Sagittarius

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Nestled in the middle of our Milky Way lies the ‘Archer’, poised in the Sagittarius Constellation. The constellation is 27 000 light-years away from Earth, and therefore most of the constellation’s stars are easily concealed in the steam of starry lights. This is due to cosmic dust. The bow (with its teapot shape) of the Archer however, is fairly easy to see.

 

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About Sagittarius

Many a centaur in Greek Mythology was violent, untrustworthy and drank too much. The centaur Chiron however, was different. The Sun-god, Apollo and Goddess of the Moon and Wild Animals, Diana, thought it good to educate Chiron with kindness, wisdom and gentleness.

Kings from far and wide found Chiron’s skills invaluable, and so the kind and wise centaur became the teacher and friend of many many princes. Among the princes blessed to receive wisodm and guidance from such a great centaur, were Hercules and Aesculapius. The myth continues that Hercules had to travel very far and upon arrival at a friends house, requested a bottle of wine to quench his thirst. The bottle at hand though, belonged jointly to all the centaurs. As the scent of the wine drifted through the woods the centaurs became outraged and hurried to Hercules in a fury – little did they know that many would meet their end as the great Hercules slew all that lifted their hands to him and his friend.  Those that survived were exiled from the forest at Hercules’ demand, never to return again.

 

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The great Chiron was observing all from a distance and sadly lost his life.  Through all the chaos Hercules could not recognize his dear and revered friend and it was one of his poisoned arrows that brought the centaur down.  Zeus empathized with his son’s Hercules’ loss of a close friend and thought it good to give the centaur a resting place in the starry skies, easing the sadness of his son’s heart.

According to another myth, the Archer is thought to be pointing the arrow straight at Scorpius’ heart, in case he might try to do harm to another. Furthermore there are others that believe the Sumerians found the constellation and named it ‘Nergal’ – the supreme god of war.

 

How to find Sagittarius

The very bright constellation Sagittarius is the biggest constellation in the Southern Hemipshere and the 15th largest constellation overall, making it esily visible with the naked eye.

Sagittarius is the ninth sign of the zodiac, situated between Scorpius (the Scorpion) and Capricornus (the Sea Goat). The constellation is located in the fourth quadrant of the southern hemisphere (SQ4), and can one can observe it at latitudes between +55° and -90°.  Another attribute that distinguishes the constellation is it’s peculiar teapot shape. The star that represents the top of the bow of The Archer, is at the top of the teapot, with the bottom of the bow at the bottom right of the teapot. The star Kaus Media represents the middle of the bow. Finally, the three stars are a combination of Arabic and Latin meaning northern, middle and southern.  The steam above the spout includes two nebulae that are giving birth to new star clusters: M8 (the Lagoon Nebula) and M20 (the Trifid Nebula).

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The Lagoon Nebula is a large interstellar cloud classified as an emission nebula sits approximately 4,100 light-years away. Discovered by the French Astronomer Guillaume Le Gentil in 1747, Messier 8 is one of only two nebulae that are star forming regions and can be seen by naked eye.

 

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The M20 also known as ‘The Trifid Nebula’, is a bright and colourful constellation that is the combination of an emission nebula (the lower part), a reflection nebula (the upper part) and an open cluster.

The Lagoon Nebula also includes the bright radio source called “Sagittarius A”, pronounced ‘Sagittarius A-star. What makes this a significant are is the fact that scientists believe that it houses a black hole.

 

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Pistol Star and nebula

 

Genevieve Article by Genevieve Blignaut

Clarens News: December 2013