Learning New Stars: Arcturus

Here in the fall, I plan on getting outside and learn the names of the brightest stars in the sky.
Out of my front door, the first star I can see is a twinkly orange-white star low in the sky.  It is called Arcturus. 

It’s in the constellation called Bootes.  Other names are the shepherd or herdsman.  This is a common character in world mythology.  I will add some stories to this post as I find them.

Ancient Greeks tell of the myth of Callisto, the beautiful nymph who had sworn a vow of chastity to the goddess Artemis. Zeus saw the nymph one day and fell in love. The two had a son, and named him Arcasarcascallisto.

Artemis had already banished Callisto when she had learned about the nymph’s pregnancy and broken vow, but it was Zeus’ jealous wife Hera, who was not amused by her husband’s philandering, who would do even more damage. Angered by Zeus’ betrayal, she turned Callisto into a bear.

Callisto lived as a bear for the next 15 years, roaming the forest and always running and hiding from hunters. One day, her own son Arcas was walking in the forest and the two came face to face. Callisto wanted to greet her own son warmly but at the sight of the bear, Arcas quickly drew his spear, scared.
Seeing the scene from Olympus, Zeus intervened to prevent disaster. He sent a whirlwind that carried both Callisto and Arcas into the heavens, where he turned Arcas into the constellation Bootes, the bear watcher, and Callisto into Ursa Major.   This only further infuriated Hera and she persuaded her foster parents Oceanus and Tethys never to let the bear bathe in the northern waters. This, according to the legend, is why Ursa Major never sets below the horizon in mid-northern latitudes.
This version of the myth comes from here.
Picture of constellations comes from here

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One Response to Learning New Stars: Arcturus

  1. Thank you for your link back to EarthSky.org

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