesopotamians had a constellation similar to Leo as early as 400Bc.” The Navajo believe that the Milky Way was a result of ‘coyote’ the God. The holy people gathered around Black God to put the stars in the night skies. Coyote got frustrated with how long this was taking. When he got angry, he placed a red star named Maiio, in the southern sky. Maiio means the one who roams.
It represents Coyote and only shows itself for a short time each year. The Navajo believe it means trouble. Coyote was still annoyed at how long the Holy people were taking and threw a bag of stars over his head in frustration, forming the Milky Way.
The ancient Greek recognized the constellation Scorpius, and believed it was an image of a scorpion. The hunter constellation Orion, is related to Scorpius’ tales. There were lots of different stories about Orion’s death. One story involved Orion wanting to kill the earth’s wild animals. The Earths goddess ‘Gaia’ was not exactly a fan of his intentions, and sent a giant scorpion to attack Orion. Orion failed to defeat the scorpion, and when he tried to escape, the scorpion stung him to death with his tail.
As a reward, Gaia placed the scorpions image in the night skies. If you look at the constellation, it appears that Scorpius is chasing after Orion. Constellations have been mentioned in all types of cultures and civilizations throughout the world, but they are particularly present in Greek Mythology. Through observing the night sky, we have been able to identify and name certain groups of bright stars which later became our constellations. Many, and probably most of the constellations that we are familiar with today have been derived from Greek culture.
The Greek people also identified the 12 solar star signs which include the; Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.