NCNatural Digest's Summer Skies Guide

The Summer Sky

"Man Before The Infinite" (El Hombre ante el Infinito)
by Rufino Tamayo, 1950

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Summer skies display a wealth of interesting features. The Big and Little Dippers are clearly visible all night spinning around the pole star, Polaris. In the south, Scorpius and Sagittarius are easily visible. On July 4th, Jupiter will be at opposition (directly opposite the sky from the sun) in Sagittarius. In the early part of the summer, the constellation Boötes, with the sky's 4th brightest star, Arcturus, will be directly overhead in the early part of the night. Later in the summer, the bright stars Altair, Vega and Deneb, forming the summer triangle, will be overhead. The Milky Way is displayed most prominently in the latter part of the summer. August should be a good month for viewing meteors.

Sky Mythology

The Navajo see the stars as friendly beings. One of their stories says that the stars were ordered by "Black God", also known as "Fire God". Black God had a fawn skin pouch of crystals for making stars. He carefull placed the stars including the pole star, "the campfire of the heavens", and Revolving Male (Ursa Major) and Revolving Female (Ursa Minor and part of Cassiopeia). After he placed the star groups, he had to furnish each group with an igniter star. After ordering the stars and igniters, he sprinkled the heavens with fine crystal chips to create the Milky Way. The Milky Way is most easily visible throughout the summer months.Eventually, Coyote, the trickster in Native American mytholgy, came along. Coyote complained because he hadn't been consulted about the placement of the stars. He grabbed the pouch of crystals and blew the contents across the sky confusing all the patterns. There are many interpretations of the sky among Native Americans and there is no single interpretation.

The star names we use today come to us from the Greeks, by way of the Romans, and by far the best documented and richest star stories are the Greek myths. Many of the important figures of Greek mythology have their home in the stars. To the Greeks, night was the goddess, Nyx, the first born of Chaos. Nyx mated with Erubus and gave birth to Aether, the upper air, and Hemera, the day. Nyx lives in Tartarus, a place deep beneath the Earth and appears in our world each day as Hemera returns to Tartarus.

The stories associated with the Greek/Roman constellations and other miscellaneous information, are summarized according to their locations in the sky on the following pages.

Constellations in the northern part of the sky.

Links; General Astronomy

ASTRONOMY Magazine
Sky Online - SKY & TELESCOPE MAGAZINE
NASA Spacelink - An Electronic Information System for Educators
GalacticSky Charts
Izzy's Skylog
Constellations (by month)
History of Astronomy
Skywatcher's Diary
Comets & Meteors
New Star Gazers Home Page

Archeoastronomy & Mythology

Archeoastronomy
Aboriginal Star Knowledge

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