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By Jupiter!

A blog about the stars, astronomy gifts, and other starry musings by the folks behind Indigo Night.

Tail Of The Lion

by Van Wymelenberg
August 13, 2009

Another name on the short list for the F9 is Denebola. From the Arabic Al Dhanab al Asad, the Tail of the Lion. This project has taken on a kind of unwieldy leonine gestalt, certainly, as pretty much every boat restoration project I have ever been involved in has. A bit like grabbing the tail of a great lion and hanging on. I think she’ll sail like that too.

Leo is one of the few constellations that actually looks like its name, and there is Denebola, out there, the tip of the tail, near the boundary with Virgo.

The sky tonight shows a bright crescent moon low in the west with Regulus, the ‘heart of the Lion,’ and Saturn. Regulus is to the right of the moon. Saturn shows upper left. Denebola lights above Saturn, one of two somewhat fainter stars, the other being Zosma, the ‘rump’ of the lion.

about 10 PM viewing w, HA Reys Leo with Denebola, the tail, and Zosma, the rump.

Incidentally, this stick drawing of Leo is from the Rey’s configuration. (HA Rey – yes, he’s the guy that illustrated the Curious George books.) These stick figures represent Rey’s take on the most easily identifiable pattern for a given constellation. He re-connected the dots in his own way… that the stick figure shape would more meaningfully reflect the mythology. Rey’s constellation Leo looks like a lion. (The image below is from the other common system.)

I bring this up because Rey’s lion stands upright, striding across the vast dome of night. Older systems of drawing the constellation had the lion resting, the classic ‘steps of the library’ pose. Perhaps this is how Regulus came to be called the ‘heart’ of the lion, as this is where that beautiful 1st magnitude star is located in older illustrations.

Regulus is also one the Four Guardians of Heaven, with Fomalhuat, Aldebaran and Antares. These stars were probably used to mark early equinoxes and solstices, their right ascensions being about 6 hours apart.

The sun was in Leo at the time of the solstice when early creation mythologies were first being written, and the solstice was of great importance, representing the victory of light over dark. It was a time of renewal – when the Nile flooded, (and the lions came out of the desert) and Sirius’ heliacal rising indicated the time for planting, and the beginning of a new year. 26 June

The Rising Solar System

by Van Wymelenberg
August 13, 2009

Here is a beautiful image, before dawn, of the moonrise with Mercury, Venus, Mars and the Pleiades, the beautiful Taurus open star cluster. Under those dark New Mexico skies.

See the full size image on photographer Elias Jordan’s Flickr photostream The image (on Flickr) has notes identifying the objects. Very cool. Best viewed large.

Moonrise with Venus

by Van Wymelenberg
August 13, 2009

Clear skies this morning. I managed to get out for an early observation of the beautiful moonrise with Venus and Mars. It always surprises me that these objects have enough light to cast a faint shadow in the first light of false dawn.

All three objects are grouped in constellation Aries. Hamel, the alpha star or lucida of the Ram, was clearly visible this morning with Shearatan, above the crescent moon.

This year, the summer, or northern, solstice occurs at 4am, eastern time, this coming Sunday, June 21, when the sun reaches its northernmost extreme.

Solstice from the Latin Sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). The arc of a great celestial pendulum pauses for the briefest moment (at 23.44° north, the ‘Tropic of Cancer’) and then begins its slow journey south. Longest day for sunlight, about 15 hours at my locations, about 38° north. 19 June

Morning Star With Crescent Moon

by Van Wymelenberg
August 13, 2009

Check the weather. If you have clear skies tomorrow morning I suggest you get up in the waning darkness before dawn and find a clear view of the east horizon. A slender crescent moon will stand low with radiant Venus, the beautiful ‘Morning Star,’ and Mars. All will be grouped amid the faint stars of Aries.

The crescent moon, rising with slow majesty in the fading twilight, framed against a horizon that offers us human scale by way of contrast – for me it’s the treeline along Foster’s Branch Creek (mostly Poplar) and Mr Norford’s pastures with that long, long winding fence along the road I walk – offers a deep and abiding affirmation. This is a good way to start a day. 18 June


by Van Wymelenberg
August 13, 2009

I think of possible names for our F9 on my morning walks. This is a little harder to do in June since the sun rises so early now, and I don’t see the morning stars unless I get out at before dawn. Like 4 am. Of course, the boat has to be named after a constellation or star. A 31 foot trimaran, well along in its ridiculously lengthy reconstruction, she has a shape that suggests the constellation Cygnus, the Swan, with its long, full main hull – the body of the swan – and its outstretched wings, or amas.


In full flight down the majestic Stream of Heaven – the Milky Way – the stars of Cygnus form a large cross, easily visible even against that enveloping brightness. The long arm of the cross is formed by the bright alpha star Deneb, at the tail, and fainter Albireo, at the head. The gentle arc of the inner wingspan, most easily seen in naked-eye observation, is made up of fainter Gienah, Sadr, and the delta star, at magnitude 2.84

Cygnus is also known as the ‘Northern Cross,’ because of it’s obvious cross shape.

Before the modern system of 88 constellations was adapted by the International Astronomical Union in 1922, there were a number of variations on way the night sky was charted, among them a ‘Christianized’ system, in the mid 1600s, that named this pattern in the sky Saint Helena’s Cross. Saint Helena, according to tradition, found the one true cross on which Jesus had died… it having been lost for some 300 years. And there is also the fact that Cygnus appears upright in the night sky, like the Christian cross, or crucifix, around the time of Christmas. A divine sign in some belief systems.

Cygnus, detail of ceiling fresco Cosmography of the Sala del Mappamondo, Villa Farnee

Deneb is also one of the three shining stellar corners, with Vega and Altair, of the beautiful ‘Summer Triangle,’ one of the easiest asterisms to identify, bright at the zenith on summer nights in the northern latitudes.

The sky tonight. Saturn lights low in the west at nightfall amid the stars of the Lion, constellation Leo. Regulus, heart of the Lion, shows close, toward the horizon. Leo sets around midnight while Scorpius, the dominant constellation of summer, also shows low, a bit south of east, now rising. Brilliant Jupiter rises after midnight in faint Capricornus. A last quarter moon rises in Pisces well after midnight, followed mid-morning, 3ish, with the beautiful conjunction of Venus and Mars, now in Aries. Mercury is just visible, near the horizon, in deep morning twilight, in Taurus. 15 June


Just Because

The night sky print which arrives for no particular reason, other than to celebrate the gift of love that is your beloved, is cherished like no other.


Each of us has a story that begins in a single moment. Poets and philosophers from Shakespeare to Tennyson, from Moore to Jung, share a common fascination with the night sky at the moment of birth, and the idea that the moon and stars stand in timeless, silent witness to this moment.

Wedding Anniversaries

The night sky print, showing the moon and stars just as they appeared on the night you met, the moment of your first kiss, or your wedding night, is an exceptional anniversary gift. Appropriate for any year, especially so for the 1st anniversary, the year of the ‘paper’ gift.

New Baby

The night sky print, showing the moon and stars just as they appeared on the child’s first starry night, with your words – funny, wise, sweet, hopeful, perhaps a favorite quote from a story or song – makes a beautiful keepsake.

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