Friday, May 14, 2010

Now that we've hunted down Orionand been bull ridin' with Taurus, it's time for us to discover a pair of celestial brothers – theGemini twins. Gemini is one of the members of thezodiac which means the imaginary paththe SunMoon andplanets follow across the sky passes through thestars of this constellation. But what happens when you don't have these solar systems objects to point the way to the pair? Then look over the top of Orion's left shoulder and you'll see two bright stars that live about a thumb's length apart from each other – Castor and Pollux. For many of us, Gemini be almost directly overhead at sky dark.

The slightly fainter star to the northwest is named Castor, and his almost identical brother star angled away to the southeast is Pollux. If you live where skies are dark, give your eyes plenty of time to adjust and you will begin to see the fainter stars that make up the stick figures of their bodies. Their "feet" will always point towards Orion. Once you understand the positions of the stars, it isn't hard to see how ancient civilizations connected these two stars as twins! The ancient Romans saw the brothers Romulus and Remus, the two heroes that founded Rome. The Greek astronomers saw the twins Castor and Pollux, sons of the god Zeus. Oddly enough, both cultures believed the brothers were raised by the half-man, half-bull centaur calledChiron. Perhaps because of the nearby constellation of Taurus? It was Chiron who sent them to help Jason and the Argonauts in their quest to find the golden fleece. Legend has it that the twins rescued Jason's ship from a killer storm and thus earned their place in the sky. Other stories say the twins were born of different fathers, making one mortal and one immortal. Pollux, who would live forever, was an excellent boxer. Castor, who would age normally, was an excellent horseman. When both were called upon to fight in the Trojan war, Castor was killed. Pollux love for his brother was so strong that he could not bear to be parted from him, so he begged Zeus to place them both in the sky as stars. The Arabs also saw this pair of stars as twins, while the Chinese referred to them as Yin and Yang!

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