« PreviousContinue »
There are a number of other stars of the 3d and 4th magnitudes in this constellation, which require no description, as the scholar will easily trace them out from the map. The position of Regulus and Denebola are often referred to in the geography of the heavens, as they serve to point out other clusters in the same neighbourhood.
HISTORY.-According to Greek fable, this Lion represents the formidable ani, mal which infested the forests of Nemæa. It was slain by Hercules, and placed by Jupiter among the stars in commemoration of the dreadful conflict. Some writers have applied the story of the twelve labours of Hercules to the progress of the sun through the twelve signs of the ecliptic; and as the combat of that celebrated hero with the Lion was his first labour, they have placed Leo as the first sign. The figure of the Lion was, however, on the Egyptian charts long before the invention of the fables of Hercules. It would seein, moreover, ac cording to the fable itself, that Hercules, who represented the sun, actually slew the Nemean Lion, because Leo was already a zodiacal sign.
In hieroglyphical writing, the Lion was an emblem of violence and fury; and the representation of this animal in the Zodiac, signified the intense heat occa sioned by the sun when it entered that part of the ecliptic. The Egyptians were much annoyed by lions during the heat of summer, as they at that season, left the desert, and hunted the banks of the Nile, which had then reached its greatest elevation. It was therefore natural for their astronomers to place the Lion where we find him in the zodiac.
The figure of Leo, very much as we now have it, is in all the Indian and Egyp tian Zodiacs. The overflowing of the Nile, which was regularly and anxiously expected every year by the Egyptians, took place when the sun was in this sign. They therefore paid more attention to it, it is to be presumed, than to any other. This was the principal reason. Mr. Green supposes, why Leo stands first in the zodiacs of Dendera.
The circular zodiac, mentioned in our account of Aries, and which adorned the ceiling in one of the inner rooms in the famous temple in that city, was brought away en masse in 1821, and removed to Paris. On its arrival at the Louvre, it was purchased by the king for 150,000 francs, and, after being exhibited there for a year, was placed in one of the halls of the library, where it is now to be seen in apparently perfect preservation. This most interesting relic of astrology, after being cut away from the ruins where it was found, is about one foot thick, and eight feet square. The rock of which it is composed, is sandstone. On the face of this stone, appears a large square, enclosing a circle four feet in diameter, in which are arranged in an irregular spiral line, the zodiacal constellations, commencing with the sign Leo. On each side of this spiral line are placed a great variety of figures. These are supposed to represent other constellations, though they bear no analogy, in form, to those which we now have. Many of these figures are accompanied with hieroglyphics, which probably express their names. The commentator of Champollion, from whom we have derived many interesting facts in relation to them, has furnished merely a general history of their origin and purpose, but does not add particulars. Copies of these drawings and characters, have been exhibited in this country, and the wonderful conclusions that have been drawn from them, have excited much astonishment.
Compared with our present planispheres, or with stellar phenomena, it abounds with contradictory and irrelevant matter. So far from proving what was strenu ously maintained by infidel writers, soon after its discovery, that the Greeks took from it the model of their zodiac, which they have transmitted to us, it seems to demonstrate directly the reverse. The twelve signs, it is true, are there. but they are not in their proper places. Cancer is between Leo and the pole; Virgo bears no proportion to the rest; some of the signs are placed double ; they are all out of the ecliptic, and by no means occupy those regular and equal portions of space which Egyptian astronomers are said to have exactly measured by means of their clepsydra.
The figures, without what may be termed the zodiacal circle, could never have included the same stars in the heavens which are now circumscribed by the figures of the constellations. Professor Green is of opinion, that the small apartment in the ruins of Dendera, which was mysteriously ceiled with this zodiac, was used for the purposes of judicial astrology, and that the sculptured figures upon it were employed in horoscopical predictions, and in that casting of nativities for which the Egyptians were so famous.
Why is the position of Regulus and Denebola often referred to?
In the Hebrew Zodiac, Leo is assigned to Judah, on whose standard, according to all traditions, a Lion is painted. This is clearly intimated in numerous passages of the Hebrew writings: Ex.-"Judah is a Lion's whelp; he stoopeth down he croucheth as a Lion; and as an old Lion; who shall rouse him up ?" Gen. xlix. 9. "The Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed." Rev. v. 5.
THE LITTLE LION.-This constellation was formed by Hevelius, out of the Stella informes, or unformed stars of the ancients, which lay scattered between the Zodiacal constellation Leo, on the S. and Ursa Major, on the N. Its mean right ascension is the same with that of Regulus, and it comes to the meridian at the same time on the 6th of April.
The modern constellations, or those which have been added to our celestial maps since the adoption of the Greek notation, in 1603, are referred to by the letters of the English alphabet, instead of the Greek. This is the case in regard to Leo Minor, and all other constellations whose origin is subsequent to that period.
Leo Minor contains 53 stars, including only one of the 3d magnitude, and 5 of the 4th. The principal star is situated in the body of the animal, 13° N. of Gamma Leonis,* in a straight line with Phad, and may be known by a group of smaller stars, a little above it on the N. W.
It forms an equilateral triangle with Gamma and Delta Leonis, the vertex being in Leo Minor. This star is marked with the letter l, in modern catalogues, and being the principal representative of the constellation, is itself sometimes called the Little Lion: 8° E. of this star (the Little Lion) are two stars of the 4th magnitude, in the last paw of Ursa Major, and about 10° N. W. of it, are two other stars of the 3d magnitude, in the first hind paw.
"The Smaller Lion now succeeds; a cohort
Offifty stars attend his steps;
And three, to sight unarm'd, invisible."
THE SEXTANT, called also URANIA'S SEXTANT,† is a modern constellation that Hevelius made out of the unformed stars of the ancients, which lay scattered between the Lion, on the N., and Hydra, on the S.
It contains 41 very small stars, including only one as large
Leonis is the genitive, or possessive case of Leo, and Gamma Leonis means the Gamma of Leo. Thus also the principal star in Aries is marked Alpha Arietis, meaning the Alpha of Aries, &c.
Urania was one of the muses, and daughter of Jupiter and Mnemosyne. She presided over astronomy. She was represented as a young virgin, dressed in an azurecoloured robe, crowned with stars, holding a robe in her hands, and having many mathematical instruments about her.
What is the origin of Leo Minor, and how is it situated? What is its mean right ascension? When is it on the meridian? What are the number and magnitude of its stars? What is the position of the principal star in this constellation, and how may it be known? What figure does it form with some other stars? What letter represents this star, and what else is it called? What nebula do we find in this constellation? What are the origin and position of the Sextant? How many stars does it contain?
as the 4th magnitude. This is situated very near the equinoctial, 13° S. of Regulus, and comes to the meridian about the same time on the 6th of April. The other stars in this constellation are too small to engage attention. A few of the largest of them may be traced out from the map.
HISTORY.-A Sextant, in mathematics, is the sixth part of a circle, or an arch comprehending 60 degrees. But the term is more particularly used to denote an astronomical instrument well known to mariners. Its use is the same as that of the quadrant; namely, to measure the angular distance, and take the altitude of the sun, moon, planets, and fixed stars. It is indispensable to the mariner in finding the latitude and longitude at sea, and should be in the hands of every surveyor and practical engineer. It may serve the purpose of a theodolite, in measuring inaccessible heights and distances. It may gratify the young pupil to know, that by means of such an instrument, well adjusted, and with a clear eye and a steady hand, he could readily tell, within a few hundred yards, how far north or south of the equator he was, and that from any quarter of the world, known or unknown. This constellation is so called, on account of a supposed resemblance to this instrument.
HYDRA AND THE CUP.
HYDRA, THE WATER SERPENT, is an extensive constellation, winding from E. to W. in a serpentine direction, over a space of more than 100 degrees in length. It lies south of Cancer, Leo, and Virgo, and reaches almost from Canis Minor to Libra. It contains sixty stars, including one of the 2d magnitude, three of the 3d, and twelve of the 4th.
Alphard, or Cor Hydra, in the heart, is a lone star of the 2d magnitude, 23° S. S. W. of Regulus, and comes to the meridian at the same time with Lambda, in the point of the sickle, about 20 minutes before 9 o'clock on the 1st of April. There is no other considerable star near it, for which it can be mistaken. An imaginary line drawn from Gamma Leonis through Regulus, will point out Cor Hydræ, at the distance of 230.
The head of Hydra may be distinguished by means of four stars of the 4th magnitude, 240 and 4° apart, situated 6° S. of Acubens, and forming a rhomboidal figure. The three upper stars in this cluster, form a small arch, and may be known by two very small stars just below the middle one, making with it a very small triangle. The three western stars in the head, also make a beautiful little triangle. The eastern star in this group, marked Zeta, is about 60 directly S. of Acubens, and culminates at the same time.
When Alphard is on the meridian, Alkes, of the 4th magnitude, situated in the bottom of the Cup, may be seen 24°
What is the position of the largest one? Describe the situation and extent of the constellation Hydra. What are the number and magnitude of its stars? Describe the position and magnitude of Alphard. What are the distance and direction of Cor Hydræ from Gamma Leonis? How may the head of Hydra be distinguished? How may the three upper stars in this cluster be known? Which stars form a beautiful little, triangle? How is Alkes situated, and when may it be seen?
