Discover The Risqué Stories Behind Delphinus The Dolphin

Summary: Delphinus is both  a fun summer constellation and a racy character in mythological Greek stories of seduction and betrayal.


Symbolism: Dolphin

Mythology: There are two myths associated with the constellation Delphinus. According to the first, Greek god Poseidon wanted to marry Amphitrite, a beautiful nereid. However, wanting to protect her virginity, she fled to the Atlas mountains. Poseidon then sent out several searchers, among them Delphinus, the dolphin. Delphinus accidentally stumbled upon her and was able to persuade Amphitrite to accept Poseidon’s wooing. Out of gratitude, the god placed the image of a dolphin among the stars.

In the other myth, it was Apollo, the god of poetry and music, who placed the dolphin among the constellations for saving the life of Arion, a poet and musician, whose skill with the lyre made him famous in the 7th century BC. Arion was sailing back to Greece after a concert tour of southern Italy when the sailors who were also on the ship started plotting to kill him and take the money he had earned. The sailors granted Arion’s wish to play his lyre one last time. The music drew several dolphins to the ship. Arion jumped overboard. One of the dolphins saved him and carried him all the way back to Greece. Later, Arion confronted the sailors and had them sentenced to death. In this version of the myth, Apollo placed the dolphin next to the constellation Lyra in the sky, and Lyra represents Arion’s lyre.

When is it visible? Delphinus is visible all summer and reaches it peak in late August.

How to find it? Look for a dim triangle with a tail, high in the south to southeast. Once you find it, you will remember it, since Delphinus truly looks like a dolphin. One of our favorites, because it reminds us of all of the fun summer watersports. Delphinus is among five small Summer Triangle constellations: Lyra, Vulpecula, Sagitta, Delphinus and Equuleus.

History: It is one of the Greek constellations, first catalogued by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy of Alexandria in the 2nd century CE. The stars of Delphinus were also cataloged in Chinese astronomy, Polynesian culture, and Hindu astrology.  Only 5 of the stars in the Delphinus constellation have been named by the IAU, which leaves all of the rest of the Delphinus stars to be named as gifts at Name a Star.

Father’s Day Stargazing Gift Guide 2022

Looking for a unique Father’s Day gift that gets Dad outside? Check out the ideas below for the stargazing dad from beginner to advanced.

father-son-telescopeWould dad like to get a closer look at the stars without becoming an astronaut? You could start him out with a good pair of binoculars. If dad is 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 dad can take it with him. They are lightweight, compact, and easy to set up. If you live in an apartment or space is at a premium, then this may be the best choice for dad.

We are talking about Father’s Day, so let’s get the kids involved. Dad and the kids can have hours of fun with the book 50 Things To See With A Telescope. You could also plan a fun 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 dad has all of the gear he needs, then take him 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 dad into space, name a star after him. Name a Star offers a variety of Fathers Day gifts. You can even put a special message on his certificate of registration letting him know what a special dad his is.

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Spring Adventures In Night Sky Viewing

Lions, meteors, and space dust in the sky. Oh my!

Spring is a great time for stargazing. Temperatures have gotten a bit warmer and the nights are still long. In 2021, the spring equinox is officially March 20th.

A very bright Venus is still visible on the western horizon just after dark. To the south, Orion’s belt with the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, will disappear below the horizon in a few weeks, so get your last look until next fall.


Spring Constellations

In the east, the stars of spring are rising: Regulus in Leo, ruby red supergiant Arcturus in Boötes, and blue-white Spica in Virgo.

In April look for Leo “the lion”, in the south at about 10 p.m., and you will see a shape that looks like a backwards question mark made up of six stars. Leo’s prominence invites deeper looks into some of its celestial delights, including a great double star and famous galactic trio

Leo was one of the earliest recognized constellations, with archaeological evidence that the Mesopotamians had a similar constellation as early as 4000 BCE. The Persians called Leo Ser or Shir; the Turks, Artan; the Syrians, Aryo; the Jews, Arye; the Indians, Simha, all meaning “lion”. In Greek and Roman mythology, the Nemean Lion would take women as hostages to its lair in a cave, luring warriors from nearby towns to save the damsel in distress, to their misfortune. Using his bare hands, Hercules killed the lion and freed the maidens.

For a real special experience, go somewhere very dark to see an incredibly delicate celestial sight in the west just after the sun sinks. The “zodiacal light” is a cone of shimmering, faint white light only visible around the spring equinox. It is the sun’s light being reflected off huge swathes of dust and ice in the solar system.  We learned about these building blocks of stars and planets in a previous Name a Star post.

Are you a morning person, then the Eta Aquarids meteor shower is the stargazing experience for you. It is visible before dawn between April 19 and May 28 every year, peaking May 5 – 6. These brief bright streaks are caused by the Earth moving through the stream of fine dust particles left by the passage of Comet Halley.

It’s going to be a great spring. Keep looking up!

How Stars Are Born And Die

The interstellar space between stars is not empty. It contains large amounts of gas and dust particles. These particles swirl around in space, and just like the dust in your house, they are not evenly distributed. We have all found dust bunnies under the furniture in the corners. The same thing happens in space as these particles accumulate into molecular clouds.

Molecular clouds are mix of atoms, molecules, and dust. Atoms are the small building blocks of all the stuff around us. Molecules consist of two or more atoms joined together. The molecules present in molecular clouds are typically molecular hydrogen, H2 , but can also be more complex molecules, such as methanol, which consists of six atoms, or water, which consists of three atoms. Dust grains are even larger clumps of matter and they can be up to a few millimeters in size, which is huge compared with atoms or molecules.


Eagle Nebula – Hubble Telescope

These clouds of dust are scattered across most galaxies. As they grow in size, they become known as nebula. One of the best known is the Orion Nebula.

Turbulence deep within these clouds gives rise to knots with sufficient mass that the gas and dust can begin to collapse under its own gravitational attraction. As the cloud collapses, the material at the center begins to heat up. Known as a protostar, it is this hot core at the heart of the collapsing cloud that will one day become a star.

Stars are fueled by the nuclear fusion of hydrogen to form helium deep in their interiors. The outflow of energy from the central regions of the star provides the pressure necessary to keep the star from collapsing under its own weight, and the energy by which it shines. After millions of years of collapsing and heating, a protostar stabilizes into an adult star. Stars the size of the Sun take 50 million years from beginning of collapse to adulthood.

Sometimes nebula collapse into two stars, called double stars.  These stars can share material or even merge into one big star. These big stars may overheat and explode in a supernova, leaving nothing behind. Stellar evolution is a circle of life — dying stars spew their contents into the galaxy, paving the way for the next generation.

How To Name A Star


Viewing The Milky Way

The brightest stars which are easily visible by the naked eye were named by many ancient cultures including Greek, Latin, Arabic, Australian Aboriginal, Chinese, Coptic, Hindu, Mayan, Polynesian and South African. As a result many stars have multiple names.

Technically, anyone is free to give any name to any star, but if a name for an individual star is going to be used consistently by professional astronomers, it has to be approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The IAU is the only internationally recognized authority for assigning names to celestial objects and surface features on them. So far the IAU has only approved a few hundred historical star names.

There have been many historical star catalogues. The oldest known star catalog was produced by ancient Babylonians on clay tablets about 1500 BC. The Shang dynasty in China wrote star names on oracle bones about the same time. More modern catalogs include the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) catalog, Guide Star Catalog (GSC), and the Name a Star Record Book.

In 1978, the founders of Name a Star developed a way for anyone to show their love and respect to others by assigning the names of loved ones to stars – stars that are otherwise listed as numbers in astronomy catalogs. Name a Star – The Original Star Naming Service – Since 1978® became the world’s first star naming company.

Naming a star is easy. Just type a name and the date that you want to commemorate. It can be a special occasion, like a birthday, anniversary, or Valentine’s Day. There are multiple packages to choose from to fit any taste or budget. Every package includes a Certificate of Registration, which you can customize to create a unique gift. You can choose your favorite constellation and even add a message to show your love or a company logo to honor a colleague.

A memorial star is the perfect way to recognize a person or beloved pet that has passed away. Most constellations are only visible for part of the year. For example, Orion is easily viewed in the winter, but no where to be seen in the summer. Name a Star reserves the constellations that are visible year round, for memorial stars, so you can always go outside and feel close to that special person or furry companion again.

You can’t buy a star, but you can name a star as a novelty gift for a friend or loved one.

Romancing The Stars

The night sky has inspired romance, wonder, and art for thousands of years. Check out the story of Cepheus and Cassiopeia. He was the easy going king of Ethiopia and she was the vain queen, a “mirror, mirror on the wall” type. Poseidon sent a sea monster after Cassiopeia for insulting his wife. She survived that ordeal, only to then insult Hera, queen of the Greek gods. Hera dispatched Cassiopeia to the sky.  A heart broken Cepheus begged his buddy Zeus to send him to be with his beloved Cassiopeia. Now Cephus and Cassiopea permanently embrace in the heavens.


Romantic Couple Stargazing

How would you like a romantic Valentine’s date that also contributes to science? Turn on the Globe at Night webbapp, bundle up your sweety, then go outside to look at the stars. As you cuddle, tell the app what you see, press submit, and become a citizen scientist! The app is easy to use. It shows you 6 versions of the night sky. You pick the one that looks most like what you see. If you are in the city, where only a few stars are visible, you can still participate. Just pick the image that only shows a few stars.

Globe at Night is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure & submit their night sky brightness observations. It’s easy to get involved – all you need is computer or smart phone.

Scientists are asking ordinary citizens to help measure light pollution, so the scientist can determine how we are doing at protecting our night sky. You don’t need detailed knowledge about constellations or astronomy. All you need to do is find Orion’s Belt. For help with that, check out a previous Name a Star post.

To maximize your star gazing experience, buy a star from Name a Star to present to your sweety. Be prepared: pack a picnic, a blanket, and groundsheet if it is wet, a few cushions for extra comfort and plenty of warm clothes. For true romance a bottle of wine or flask of hot chocolate is a must. Learn which constellations are visible, so you can point them out and impress your date.

Stargazing together is deeply romantic, free, and Covid safe.  Reconnect with your loved one and let Mother Nature take your breath away.



Learn What Science Has To Say About The Star Of Bethlehem

Bethlehem Star with Three Wise Men

Bright stars top Christmas trees in homes around much of the world. The Star of Bethlehem or Christmas Star has appeared in art, literature, and science for over 2,000 years, but where is it and how can you see it?

The Star of Bethlehem is part of the nativity story in the Gospel of Matthew. Three “wise men from the East” (Magi) are inspired to follow the star to Bethlehem to bring gifts to the baby Jesus. The star moved across the sky, then stopped over a manger marking the location for the birth of Jesus. This is the only mention of the Star of Bethlehem in the Bible.

There is some controversy regarding the astronomical event described by Matthew. Many Christians believe the star was a miracle that fulfilled a prophecy.  Astronomers have made several attempts to link the star to unusual celestial events, such as a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, a comet, or a supernova.

On December 10, 11, and 12 2021 Notre Dame professor of physics, Grant Matthews, will offer free public lectures on “What and when was the Christmas Star?” Matthews believes an extremely rare planetary alignment of the sun, the moon and Jupiter occurred in the constellation of Aires in 6 B.C. and would have been seen by the Magi.

Stars don’t move across the sky, then hover over a building, however what other astronomical event might have been interpreted as a miracle? Meteors streak across the sky and sometimes explode in a bright light, but they only last for seconds, so could not have led wise men across the desert.

As we learned in a previous Name a Star post, the Chinese recorded night sky events around the time of the birth of Jesus. One such event was a supernova visible in the sky for 2 months. It was in the constellation Capricornus, which is in the wrong section of the sky to lead the wise men to Bethlehem.

Giotto Painting Adoration of the Magi

The Chinese also recorded comets at the right time in history. Florentine painter Giotto di Bondone combined art and science in the painting Adoration of the Magi, where the Star of Bethlehem is depicted as a comet. Giotto observed Halley’s comet in 1301.

Science has not explained the Star of Bethlehem with certainty. For now the mystery of the Christmas Star will remain in the realm of faith. But although there may be no agreement on the nature of the star or even its actual sighting two millennia ago, all sides can agree on the message the Christmas Star heralded: “… on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14).

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The Anatomy Of A Star – How Old Are They Really?


Youngest Star Hiding Behind Supernova Dust Cloud

How old are the stars? The short answer is “It’s complicated”, but we can have some fun with this question. For example did you know that there is a star that is older than the universe? That is right. Scientists estimate the age of the universe at 13.8 billion years, but they also believe there is a star that is 14.2 billion years old. This discrepancy is referred to as the “age paradox” and it pits cosmologists against astrophysicists. Now isn’t that fun?

Cosmologists measured cosmic microwave background radiation to derive the expansion rate of the universe. The expansion rate allowed them to extrapolate back to the Big Bang, a theory that there was once a state of hot denseness that exploded out, stretching space. Cosmologists also incorporate dark energy and gravitational waves into their estimates for the age of the universe. Researching dark energy feels like descending into a black hole. We will save that for another Name a Star blog.

So why do astrophysicists believe they found a star that is 14.2 years old? Astrophysicists focus on individual stars and star clusters, not the entire universe like cosmologists. Various methods and tools are involved in stellar age estimation, such as mass, color, and luminosity. No individual method is accurate for all stars and the estimates are just that, estimates. For example, the error range for the oldest star is 800 million years. That means its age is actually between 13.4 and 15.0 billion years old.

The official name of the oldest star is HD 140283, but its common name is Methuselah — named in reference to a biblical patriarch, who is said to have died at age 969, making him the longest lived of all the figures in the Bible. Scientist have long known that the star Methuselah was old, since the metal-poor subgiant is predominantly made of hydrogen and helium and contains very little iron. Its composition meant the star must have come into being before iron became commonplace in the universe. 

What about the youngest star? SN 1987A is a plucky young neutron star that survived a supernova first discovered in 1987. It is not actually visible because it is hiding behind a hot blob of stellar dust left over from the supernova. I told you this would be fun.



Let Orion Lead You On Winter Night Sky Tour

Even though it is cold, Winter can be the best time of year for stargazing, because low humidity brings clear skies. The sun goes down early too, so it gets plenty dark to take the kids out before bed time. Bundle up and go outside to see some of the brightest stars and popular constellations.


Winter View of Orion

Let Orion be your guide to the winter night sky. The belt points to some of the brightest stars in the sky and Orion’s sword contains one of the best known and most photographed nebulae in the sky, the Orion Nebula (Messier 42). Follow the line formed by Orion’s Belt to the east to Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Sirius is in Canis Major, so you have also found another constellation.

Go west of the belt and you will find Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus. It is the 13th brightest star in the sky. Taurus is also home to the star cluster Pleiades or Seven Sisters. To locate these stars, all you have to do is continue the line from Orion’s belt through Aldebaran, then curve it slightly downward. It looks like a tiny dipper. Pleiades is called Subaru in Japan.

The famous Crab Nebula is also in Taurus. It is the bright remnant of a historic supernova observed in 1054. It is directly overhead, but may be difficult to spot without binoculars. You may recall from previous Name a Star posts that both the ancient Chinese and Ancestral Puebloans recorded this supernova, which was brighter than a full moon..

Back to Orion, take a good look at Betelgeuse, the red star in the top left. It’s a supergiant star that is expected to turn into a supernova in the next 100,000 years.

As winter nears a close, there is still plenty to see in February. If you look high in the northwest, you will be able to see the zigzag row of five bright stars forming the constellation of Cassiopeia, the Queen. 

The constellation Leo, the Lion, also becomes visible in February. It is more of a spring constellation, but look closely and you will see Leo rising in the east shortly after dark. Look for six stars that form a backward question mark.

Keep Looking Up!

Best Mars Viewing In 32 Years Happens Tuesday


Best Mars Viewing In The Next 32 Years

The fall is a great time to get outside and enjoy the night sky. Remember to bundle up and maybe fix a mug of hot chocolate. October started with a full moon, the Harvest Moon, and will end with a Halloween Blue Moon. A second full moon in the same calendar month only happens about once every 3 years, so don’t miss it.

Mars viewing will be at its best until 2052. The peak will be Tuesday, October 13, however viewing should be excellent until the end of October. Look directly due east one hour after sunset in the middle of Pisces. Mars looks like a bright, reddish-orange “star”. It will be 3 times brighter than the brightest star, Sirius.

Fall can be a fishy time in the sky. From west-to-east, we have a sea goat (Capricornus), a water carrier (Aquarius), a pair of fishes tied by their tails to a fishing line or ribbon (Pisces), yet another fish placed far to the south (Piscis Austrinus), a whale (Cetus) and a winding river (Eridanus). You don’t need galoshes, but binoculars might help you get a better look.

Cetus includes the star Mira, the first variable star to be discovered. Variable stars change apparent brightness. Dutch observer Johannes Holwarda noticed Mira going thru its phases in 1638. Mira is in a bright phase right now. Some variable stars are actually double stars, two stars close together. When one of the double stars moves in front of the other, the light is blocked and appears to dim. You can name a double star for a friend or loved one at Name a Star.

There are a couple of major meteor showers to thrill late night observers: the Leonids in November and  Geminids in December. The Geminids produce slow-moving, green, pink and purple meteors that are arguably the most spectacular of the year to watch. They’ll be most visible the nights of December 13 and 14th, which also marks the new moon. 

For fans of the constellation Orion, the hunter, he will return in December. No reason to mourn the fading of the summer Milky Way, fall skywatching has plenty to offer.