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Click here to read Stargazing Part 1

Not too long ago, all astrologers were astronomers, and the other way around! When was the last time you looked up into the night sky?

Let’s take a look at the late summer sky, starting in the west. We’ll travel along the ecliptic, the main highway for the Sun, Moon and planets, pointing out some special attractions. And then we’ll take a turn on the galactic super highway, the Milky Way.

Scorpio

As the season moves into late summer, the scorpion is making its last stand in the night sky for just a couple of hours after sunset. By the middle of October, when the Sun is closing in on the constellation, the stars of Scorpio will set with the Sun and we will no longer be able to see it. Look for the red star in the heart of the scorpion. Its ruddy hue gives it its name, Antares, which means “rival of Aries,” or Mars, the red planet. This star is four hundred light years away. Its light takes that long to reach us. A light year is how far light travels in a year. At 186,000 miles per second, that’s a big number, so astronomers talk in light years. Stargazing is a form of time travel!

Ophiuchus

Standing on the scorpion, with one foot on Antares, is Ophiuchus, the serpent charmer. A constellation well worth knowing, this powerful guy is wrestling or dancing with a huge snake—a boa constrictor or anaconda. His body makes a large rectangle rising up into the sky, topped by a head star named Rasalhague (Ras-al-HA-guay). Many star names are Arabic, named by Middle Eastern keepers of the star lore.

Serpens, a separate constellation, wraps around the middle of his body and stretches out on both sides, with its angular head reaching toward the circlet of the Northern Crown to the northwest. Ophiuchus is associated with Aesculapius, a great healer in Greek mythology.

Sagittarius

While Ophiuchus dances above the scorpion, the archer is located just to the east of the scorpion’s tail. First beginning to rise in the eastern night sky in late June, it is visible through the end of October. We think of Sagittarius as a centaur or equestrian archer shooting an arrow, but this constellation is easier to identify as a teapot! Remember the children’s song “I’m a Little Teapot?” This is it! The squat body of the teapot is a small rectangle sitting on its side, with a star on top, making a triangular lid. A curve of stars on the left shapes a handle, and one star to the right marks the spout. The archer extends down below and up around to the left of the teapot. The lid and stars on the right side of the teapot are its bow, and the spout star is the arrow tip, pointing right into the heart of the Milky Way galaxy.

The Milky Way

Pouring out of the teapot and streaming up beyond agittarius is the thick cream of the Milky Way. On a clear night with no Moon—try the last week in August—this river of stars is quite visible, a long cloud of stars rippling across the sky. Right off the tip of the Archer’s arrow is the direction of the galactic center. Imagine our galaxy shaped like a fried egg, sizzling in space. Our solar system is located well into the white of the egg, as if on the rural outskirts of the suburbs. When we look in between Scorpio and Sagittarius, we are looking into the juicy yolk, the heart of the big galactic city. There is so much stellar activity and dark cloudiness as we peer in, even our sophisticated instrumentation can’t see the center.

Some cultures, including the Mayans and contemporary Andean peoples, imagine figures in the black patches of the Milky Way. A mama and baby llama, a couple of partridges, a snake and a toad live there. A black fox is right in between Scorpio and Sagittarius. Can you see it? That takes a really good imagination! There runs the river of the Milky Way, as so many cultures through time have called it. Many native peoples believe that when we die, our souls cross this river and become stars, ancestors guiding our way.

As the world turns, the night sky changes through the seasons. The stars and constellations mark the hours of the night, the original clock. From sunset to sunrise, we can see nine or ten zodiac constellations and more than three-quarters of the whole sky. A highly-recommended book for beginners is The Stars: A New Way to See Them by H.A. Rey—a classic for stargazers of all ages.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

M. Kelley Hunter has studied the stars as an astrologer, mythologist and amateur astronomer for over 30 years. Co-founder of the Roots of Astrology experiential conferences, she is now astrologer-in-residence for the Omega Institute winter programs in the Caribbean. She leads star gazing nights and astrology workshops, and writes about the sky for various publications. She has mentored adult students at Norwich University and other colleges.

Send an email to the author.

For more information about Kelley Hunter, click here.

Other StarIQ articles by Kelley Hunter:

  • Tracking Orion the Hunter   1/4/2001
  • Locating Jupiter and Saturn: Astronomy for Astrologers   11/16/2000
  • Stargazing: Astronomy for Astrologers   7/15/2000
  • Y2K: How Real Is It?   11/23/1999

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