Posted on Saturday, September 07, 2013
By Kadri

Image Credit: Kadri Tinn. Ursa Major, The Great Bear.

What kind of mythological background do our familiar constellations have?

The Mythology of the Night Sky: An Amateur Astronomer's Guide to the Ancient Greek and Roman Legends by David E. Falkner

Finished reading on September 7, 2013

Rating 8/10

If you have ever wondered why exactly are there such oddly named constellations as Perseus and Cepheus or why are there several fishes and a sea-monster in the sky, then "The Mythology of the Night Sky", is the book to turn to.

It starts with a short introduction to photographing the constellations, and there are several examples of the author's images throughout the book of different constellations.

The main focus of the book is telling the myths behind the official constellations that have a Grecian-Roman background. As there are several myths with the same characters, then not all of the myths are told, but only some of the best-known or most interesting ones. Although I've read some other books about the mythology and constellations, then there were quite a lot of myths and even characters that I hadn't even heard of, so even for comparison's sake it's an excellent read.

However, if you're an amateur astronomer, and not interested in mythology, should you even open a book like this one? Well, for this particular case the answer is yes. In addition to the legends, there are also star charts, so you can find the constellations, also written instructions on how to find it, and also tables of named stars in the constellation and deep sky objects.

Additionally, there are also the myths about the gods and heroes that have given their names to planets and their satellites.

Ofcourse, given that there's limited space in the book, it doesn't have each and every myth or legend where a certain constellation played a part.

I found this book quite interesting, because uncharacteristically, it also had these seemingly random interesting facts throughout.

For example did you know, that the satellites of Jupiter, with the exception of the five largest ones, are named so, that the ones that orbit clockwise have names ending with -e, and the ones orbiting anticlockwise end with -a.


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