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Stellae, Astra, Sidera!

Stars, Stars, Stars!  I absolutely love star gazing.  My kids and I will sometimes stay up late on warm nights (we are starting to get those again in Texas) and look at the stars.  They really enjoy finding the constellations and asking me to again tell them the mythological stories behind them.  It seems a bit surreal to think that thousands of years ago little Romans were having the same conversations with their parents (but in Latin).

Not only do the constellations bear names of Roman origin, but even the individual stars themselves have Latin names.  I was reminded of this recently with a video link that my husband sent me.  It shows the size of earth, the sun, and then our solar system in comparison to the stars in the heavens.  Each planet and each star has a caption that reveals its name.   As you watch you can’t help but awe at the structure of the universe.  We are but a small small speck in a giant universe.  As the pslamist said, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”  Watching as a classicist, you can’t help but think how cool it is that these names all really do mean something – and we undertand! 

Enjoy the video: http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=88753051194&h=_SQ33&u=ycCcj&ref=nf

If this wets your appetite to learn more about the stars check out these cool database for the constellations that include their names, locations, and the myths behind them.

The Constellations and their Stars: http://www.astro.wisc.edu/~dolan/constellations/

Database for 88 Constellations: http://www.ne.jp/asahi/stellar/scenes/data_e/const88.htm

2 Responses to “Stellae, Astra, Sidera!”

  • Hello …

    I’m giving a presentation tomorrow on the Solar System, Easter, etc. – all in a spreadsheet. Take a look at the site if you’d like. A question came to mind as I was researching the origins of the names sidereal and synodic. Sidereal comes from Latin sidera for stars, as I understand it. However, being from Kansas, this got me thinking, as our state motto includes “astra”, also Latin for “stars”. Do both words mean “stars”?

    Thanks!

    Mike Round

  • Karen Moore:

    Michael,
    My apologies for the delayed response. This is a great question. Astrum is a neuter noun which means and individual star. Astra would be the plural form, thus stars. Sidus is a neuter singular noun which means a constellation, a specific group of stars. The Perseus website is a great place for finding the definitions of words and how they are often used in the context of Latin literature. Visit http://www.perseus.tufts.edu.

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