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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/65

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mendous truth that on a starry night we look, in every direction, into an almost endless vista of suns beyond suns and systems upon systems, was too overwhelming for comprehension by the inventors of the constellations. So they amused themselves, like imaginative children, as they were, by tracing the outlines of men and beasts formed by those pretty lights, the stars. They turned the starry heavens into a scroll filled with pictured stories of mythology. Four of the constellations with which we are going to deal in this article are particularly interesting on this account. They preserve in the stars, more lasting than parchment or stone, one of the oldest and most pleasing of all the romantic stories that have amused and inspired the minds of men—the story of Perseus and Andromeda—a better story than any that modern novelists have invented. The four constellations to which I have referred bear the names of Andromeda, Perseus, Cassiopeia, and Cepheus, and are sometimes called, collectively, the Royal Family. In the autumn they occupy a conspicuous position in the sky, forming a group that remains unrivaled until the rising of Orion with his imperial cortége. The reader will find them in our circular map, occupying the northeastern quarter of the heavens.

This map represents the visible heavens at about midnight on September 1st, ten o'clock p. m. on October 1st, and eight o'clock p. m. on November 1st. At this time the constellations that were near the meridian in summer will be found sinking in the west, Hercules being low in the northwest, with the brilliant Lyra and the head of Draco suspended above it; Aquila, "the eagle of the winds," soars high in the southwest; while the Cross of Cygnus is just west of the zenith; and Sagittarius, with its wealth of star-dust, is disappearing under the horizon in the southwest.

Far down in the south the observer catches the gleam of a bright lone star of the first magnitude, though not one of the largest of that class. It is Fomalhaut, in the mouth of the Southern Fish, Piscis Australis. A slight reddish tint will be perceived in the light of this beautiful star whose brilliancy is enhanced by the fact that it shines without a rival in that region of the sky. Fomalhaut is one of the important "nautical stars," and its position was long ago carefully computed for the benefit of mariners. The constellation of Piscis Australis, which will be found in our second map, does not possess much to interest us except its brilliant leading star. In consulting Map 2, the observer is supposed to be facing south, or slightly west of south, and he must remember that the upper part of the map reaches nearly to the zenith, while at the bottom it extends down to the horizon.

To the right, or west, of Fomalhaut, and higher up, is the constellation of Capricornus, very interesting on many accounts, though by no means a striking constellation to the unassisted eye. The stars Alpha (α), called Giedi, and Beta (β), called Dabih, will be readily