Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/537

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519
ASTRONOMY WITH AN OPERA-GLASS.

as that of the Thetas, described above; but I think it improbable that anybody could separate them with the naked eye, as there is a full magnitude between them in brightness, and the smaller star is only of magnitude 6·5, while sixth-magnitude stars are generally reckoned as the smallest that can be seen by the naked eye. Above the Kappas, and in the same group in the ear, are the two Upsilons, forming a wider pair.

Next we come to the Pleiades.

"Though small their size and pale their light, wide is their fame."

In every age and in every country the Pleiades have been watched, admired, and wondered at, for they are visible from every inhabited land on the globe. To many they are popularly known as the Seven Stars, although few persons can see more than six stars in the group with the unaided eye. It is a singular fact that many of the earliest writers declare that only six Pleiades can be seen, although they all assert that they are seven in number. These seven were the fabled daughters of Atlas, or the Atlantides, whose names were Merope, Alcyone, Celæno, Electra, Taygeta, Asterope, and Maia. One of the stories connected with them is that Merope married a mortal, whereupon her star grew dim among her sisters. Another fable assures us that Electra, unable to endure the sight of the burning of Troy, hid her face in her hands, and so blotted her star from the sky. While we may smile at these stories, we can not entirely disregard them, for they are intermingled with some of the richest literary treasures of the world, and they come to us, like some old keepsake, fragrant with the perfume of a past age. The mythological history of the Pleiades is intensely interesting, too, because it is world wide. They have impressed their mark, in one way or another, upon the habits, customs, traditions, language, and history of probably every nation. This is true of savage tribes as well as of great empires. The Pleiades furnish one of the principal links that appear to connect the beginnings of human history with that wonderful prehistoric past, where, as through a gulf of mist, we seem to perceive faintly the glow of a golden age beyond. The connection of the Pleiades with traditions of the Flood is most remarkable. In almost every part of the world, and in various ages, the celebration of a feast or festival of the dead, dimly connected by tradition with some great calamity to the human race in the past, has been found to be directly related to the Pleiades. This festival or rite, which has been discovered in various forms among the ancient Hindoos, Egyptians, Persians, Peruvians, Mexicans, Druids, etc., occurs always in the month of November, and is regulated by the culmination of the Pleiades. The Egyptians directly connected this celebration with a deluge, and the Mexicans, at the time of the Spanish conquest, had a tradition that the world had once been destroyed at the time of the midnight culmination of the Pleiades. Among the