The story of Cygnus the Swan constellation, from Greek mythology: Phaeton, unable to control the chariot of the sun, careens wildly though the heavens, scorching the earth. The god Zeus strikes the impetuous charioteer with a bolt of lightning, causing him to fall headlong into the river. His close friend, Cygnus, implores Zeus for help. Zeus transforms Cygnus into a swan so he can dive deeply. Then to honor this final act of service, Zeus fixes the image of Cygnus in the heavens. See today's transcript for specific directions to find Cygnus in the night sky.
Cygnus the Swan
Written by Todd Peterson
This is BirdNote.
[Selection from Olivier Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony, sixth movement, "Jardin du sommeil d'amour"]
Looking up into the grand panorama of the summer sky, you’ll find Cygnus the Swan. The story of this beautiful and prominent constellation comes to us from Greek mythology. Young Phaeton (FAY-uh-tun), unable to control the chariot of the sun, careens wildly though the heavens, scorching the earth. The god Zeus, seeing the world in peril, strikes the impetuous charioteer with a bolt of lightning, causing him to fall headlong, like a shooting star, into the river Eridanus (eh-RID-uh-nus). His close friend, Cygnus comes to the river to grieve.
Cygnus implores Zeus for help in retrieving the body of his dead friend. Zeus transforms him into a swan so he can dive deeply. Then to honor this final act of service, Zeus fixes the image of Cygnus, the swan, in the heavens.
Here’s amateur astronomer, Dan Pullen, to help you find Cygnus:
“When it gets dark, the easiest thing to find is Ursa Major, or the “Big Dipper” as everybody calls it. …Go from the handle to a very bright star – follow the arc of the handle – to a very bright star called Arcturus – from there go east to the next bright star, which is Vega. [Vega is the western point of the Summer Triangle]…Just east of that is Daneb …Daneb is the tail of the Swan and … there are four stars making up the body, heading south, and there’s seven stars that make up the wings…[going east and west]…It’s going straight south down through the Milky Way Galaxy.” [Track 133]
For BirdNote.org, I'm Michael Stein.
Music selected from Olivier Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony, sixth movement, "Jardin du sommeil d'amour"
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2011 Tune In to Nature.org September 2011/ 2021 Narrator: Michael Stein
Dan Pullen is with the Island County Astronomical Society, Island County, Washington http://www.icas-wa.webs.com/