Astronomy and Star Lore Links
updated August 2003
My very most favourite site is Astronomy Picture of the Day. There is so much to learn in this site from NASA in an esay, relaxed way. There are awesome pictures of galaxies or nebula or other phenomenon some days, historical or educational pictures other days. Always interesting and always links if you want to learn more.
For viewing the night sky in the Northern Hemisphere, I really like 365 Starry Nights An introduction to astronomy for every night of the year by Chet Raymo
I have an edition that was published in 1982, but there is a later edition with more pages.
Terence Dickinsen also has a lovely book, Night Watch A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe which gives a lot of information for beginners to the field of astronomy including a section on how to select a telescope for backyard viewing. He has photographed most of the wonderful illustrations himself.
For star lore I'd recommend Catherine Tennant's Box of Stars. In the box, there is a book that tells the legends and origins of the constellations, two sky maps and cards with illustrations of the constellations. In my opinion, many of these illustrations are ugly - much more attractive ones have been made (see exhibition of celestial atlases mentioned below - but a nice thing about these cards is that they have holes punched in them for the star locations, brighter stars have larger holes and so you can get a good idea of what to look for on a dark and starry night.
Then there are several sites for star lore mentioned below.
Astronomy Sites - General
- Solar System (National Geographic)
- Stars (National Geographic)
- Star Map for the date and location you specify
- Thursday's Classroom This is a fascinating page for children by NASA. I highly recommend it. I like learning from kid's pages because the language is so understandable.
Suitable for Children
but I, too, often find interesting stuff on these sites.
Star Lore from our own and other cultures
I first became interested in this subject when I worked in Botswana and the nights were almost always clear. I would lie out in my courtyard watching the brilliant southern sky. In my office, I found a simple child's book about the stars and I was hooked. I wish I had written down more of what I learned about the star lore of Botswana. I remember that when Venus is the Morning Star, the Setswana name for it translates (I paraphrase): "Kiss me, I have to leave now."
This starmap from Philippe Lattire's Planisphere Celeste (1705) was part of the exhibition mentioned above:
Out of This World: The Golden Age of the Celestial Atlas
Constellations shown are Cepheus, the King; Cassiopeia, his Queen;
Andromeda, their daughter, chained as a sacrifice to Cetus (not shown); and Perseus, the hero who rescues the princess.
- Cathy Bell briefly tells the myths of the 27 major constelations at her site. (These are: *Andromeda: the princess, *Aquarius: the water carrier, *Aries: the ram of the golden fleece, *Cancer: the crab who harassed Hercules, *Capricornus: the sea goat (Bacchus), *Cassiopeia: the queen, *Cepheus: the king of Ethiopia (husband of Cassiopeia and father of Andromeda), *Cetus: the whale, the monster to whom Andromeda was sacrificed but who was killed by Perseus, *Corona Borealis: the northern crown (of Ariadne), *Cygnus: the swan, *Draco: the dragon, *Eridanus: the river, *Gemini: the twins, *Hercules, *Hydra: the water snake, *Leo: the lion, *Libra, the scales of Virgo, *Lyra: the lyre, *Orion: the hunter, *Perseus (who wins Andromeda as his wife), *Pisces: the fish, *Sagittarius: the archer (a centaur), *Scorpius: the scorpion, *Taurus: the bull, *Ursa Major: the great (mother) bear, *Ursa Minor: the lesser bear (son), and *Virgo: the virgin, the spirit of justice.)
- If you go to the Encyclopedia Mythica, you can search on "constellation" to find some short stories of constellations.
- Myth*ing Links/Common Themes: Star Lore and Astronomy Kathleen Jenks has an annotated list that will direct you to many interesting sites. Well worth exploring. Many of my links were found from her site.
- Lakota Star Knowledge
- Astronomy in Japan This site by Steve Renshaw and Saori Ihara is scholarly and, in my opinion, difficult to read but there are some interesting stories:
- Orihime and Kengyuu a legend that involves Altair, Vega and the Milky Way. The emperor's daughter, Orihime (Vega), weaves beautiful clothes for her father. She is allowed to marry Kengyuu (Altair) but their marriage is so happy that Orihime neglects her weaving and her father separates the couple only allowing them to visit across the Milky Way once a year. The moon is the boatman that ferries Orihime across the Milky Way on the seventh day of the seventh month.
- Orion is seen as a variety of instruments (music, agriculture, fishing, construction, weaving), as kimono sleeves, historical events or markers for the planting of rice or millet as well as characters in stories. The stories illustrate and reinforce values rather than tell the exploits of gods as in the Greek myths.
- Subaru is a common name in Japan for the Pleiades.
- Urania, the muse of astronomy.
- Here is an interesting page on Astronomy in the Bible from the Catholic Encyclopedia. It's not easy reading, though.
- Other Biblical stuff: The Christmas Star
- Michael R. Molnar wrote a book called The Star of Bethlehem. There's interesting information on his findings at this site. He says the star was Jupiter.
- Nick Strobel summaries several possibilities at his site: Star of Bethlehem.
Star Lore sites
Comments and/or suggestions (maybe more links?) are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
My own pages:
Copyright© 2002 by Martha Greenhow
Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada