Constellation Hydra The Water Snake

Learn how Hercules defeated Hydra the multi headed Water Snake, which grew two new heads every time he cut one off. Find out more about the 88 constellations at Name a Star.

 Symbolism: Hydra the Water Snake, the largest constellation in the night sky.

Mythology: The oldest stories come from Hindu and Chinese mythology referring to dragons. Stories better known in the west come from ancient Greece describing a mythological hybrid of serpent, lion and bird. One myth associates Hydra with a crow that is sent by Apollo to fetch a cup of water. The crow stops to feast on figs instead of collecting water. The crow arrives with a water snake in a cup and no water, then blames the snake. Apollo saw through the fraud and angrily cast the crow, cup, and snake, into the sky. (Corvus, Crater, and Hydra).

In a more exciting myth, the multi headed monster Hydra grows two new heads every time Hercules cuts one off. Hercules enlists his nephew, Iolaus, to sear the necks with a torch to prevent them from growing back. This enabled Hercules to overcome the Hydra and trap it under a rock.

When is it visible?  Best seen from the southern hemisphere, but can be observed in the north between January and May.

How to find it? Hydra spreads across the sky from horizon to horizon in the south.

History:  A similar constellation dates to the Babylonian star catalogs that list two serpent related constellations. Hindu Mythology and Chinese Astronomy mention equivalent constellations associated with dragons. The Hydra constellation recognized today was first catalogued by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century. Hydra is one of the 15 equatorial constellations. It contains seven stars named by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which leaves all of the rest of the Hydra constellation stars to be named as gifts at Name a Star.

Are Satellites Interfering With Stargazing?

Who Owns The Night Sky?

A couple of years ago, an astronomer friend of mine invited the staff of Name a Star to watch a satellite train. Most stargazers have observed satellites, especially the largest satellite, the International Space Station, but what you may ask is a satellite train? Several companies are in the process of launching rocket ships that deploy multiple satellites at once. When the satellites are first released, they streak across the sky in a line before spreading out to their intended orbits.


Photo Credit: Stanislav Kaniansky, koza/Satellite Streak Watcher/CC-BY 4.0

On the night 2 years ago when I saw my first satellite train, there were 60 satellites chasing each other across the sky. It was a spectacular sight and felt like a major astronomical event. As we watched, my astronomer friend shared with me that scientists and amateur astronomers were worried that these satellites could destroy our beautiful night skies and ruin astronomy. I wondered, who owns the night sky and what is going on with satellite technology?

The satellites that I observed are part of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink program. The purpose of Starlink and other similar programs is to bring internet and connectivity to the globe, especially rural and disadvantaged populations that lack the access that is becoming a critical part of education, health care, and commerce. Unfortunately, as Dr. James Lowenthal, professor and chair of astronomy, Smith College, North Hampton, said on Science Friday “They’re big, and they’re bright”. The satellites show up as bright streaks of light that distort images of far-away galaxies. There’s a wealth of issues in addition to science– the sky traditions of people around the world, cultural practices, and stargazer’s right to enjoy the stars.

How big is this problem? SpaceX plans an initial “constellation” of 1,548 Starlinks, but ultimately it aims to fill out a network with as many as 42,000 satellites. In addition to SpaceX, OneWeb plans to put 6,372 satellites in the sky and Amazon’s Project Kuiper plans for 6,236 satellites. There could be 100,000 of these communications satellites 10 years from now.

Back to who owns the night sky? In the United States the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates communications satellites and all of these organizations are licensed. The American Astronomical Society and the United Nations have recommended that satellite brightness be limited to magnitude 7. These are recommendations, not laws, so apparently no one owns the night sky.

To SpaceX’s credit, they are attempting to address astronomers’ concerns. First, they painted the satellites black, but they overheated. Next, they tried a sunshade, a visor-like appendage (VisorSat) that reduces the sunlight reflected to observers on the ground. This worked and studies have shown that the brightness has been reduced by two-thirds to an average magnitude of 6. SpaceX continues to experiment. For example, the satellites, which are flat, can be adjusted in orbit, so only a knife edge faces earth.

Let’s hope the stars remain visible, so you can name a star for a friend or loved one, who can look up in appreciation.

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Valentines Day Stars

Learn About The Stormy Relationship Of Double Stars That Sometimes Explode In A Super Nova


Mixed-up Double Star Has Unusual Orbit Courtesy of University of Warwick/Mark Garlick

Did you know there are double stars in the sky that are bound so tightly together that they have the same celestial address? Naming a double star makes a great gift, especially for Valentine’s Day. Let’s learn more about these astronomical phenomena.

Scientists divide double stars into two types, visual binaries and optical doubles.  Binary stars are bound gravitationally sharing the same orbit. Optical doubles appear to be close, but are actually a chance line-of-sight alignment of two stars at different distances from the observer. 

Double stars are so important, they even have their own star catalog, the Washington Double Star Catalog. It was first published by the Lick Observatory in 1963 and is now maintained by the United States Naval Observatory. Each double star only has one entry because they appear so close together.

In 1617, at the request of a fellow scientist, Galileo Galilei turned his telescope toward the second star from the end of the handle of the Big Dipper, discovering that one star seemed to be two. It took nearly 200 more years before Sir William Herschel, first used the term “binary” in reference to these double stars in 1802.

Some double stars are so close together that they exchange material. As their relationship continues, one star may capture the other causing them to merge into a single star. Other double stars don’t get along. One member of the pair can explode in a super nova that obliterates its partner. Most double stars appear to have stable relationships and stay together as they rotate around each other.

Naming two stars that are bound together for all eternity is the perfect way for couples, lovers, sisters, and brothers to show their love.

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Memorials Stars

Memorials Come In Many Forms Including The Taj Mahal, A Local Park Bench, And Your Grandfather’s Gravestone

Since we just celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let’s discuss how we memorialize special people. Memorials come in many forms including granite soldiers, towering obelisks, historic buildings, roadside crucifixes, memorial bridges, stars in the sky, and no end of scattered mementos. Some of them were left by ancestors for reasons that may be obscured by time. 

Webster defines memorial as something that keeps remembrance alive or commemorates. Memorials are an important part of every culture. They allow people to remember a deceased loved one or an important public figure. Memorials have existed in every culture for thousands of years. For examples the Taj Mahal, Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, and the Great Pyramids were created in the loving memory of great leaders and unforgotten heroes. It is only due to memorials that even today we are able to remember the people who were important in our lives, from Parents to Presidents and show our respect to them.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was unveiled in 2011 and was the first memorial of this kind to honor an African-American leader. The design of the monument was inspired by King’s words, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” It’s located in downtown D.C. and represents the struggle for equality, freedom, and justice.


Martin Luther King Memorial

The Taj Mahal was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan himself. Construction took over 20 years and cost the modern day equivalent of U.S. $1 billion. The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor.

Crosses are the principal symbol of the Christian religion, recalling the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the redeeming benefits of his Passion and death. The cross is thus a sign both of Christ himself and of the faith of Christians.

Have you or a friend lost a loved one and you want a way to commemorate them? A fast and easy way to remember a special friend or loved one is to name a memorial star after them. Any time you miss them, just glance to the sky and know that they are watching over you.  This also makes a great gift for those around you who may be hurting. You can even remember a furry friend with a pet memorial.

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Constellation Taurus The Bull Known For Over 15,000 Years

Symbolism: Bull. It has been associated with the bull in many cultures and mythologies: Greek and Egyptian among others, and even going back to Ancient Babylon.

 Mythology: Taurus is the second sign in the zodiac and represents those born from April 20 to May 20. In Greek mythology, Taurus is usually associated with Zeus, who adopted the shape of a bull in order to seduce and abduct Europa, the beautiful daughter of the Phoenician King Agenor. Zeus mingled with the king’s herd and, being the most handsome bull there, he got Europa’s attention. The princess admired the bull and, when she sat on his back, he rose and headed for the sea. Zeus carried Europa all the way to the island of Crete, where he revealed his true identity and lavished the princess with presents.


Gilgamesh Faces The Bull

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest literary works from Mesopotamia, Gilgamesh faces the Bull of Heaven sent by the goddess Ishtar to defeat the hero after he had rejected her advances.

When is it visible? The bull passes through the sky from November to March, but the constellation is at its most visible in January. 

 How to find it? Look to the south, find Orion, his belt points to Taurus.

History:  One of the oldest constellations. First catalogued by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century, but has been known since the Bronze Age. Michael Rappenglück of the University of Munich believes that Taurus is represented in a cave painting at the Hall of the Bulls in the caves at Lascaux dated to roughly 15,000 BC. Taurus contains the Crab Nebula, which is an expanding remnant of a supernova event observed in 1054 AD by Japanese and Chinese astronomers and most likely Native Americans.

You can give a star to a friend or loved one in the constellation Taurus at Name a Star.

December 2021 Stargazing – Meteor Showers, Planet Alignments, And A New Comet

If you can stand the cold, December could be the best month of the year for stargazing. We better start with the planet Venus, because it won’t be back in the evening sky until December 2022.


New Comet Leonard Courtesy Jim Wakefield

Get out of bed early (3:30am – 5:30am) on the mornings around Thursday, December 9 to see Comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard), a new comet discovered in January of this year. It is located one-third of the way up the eastern sky, near the circle of stars that form the head of Serpens Caput (the Snake’s Head). You may need binoculars for a good view.

After enjoying a December sunset, turn around and face east to take in what S&T columnist Fred Schaaf calls a “tower of brilliance” that starts near the horizon and climbs all the way to overhead. Start low down by finding Orion. To its left are the twins of Gemini, anchored by the stars Castor and, below it, slightly brighter Pollux. That’s the general area from which the Geminid meteors will seem to originate as they zip across the sky.

The Geminids peak on the night of Monday, Dec. 13 into the early hours of Tuesday, Dec. 14, but it is not just the onslaught of meteors that make this event so popular. This is one of the few annual meteor showers that is active in the earlier evening hours, making it great for younger stargazers. Best time to view Geminids may be after the moon sets around 2am. Lie flat on your back with your feet facing south and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors.


Bright Venus Aligned With Saturn And Jupiter Courtesy Starry Night

Venus, Saturn and Jupiter will be visible after sunset in the southwestern sky and will all appear bright enough to see without the help of a telescope. Saturn is the dimmest of the three and will be sandwiched between Jupiter and Venus. Between Dec. 6 and Dec. 9, the crescent moon will appear close to the planets, but on Dec. 10, it will align almost perfectly with the planets not long after nightfall.

Possibly the best day of the year for skywatchers is the winter solstice, which occurs at 10:59 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Dec. 21. The longest night of the year. A great Christmas gift for the stargazer on your list is their very own star from Name a Star.

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2021 Sky-Watchers Gift Giving Guide

Looking for a unique 2021 Holiday gift for someone special? Check out the ideas below for the stargazer  from beginner to advanced and young to old.

father-son-telescopeDreaming of becoming an astronaut, but currently a couch potato?  You could start that special person with a good pair of binoculars. If they are ready for a telescope, don’t waste your money on one that is difficult to assemble or too complicated. Here is a list of quality telescopes ranging from $100 to $2,000.

Don’t be confused by terms like focal length, aperture, reflector, and refractor. A reflector telescope uses mirrors and a refractor telescope uses lenses. A Catadioptric telescope combines the best of all of these features.

There are even travel telescopes, so stargazers can take passion with them. They are lightweight, compact, and easy to set up. If the recipient lives in an apartment or space is at a premium, then this may be the best choice for them.

A gift of the stars is a great way to involve kids in science and a hobby that could last a lifetime. Get t the whole family off the couch  with the book 50 Things To See With A Telescope.

Not all gifts need to be wrapped. Why not plan an entertaining, yet educational group activity, like learning why the moon has craters? Make a dough out of flour and oil, then drop pebbles on this “moon surface” to see what kind of craters they make.

If your loved one has all of the gear they need, then take them on a dark sky vacation. One of the newest dark sky locations is in Name a Star’s backyard at Prineville Reservoir. Whether it is a visit to your back yard or a trip to Oregon, get outside to enjoy the night sky.

If you really want to send that special person into space, name a star after them. Name a Star offers a variety of Holiday gifts. You can even put a special message on the certificate of registration letting them know what a special friend they are.

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Cygnus The Swan Constellation Seduces Across Ancient Greek, Hindu, and Chinese Mythologies

Symbolism: Cygnus The Swan


Cygnus Constellation From SkySafari App

Mythology: In one of several Greek myths, the god Zeus disguises himself as a swan, then seduces Leda, the Spartan king Tyndareus’s wife. She gave birth to two sets of twins, the immortal Pollux and Helen, who were fathered by Zeus and the mortal Castor and Clytemnestra, who were fathered by Tyndareus. Castor and Pollux are represented by the zodiac constellation Gemini.

In Hinduism, the period of time (or Muhurta) between 4:24 AM to 5:12 AM is called the Brahmamuhurtha, which means “the moment of the Universe”; the star system in correlation is the Cygnus constellation. This is believed to be a highly auspicious time to meditate, do any task, or start the day.

In a Chinese myth, the Goddess of Heaven discovers that Niu Lang and Zhi Nu are lovers. Zhi Nu is a fairy, and is therefore not allowed to be with a mortal man. The Goddess creates a river (the Milky Way) in the sky to keep the lovers separated. Once a year on Chinese Valentines Day, all the magpies in the world assemble to help the lovers be together by forming an enormous bridge over the wide river. The constellation Cygnus represents the magpie bridge in this story.

When is it visible? Cygnus the swan is a distinctive cross-shaped constellation best seen during the summer and fall months around September.

How to find it? The constellation is very easy to identify because is it dominated by a large cross-shaped asterism known as the Northern Cross. The bright star Deneb marks the tail of the celestial swan and the top of the Northern Cross. The star is also one of the vertices of the Summer Triangle.

Cygnus is surrounded by Cepheus to the north and east, Draco to the north and west, Lyra to the west, Vulpecula to the south, Pegasus to the southeast and Lacerta to the east. 

History:  Cygnus was first catalogued the by Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century.

According to ancient Chinese astronomy and astrology, the modern constellation Cygnus is located within the northern quadrant of the sky, which is symbolized as the Black Tortoise of the North (北方玄武, Běi Fāng Xuán Wǔ).

Amateur astronomers have made some notable Cygnus discoveries. The “Soap bubble nebula” was discovered on a digital image by Dave Jurasevich in 2007. In 2011, Austrian amateur Matthias Kronberger discovered a planetary nebula (Kronberger 61, now nicknamed “The Soccer Ball”) on old survey photos, confirmed recently in images by the Gemini Observatory.  Only six of the stars in Cygnus have been named by the International Astronomical Union, which leaves the rest of the stars available for you to name at Name a Star!

Why is naming a star with Name a Star a unique gift idea?

Why is naming a star with Name a Star a unique gift idea? Name a star provides the opportunity to name a real star in the sky that currently only has a catalog number. You then customize the gift to honor the recipient on the special occasion. The most popular customization is for you to create a short tribute or message that is printed on the Certificate of Registration. These can be funny, serious, or sad depending on the situation. You can use one of the sample tributes or create your own unique tribute.

Let’s look at some of the creative ideas our amazing customers have come up with to add meaning to their unique gift.


Looking_Up_To_The_StarsOne of our favorite birthday messages:

“You Light Up Our Family Like This Star Lights The Sky, Happy Birthday!”


How about a romantic message for that special someone in your life?

“Like The Stars, My Love For You Is Burning And Endless”


Customers love to choose Name a Star for Anniversaries.

“Now You Can Feel Our Love With Each Glance At The Night Sky”

“Unlike Flowers, My Love For You Will Never Fade Away”


Congratulate a new couple with long-lasting, personalized wedding gift.

“Best Wishes For A Long And Happy Life Together”

“Congratulations! May Your Happiness Be As Eternal As Your Star”


Many businesses have used Name a Star’s services to recognize star employees or thank their valued customers. Here are a few sample tributes for a business award.

“Thank You For Helping Us Reach For The Stars”

“Climb High, Climb Far, Your Goal The Sky, Your Aim The Stars”

“A Sparkling Performance Deserves A Sparkling Star”


You can dedicate a memorial star to a friend or loved one who has passed away.

“Every Time You Get Lonely, You Can Look Up And Know Your Dad Is Always There”


As you can see from these sample tributes, naming a star can be very meaningful and specific to the person receiving their unique Name a Star gift.

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Constellation Aquila The Eagle Soars Thru Romantic Stories Of Multiple Cultures

Symbolism: Aquila the Eagle


Altair, in the constellation Aquila the Eagle, is one of 3 stars in the Summer Triangle. Photo Earth & Sky

Mythology: Aquila represents the eagle, which held Zeus’s/Jupiter’s thunderbolts in Greco-Roman mythology. Aquila is also associated with the eagle that kidnapped Ganymede, a son of one of the kings of Troy (associated with Aquarius), to Mount Olympus to serve as cup-bearer to the gods.

In another story, the eagle is found guarding the arrow of Eros (represented by the constellation Sagitta), which hit Zeus and made him love-struck. In yet another myth, Aquila represents Aphrodite disguised as an eagle, pretending to pursue Zeus in the form of a swan, so that Zeus’ love interest, the goddess Nemesis, would give him shelter. In the story, Zeus later placed the images of the eagle and the swan among the stars to commemorate the event.

The name of the brightest star in the constellation, Altair, is derived from the Arabic al-nasr al-ta’ir, which means “flying eagle” or “vulture.” Ptolemy called the star Aetus, which is Latin for “eagle.” Similarly, both Babylonians and Sumerians called Altair “the eagle star.”

In Hinduism, the constellation Aquila is identified with the half-eagle half-human deity Garuda.

In Japan Vega is sometimes called Tanabata (or Orihime), a celestial princess or goddess, who falls in love with a mortal, Kengyu (or Hikoboshi), represented by the star Altair.

When is it visible? The constellation Aquila, the eagle, is visible in the northern hemisphere from July through October.

How to find it? In the east after dark on these summer evenings, look near the horizon for Altair, the brightest star in the constellation Aquila the Eagle. This is the bottom star of the Summer Triangle; that is, it’s the last of these three bright stars to ascend over the horizon. It is located along the Milky Way.

History:  Aquila was one of the 48 constellations described by the second-century astronomer Ptolemy. It had been earlier mentioned by Eudoxus in the fourth century BC and Aratus in the third century BC. Aquila contains the Glowing Eye Nebula (NGC 6751), which is a planetary nebula made famous when its image was chosen to commemorate the Hubble’s 10th anniversary.

 Only eight of the stars have been officially approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which leaves all of the rest of the Aquila constellation stars to be named as gifts at Name a Star.