Friday, April 11, 2008

The Stars Tonight

Now, bear with me because I am going to skim through this story to get to the real reason for this post, which is how to find a Norse constellation tonight.

There is a famous Norse myth where a giant named Thiazi tricks Loki into giving him both Idun and her golden apples. Now for you unfamiliar with Norse mythology, these golden apples are the only things that keep the gods young and strong. Without these apples, the gods began to whither. Even the beautiful Freya lost her hair. It was not hard to put two and two together and come up with some number close to five and figure out that Loki was behind it. All in all, the story ends up with Loki racing back with Idun and her apples in tow and Thiazi giving chase. The gods easily set a trap and kill Thiazi via big fire.

His daughter, Skadi, comes for revenge and since the gods aren't feeling like more bloodshed, they offer to pay her off. She will only take a deal that involves a marriage (by which the gods make her pick a husband by looking at his feet) and laughter (she gets this after Loki tells a crude story about tying a goat to his, um..., well manhood). As an added bonus, Odin reaches in his pocket which is where, for some reason, he has kept the eyes of Thiazi. He throws them into the sky to be stars and act as a tribute to this powerful giant.

Scholars suspect that this constellation is what we call Gemini. Gemini has two fairly bright stars called Castor and Pollux, after the Greek hero twins. You can see Thiazi's eyes tonight (and pretty much every night for the next month at least). If you go out in the next week and look west (where the sun set), you will see Orion. Even if you've never star gazed before, you'll be able to recognize Orion. It has seven of some of the brightest stars in the sky. Just above and a little left of Orion is Gemini. You will probably be able to see Thiazi's eyes and a red star that looks like it could be a nose. This red star is what the Norse called the Bloody Star (which we call Mars). It just happens to be passing through the neighborhood this month. Here is how the sky will look to the southwest tonight:
Here is what you are looking at. The eye to your left is what we call Pollux. It is the brighter of the two and is about 35 light years away. The right eye is not one star, not two stars, but actually six stars spaced so close together that you can only see them as one. In fact, even with a backyard telescope you can only make out two stars. They are 50 light years aways.

Happy star hunting! I'd love to know if anyone saw them.


Vall said...

Great tip re: Thiazi's eyes being Castor and Pollux! I just heard the tale and was wondering. Can you please cite any references for the scholars that are of that opinion? I'd like to read more on the subject, specially on how they came to that conclusion.

Shaswata said...

Try Neil Gaimans Norse Mythology

Unknown said...

Gaimans book doesn’t mention what stars.

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