Dennis Mammana: The right way to Discover the Stellar Dolphin Leaping within the Sky – Noozhawk

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The star dolphin after dark this week. (Creators.com illustration)

Whenever I am out and about under a dark summer sky and share the stars with the public, I always try to point out the largest and most beautiful constellations.

I am always amazed to learn that one of the audience favorites is neither the brightest nor the most famous, but one of the smallest and weakest. In fact, the constellation I am referring to usually causes excitement in those first seeing it.

It is known as Delphinus, the dolphin.

Stargazers far from the city lights will have little trouble spotting Delphinus high in the eastern sky at this time of year. To find its faint stars in the star maze, however, you first need to find something much more familiar, such as the Summer Triangle.

Many of my regular readers already know the summer triangle. Go out after dark around this time of year and look almost over your head after dark and you will see its three stars shine brightly.

At the westernmost vertex of the large triangle is the brightest of the trio: Vega. As you may recall, Vega is the most prominent star in the constellation Lyra, the harp. The southernmost star of the triangle is Altair, which marks the constellation Aquila, the eagle. The figure is completed by Deneb, the faintest of the three stars, who forms the tail of Cygnus, the swan.

And if you have a sufficiently dark sky, you will easily see the bright star clouds and dark rifts of the Milky Way galaxy flowing through the great triangle from south to north.

Once you find this sky marker you should be able to locate Delphinus to the east and see the tiny outline of a dolphin leaping out of the water to the north.

The Hindus knew this group of stars as a porpoise, the Arabs as a riding camel; and in the early Hebrew tradition it was sometimes identified with the great fish of Jonah.

Its four main stars form a grouping that some call “Job’s Coffin”, although the origin of this name seems lost in history.

Its two main stars, Sualocin and Rotanev, were first mentioned in 1814 in a catalog of stars published at the Palermo Observatory, Italy. When read backwards, these two words form the name “Nicolaus Venator”, the Latin version of the Italian name Niccolo Cacciatore, who was deputy director of the observatory at the time.

According to a legend, Delphinus is the dolphin who carried the Greek poet Arion safely to the shore in Taranto and thus enabled him to escape from his enemies. The figure of a young man on the dolphin appears on a classic series of silver coins dating from around 370 BC. Were issued in the southern Italian Tarentum

Delphinus also appeared on the magnificent coins of Syracuse in Sicily, dating from around the 5th century BC. BC date.

Find the dolphin in the sky and you will see why it has generated so much admiration over the centuries. Delphinus – small and weak as it is – is a sight to behold!

– Dennis Mammana is an astronomy writer, writer, lecturer, and photographer who works under the clear dark skies of the Anza Borrego Desert in upstate San Diego County. Contact him at [email protected] and connect with him on Facebook: @dennismammana. Click here to read the previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.


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