Sky Presence of Four Seasons
In this post, you can read the celestial miracles of the four seasons: which constellations are dedicated to each season, what kind of old names they carry and which helps you through orientation.
The Spring Star Constellations
There are few bright stars in the equatorial belt and to the north of it. On the southern latitude, however, the most exquisite sky-scape awaits us. In the north we begin our navigation from the seven-star constellation known as the Great Bear or Ursa Maior, a part of which is an asterism widely recognised as the Big Dipper or the Plough, referring to its shape.
The sign of Leo (Lion) can easily be recognised by shape of a sickle or upside down question mark. Its brightest star is Regulus which lies on the ecliptic.
If we lengthen the rod of the Plough on a curve to the Equator, passing the Bootes/Ploughman constellation we reach the orange star of Arcturus. Past Arcturus, following the arc under the equator, we see the Spica star of Virgo (Virgin). Regulus, Arcturus and Spica form a triangle for navigation on the spring sky.
Under this triangle the constellation of Hydra (Water Snake) can be seen stretching across, with its head looking at the stars of Cancer (Crab).
The Corvus or Crow, named after Apollo’s sacred bird, is located between the northern Watersnake or Hydra and the stars of Virgo, with the adjacent constellation of Crater (Chalice). The stars of Lupus (Wolf) and Centaurus (Centaur) can be seen underneath the Hydra constellation.
The Milky Way (Via Lactea, Orbis Lacteus), which is named in different ways across many cultures, for example it is referred to as the Silver River in Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese, the River of Heaven in Japanese, the Winter’s Path in Scandinavian languages, the Hay Merchant’s Way in Arabic, the Path in the Shadow or the Ganges River of Heaven in Bengali or the Road of the Fairies or God’s Way in Hungarian, to mention but a few, provides a great point of reference to finding all other constellations in this part of the sky.
„The stars, that nature hung in heaven, and filled their lamps with everlasting oil, give due light to the mislead and lonely traveller.” (John Milton)
First of all we need to locate the Vega-Deneb-Altair triangle which forms the coloumn of the bright Milky Way on the Northern sky as our point of reference for the summer. Right next to the triangle we can see the Cygnus (Swan) flying south by the Milky Way with open wings. The fainter two stars on each side of Altair, which is part of the Aquila (Eagle) constellation, remind us of the three stars in the belt of the Orion (Hunter). North of the Altair we can see Delphinus (Dolphin) whose old Hungarian name is Small Cross.
We begin our navigation with the square of Pegasus, or the Fisherman’s Star, as referred to in the past in Hungary, and the alfa star of the Andromeda constellation.
South of the Andromeda, two further constallations, the Triangulum and Aries (Ram) can be found. The south-eastern corner of the square of Pegasus reaches the V-shape of Pisces (Fish). Capricorn (Sea Goat) lies on the ecliptic, west of the triangular “head” of Pegasus. The V-shape of Pisces points towards the middle of the extensive constellation of Cetus (Whale).On the southern sky we can find the Piscis Austrinus (Southern Fish), Formalhaut and Grus (Crane) and the Archernar in the constellation of the Eridanus River, close to which the Phoenix constellation can be seen.
The winter sky
In winter it is easy to navigate on the sky. The ruling constellation if Orion/the Hunter, also referred to as the Star of Order, Golden Wand, the Star of the Three Kings amongst many other names in Hungarian. The constellation is reminiscent of a butterfly with open wings.
According to folklore
When it shines brightly, it promises a rich harvest.
According to the original image of Orion’s hunter figure, the three stars in the middle are referred to as Orion’s belt and some of its old names in Hungarian culture also include the Star-door of Heaven, God’s sowing, Shepherd’s staff.
According to belief
That motionless star with the bright light, the eye of God, watches at night and sees the thief.
Ther northernmost star of the belt is directly next to the equator. The Orion belt extended to the north points at the Aldebran star of Taurus (Bull) constellation. The group of stars referred to as the Pleiades otherwise called the Seven Sisters lies further away on this line. The stars of Perseus and Auriga arch over between the Pleiades and Cassopeia. Starting out from the star named Rigel of the Orion constellation, we can see the stars of the Eridanus River and the constellation of Lepus/ the rabbit. The line between Rigel and Betelguse, stars of Orion, point to the constellation of Gemini/the twins, and we can discover Cancer (Crab) near this constellation.
It is also worth remembering that the line linking the stars of Orion’s belt is Canis Minor (Great dog), whose brightest star, Sirius, is the brightest fixed star of the entire sky.
- Ede Toroczkai-Wigand: Old stars
- Zoltan Paksi: Stars route
- Josef Klepesta & Antonín Rükl: The Atlas of Constellations