A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2017 Feb 28, 15:40 -0800
Tony Oz you wrote:
"and Pleiades (we call them "Стожары")"
Interesting. I have never heard that one. Do you know the Japanese name? It's "Subaru". There's a brand of automobile called Subaru, and there is sometimes confusion over this. A large telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii is also named Subaru, and occasionally people hear about this and imagine that naming rights have been purhased by the car company --as if a noble scientific observatory is no better than a football stadium-- and get all hot and bothered about it.
Anyone can learn the constellations. Absolutely anyone! If you have become convinced that you can't find them because they don't look like the things they're supposed to, then you're doing it wrong. :) For example, does the constellation Lyra look like a lyre (a small harp)? No. Not a bit, and it doesn't matter --forget about the lyre. It looks like an equilateral triangle attached to a parellelogram, and once you know it that way, you can see it every time. Similarly, Sagittarius looks nothing like a centaur-archer, but it looks very much like a teapot. And Bootes is an ice cream cone. And Pegasus is a baseball diamond (or at least a square) and not a flying horse In a bizarre twist, the constellation Leo looks quite a lot like a lion, once it has been pointed out to you, but if you can't see that, you can surely see the "sickle" curving up from Regulus. For the best cases of constellations exactly resembling the things they are supposed to be, look no further than Triangulum, in the northern sky, and Triangulum Astrale in the south. I saw Triangulum last night and thought to myself, "Three stars arranged perfectly like a triangle. No wonder they named it Triangulum!" Certainly no other set of three stars in the northern sky does such a good job of resembling an actual triangle. Quite amazing. Stunningly triangular I have to say.
Speaking of Leo, Robin Stuart mentioned the star Denebola, and it's an example of a star name where a bit of Arabic goes a long way. There are three official star names with "deneb" in them: Denebola, Deneb, and Deneb Algedi. The word means "tail" and in each case the star is at the tail end of the pattern you're supposed to see. There's also the star Deneb Kaitos which navigators know better as Diphda (now the official IAU-sanctioned name, too). Deneb Kaitos sounds better in English: it's "tail of the whale". How it got to be Diphda, meaning "frog", instead, well, that's probably a whale of a tale.