Aurora

The Gates of Dawn Herbert James Draper (1864–1920) ‘Far in the crimsoning east wakeful Dawn threw wide the shining doors of her rosefilled chambers’ wrote Ovid in the Metamorphoses, and that’s what we see her doing in the painting above by the English artist Herbert James Draper.   Aurora was the Roman goddess of the dawn […]

The Milky Way

The Milky Way is not, of course, a constellation, but a band of faint light crossing the sky, consisting of countless distant stars. Aratus wrote of the sky being ‘cleft all around by a broad band’ which he called Γάλα (Gala, the Greek for milk). Eratosthenes called it Κύκλος Γαλαξίας (Kýklos Galaxías), the circle of milk. Ptolemy in the Almagest spelled […]

Vulpecula – The Fox

Genitive: Vulpeculae Abbreviation: Vul Size ranking: 55th Origin: The seven constellations of Johannes Hevelius   A constellation introduced in 1687 by the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius, who depicted it as a double figure of a fox, Vulpecula, carrying in its jaws a goose, Anser. Since then the goose has flown (or been eaten), leaving just the fox. Hevelius placed the […]

Volans – The Flying Fish

Genitive: Volantis Abbreviation: Vol Size ranking: 76th Origin: The 12 southern constellations of Keyser and de Houtman   One of the 12 new constellations introduced at the end of the 16th century by the Dutch navigators Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman. Volans represents a real type of fish found in tropical waters that can leap out of the […]

Virgo – The Virgin

Genitive: Virginis Abbreviation: Vir Size ranking: 2nd Origin: One of the 48 Greek constellations listed by Ptolemy in the Almagest Greek name: Παρθένος (Parthenos)   Virgo is the second-largest constellation in the sky, exceeded only by the much fainter Hydra. The Greeks called the constellation Παρθένος (Parthenos), which is the name Ptolemy gave in the Almagest. She is usually identified as Dike, goddess of justice, […]