Subaru is the Japanese word for the Pleiades, that group of seven stars that passes high overhead in the winter months. When five Japanese companies merged in 1953 to form Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., they adopted the open star cluster as the company logo and the name Subaru, which in Japanese means “unite.”
The Pleiades — Electra, Maia, Taygete, Alcyone, Merope, Celaeno and Sterope — in Greek mythology are the seven daughters of Atlas, the Titan sentenced to forever bear on his back the world after the defeat of his fellows by the Olympians. Zeus, pitying the seven sisters, who were relentlessly pursued by Orion, placed them in the heavens. Orion’s three-starred belt points toward the Pleiades in the constellation of Taurus, continuing his nightly pursuit despite Zeus’ protective measures.
I have been following the planets for a few years, using “The Old Farmer’s Almanac,” but I was stumped when OFA gave planets’ locations in the night sky by listing their movement through the constellations of the Zodiac. I found the bright planets using their rise and set times listed in the almanac, but the Zodiac was a mystery, and finding fainter planets was a bust. I gradually started to unravel the mystery of the skies by viewing with the unaided eye and soon found three bright stars, Antares, Arcturus and Vega, which in our feeble light-infested sky look relatively pale, and learned that Antares’ name is Greek meaning “simulating Mars.”
Ares is the Greek god of war, known in Latin as Mars. Antares is a red supergiant star with a diameter 390 times that of the sun, in the constellation Scorpio. Scorpio lies in the Zodiac, the great circle of Earth’s orbit around the sun through which move the sun, moon and planets. The names of the Zodiac are Latin animal names — Aries is Latin for ram; Cancer, crab; Capricorn, caper, goat, combined with cornu, horn; Leo, lion; Pisces, fish; Scorpio, Latin from Greek, scorpion; and Taurus, bull; or names describing people — Aquarius, water carrier; Gemini, twins; Virgo, virgin; Libra, scales; and Sagittarius, archer.
Because Earth revolves around the sun, stars appear to rise later each night and the constellations of the Zodiac to march westward across the night sky. Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini and Cancer are visible in the cold months and Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius and Capricorn in the warmer months. I found Castor and Pollux, the Gemini twins, in the evening sky in May, but now they lie too close to the western horizon that is blocked by trees and houses, and I must wait until winter to see them again.
Antares is about directly south at midnight this time of year and is easy to find by its color and its accompanying planet, just above it. Not long after dark, Jupiter rises brilliantly in the southeast, while Venus, a bit brighter, lowers in the northwest. Jupiter, largest of our planets, is named for the chief god of Olympus, in Greek called Zeus. Venus, in Greek Aphrodite, is the goddess of beauty and love, said to have sprang from the foam of the sea.
Saturn is pale in comparison to Jupiter and Venus and lies between them, in Leo. It is the most distant planet we can see with the naked eye. Saturn, in Greek Cronus, ruled the Titans, the older gods that gave way to the gods of Olympus. Mercury, closest to the sun, orbits the most quickly, in 88 days. Mercury, in Greek called Hermes, the messenger to the gods, was named for its fleet passage across the sky.
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