Monday, October 7, 2013

Jupiter in Gemini

The stars in the morning sky before dawn are always a special treat, well worth the effort of rising early to see them while the sky is still black or beginning to lighten into deep blue in the east, without drowning out the constellations.

Right now, the constellations before dawn feature some of the most glorious constellations in our sky, well worth getting out to see them if at all possible.  

Orion is high in the sky before dawn, in fact reaching his highest altitude on his arc-shaped journey across the southern heavens (for viewers in the northern hemisphere) at about 5:45 am.  Orion is the constellation with the greatest percentage of bright stars out of all the constellations, and he is also extremely important in ancient legend and sacred tradition (see previous discussions on this topic including "The importance of Orion," "Orion and the Winter Circle of mythologically important stars,"    "Leo, the Lion King, Hamlet and Osiris," and "Capella, precession, and the end of the Golden Age," among many others).

Even more spectacular, however, may be the sight of the brilliant constellation of Gemini (the Twins), with the enormous planet Jupiter passing through.  The Twins are located close to Orion, and are therefore you don't have to decide who is the most spectacular -- the entire panoply is spread out in breathtaking glory in the hours before sunrise begins to color the east with red.  Orion, along with his consort Sirius, and the Twins with Jupiter are all near their highest point in the heavens beginning around five o'clock in the morning, and the effect is truly magnificent.  

If you are somewhat unfamiliar with the precise location of Gemini, some of the links above contain diagrams that can be helpful, as does this previous post ("Gemini, Canis Minor, and the Hairy Twin") which contains a good image showing the location of the Twins with respect to Orion.  It only shows the head and shoulders of Orion -- his famous belt would be located lower and below the margin of the bottom of the image -- but you should be able to locate both Orion and the Twins using that image along with some of the others of Orion contained in the links above.

Jupiter is currently passing through Gemini and is actually located at delta Geminorum right now, the star known as Wasat.  The name "Wasat" comes from an Arabic word meaning "the middle," and Wasat is right at the middle of the lower of the two twins, as you can see from the diagram above, where Wasat is marked with the numerals "55."  Wasat is marked with the lower-case Greek letter delta in this diagram.  This discussion of Wasat on Wikipedia reveals that the star is actually part of a triple-star system.

The constellation of the Twins is extremely important in ancient legend and sacred tradition as well.  This web page contains a collection of excerpts from ancient sources which mention the legend of the Twins, known as Castor and Polydeuces or Castor and Pollux in ancient Greek and Roman mythology.  Pollux is the name of the brightest star in the constellation, the head of the lower of the two figures in the diagram above (marked with the numerals "78").  Note that the line of the ecliptic passes primarily through the figure of Pollux, who of the two Twins in legend was the immortal of the pair and the son of Zeus.  

As discussed in numerous previous posts, such as this one and this one, there is substantial evidence to suggest that the ancient myths and sacred traditions describe the motions of the stars and heavenly bodies, rather than the conventional view that the myths came first and the ancients later named the constellations and planets after their mythical gods and heroes.  Thus, from the above discussion we can see why the myth of the Twins describes Pollux as the immortal and the son of Zeus: his star is brighter, and the ecliptic path -- and hence the gods -- pass through his figure and not much through Castor (just barely going through the stars of Castor, which may be why he is granted only a very partial sort of immortality in the legend).  

Zeus, of course, is the same god as Jupiter (the Latin name of whom may well mean "Zeus Pater," according to some analysts).  Thus, the passage of the planet Jupiter through Gemini that we are witnessing now may well be encoded in the myth of the Twins by the fact that -- of the two -- only Pollux is the son of Zeus.

Due to the complex motions of the planets as they whirl through the solar system in conjunction with the motion of the earth and our speeding sun, the path of the planets along the general line of the ecliptic is not exactly the same from year to year, although their path stays in the general vicinity of the light-blue line representing the ecliptic which is seen in the diagram above.  For a truly outstanding diagram of the path of Jupiter as it moves through the constellation Gemini this month and in following months, check out this chart from Naked Eye Planets.  The full website of Naked Eye Planets, by Martin J. Powell, is located here.

Finally, no mention of the ancient sacred traditions of the Twins would be complete without a reminder that a pair known as the Hero Twins also played a central role in the sacred traditions of the great civilizations of the Americas.  In this previous post, I examine the iconography of the Maya steles at Izapa (a site which also has abundant evidence of ancient Olmec activity) and argue that the depictions of the Hero Twins along with certain fantastical birds are most likely meant to convey celestial connections.  In fact, the imagery has very strong similarities to specific iconography used in ancient Egypt and ancient Babylon, imagery so specific that it is difficult to argue that they arose coincidentally without any sort of ancient contact.  

For this reason, the Twins may be an important clue supporting "diffusionist" paradigm over the conventional "isolationist" history that is taught in school.

You may find it enjoyable to consider all these connections as you gaze out into the heavens in the predawn sky to see the passage of Jupiter through Gemini.