Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/72

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62
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Directly above Cetus is the long, straggling constellation of Pisces, the Fishes. The Northern Fish is represented by the group of stars near Andromeda and the Triangles. A long band or ribbon, supposed to bind the fish together, trends thence first southeast and then west until its joins a group of stars under Pegasus, which represents the Western Fish, not to be confounded with the Southern Fish described near the beginning of this article, which is a separate constellation. Fable has, however, somewhat confounded these fishes; for while, as I have remarked above, the Southern Fish is said to represent Venus after she had turned herself into a fish to escape from the giant Typhon, the two fishes of the constellation we are now dealing with are also fabled to represent Venus and her interesting son Cupid under the same disguise assumed on the same occasion. If Typhon, however, was so great a brute that even Cupid's arrows were of no avail against him, we should, perhaps, excuse mythology for duplicating the record of so wondrous an event.

You will find it very interesting to take your glass and, beginning with the attractive little group in the Northern Fish, follow the windings of the ribbon, with its wealth of little stars, to the Western Fish. When you have arrived at that point, sweep well over the sky in that neighborhood, and particularly around and under the stars Iota (ι), Theta (θ), Lambda (λ) and Kappa (κ). If you are using a powerful glass, you will be surprised and delighted by what you see. Below the star Omega (ω), and to the left of Lambda, is the place which the sun occupies at the time of the spring equinox—in other words, one of the two crossing-places of the equinoctial or the equator of the heavens, and the ecliptic, or the sun's path. The prime meridian of the heavens passes through this point.

To the left of Pisces, and above the head of Cetus, is the constellation Aries, or the Ram. Two pretty bright stars, four degrees apart, one of which has a fainter star near it, mark it out plainly to the eye. These stars are in the head of the Ram. The brightest one, Alpha (α) is called Arietis; Beta (β) is named Sheratan; and its fainter neighbor is Mesarthim. According to fable, this constellation represents the ram that wore the golden fleece, which was the object of the celebrated expedition of the Argonauts. There is not much in the constellation to interest us, except its historical importance, as it was more than two thousand years ago the leading constellation of the zodiac, and still stands first in the list of the zodiacal signs. Owing to the precession of the equinoxes, however, the vernal equinoctial point, which was formerly in this constellation, has now advanced into the constellation Pisces, as we saw above.

The little constellation of the Triangles, just above Aries, is worth only a passing notice. Insignificant as it appears, this little group is a very ancient constellation.

And now we come to the so-called "Royal Family." Although