S. E. of it, and is distinguished by its forming an equilateral triangle with Beta and Gamma, stars of the same magnitude, 6° S. and E. of it. Alkes is common both to Hydra and 'the Cup. Beta, on the S., is in Hydra, and Gamma, on the N. E., is near the middle of the Cup. A line drawn from Zozma, through Theta Leonis, and continued 3810 directly S. will reach Beta; it is therefore on the same meridian, and will culminate at the same time on the 23d of April.
The Cup itself, called also the Crater, may be easily distinguished by means of six stars of the 4th magnitude, forming a beautiful crescent, or semicircle, opening to the W. The centre of this group is about 15° below the equinoctial, and directly S. of the hinder feet of Leo. The crescent form of the stars in the Cup is so striking and well defined, when the moon is absent, that no other description is necessary to point them out. Its centre comes to the meridian about two hours after Alphard, on the same evening; and consequently, it culminates at 9 o'clock, one month after Alphard does. The remainder of the stars in this constellation may be easily traced by aid of the map.
When the head of Hydra is on the meridian, its other extremity is many degrees below the horizon, so that its whole length cannot be traced out in the heavens until its centre, or the Cup, is on the meridian.
"Near the equator rolls
O'er the long track of his enormous spires:
But emulous to gain the first."-Eudosia.
HISTORY.-The astrologers of the east, in dividing the celestial nosts into vari. ous compartments, assigned a popular and allegorical meaning to each. Thus the sign Leo, which passes the meridian about midnight, when the sun is in Pisces, was called the House of the Lions, Leo being the domicil of Sol.
The introduction of two serpents into the constellations of the ancients, had its origin, it is supposed, in the circumstances that the polar one represented the oblique course of the stars, while the Hydra, or Great Snake, in the southern hemisphere, symbolized the moon's course: hence the Nodes are called the Dragon's head and tail, to this day.
The hydra was a terrible monster, which, according to mythologists, infested the neighbourhood of the lake Lerna, in the Peloponnesus. It had a hundred heads, according to Diodorus; fifty, according to Simonides; and nine, according to the more commonly received opinion of Apollodorus, Hyginus, and others. As soon as one of these heads was cut off, two immediately grew up if the wound was not stopped by fire.
If Alkes be situated in the Cup, why is it also included in Hydra? How are the other two stars that make a triangle with Alkes, situated? How is Beta situated with respect to Zozma and Theta Leonis? When is Beta on the meridian? How may the Cup be distinguished? How is the centre of this group situated with respect to Leo and the equinoctial? What single circumstance is sufficient to designate the stars in the Cup? When is it on the meridian? When the head of Hydra is on the meridian, where is the other extremity of the constellation?
"Art thou proportion'd to the hydra's length,
Who, by his wounds, received augmented strength?
When one I lopp'd, up sprang a dreadful pair."
To destroy this dreadful monster, was one of the labours of Hercules, and this he easily effected with the assistance of Jolaus, who applied a burning iron to the wounds as soon as one head was cut off. While Hercules was destroying the hydra, Juno, jealous of his glory, sent a sea-crab to bite his foot. This new enemy was soon despatched; and Juno was unable to succeed in her attempts to lessen the fame of Hercules. The conqueror dipped his arrows in the gall of the hydra, which ever after rendered the wounds inflicted with them incurable and mortal.
This fable of the many-headed hydra may be understood to mean nothing more than that the marshes of Lerna were infested with a multitude of serpents, which seemed to multiply as fast as they were destroyed.
DIRECTIONS FOR TRACING THE CONSTELLATIONS WHICH ARE ON THE MERIDIAN IN MAY.
THE GREAT BEAR.-This great constellation is situated between Ursa Minor on the north, and Leo Minor on the south. It is one of the most noted and conspicuous in the northern hemisphere. It has been an object of universal observation in all ages of the world. The priests of Belus, and the Magi of Persia; the shepherds of Chaldea, and the Phœnician navigators, seem to have been equally struck with its peculiar outlines. And it is somewhat remarkable that a remote nation of American aborigines, the Iroquois, and the earliest Arabs of Asia, should have given to the very same constellation the name of "Great Bear," when there had probably never been any communication between them; and when the name itself is so perfectly arbitrary, there being no resemblance whatever to a bear, or to any other animal.
It is readily distinguished from all others by means of a remarkable cluster of seven bright stars, forming what is familiarly termed the Dipper, or Ladle. In some parts of England it is called "Charles's Wain," or wagon, from its fancied resemblance to a wagon drawn by three horses in a line. Others call it the Plough. The cluster, however, is more frequently put for the whole constellation, and called, simply, the Great Bear. But we see no reason to reject the
How is Ursa Major situated? How has it always been regarded? What people seem to have been peculiarly struck with its splendour? What remarkable circumstance respecting its name? Is there any resemblance between the cutlines of this constellation and the figure of a bear? By what is this constellation readily distinguished from all others? By what other names is the Dipper called? What is this cluster more frequently called?