Corona Borealis , The Northern Crown


A small constellation that can be recognized by its distinctive shape rather than its brightness is Corona Borealis (kor-OH-nah bor-ee-AL-iss). It is also known as the Northern Crown and has been acknowledged through the ages by many different civilizations.

In late August, Corona Borealis is located almost overhead due west. It lies between the “kite” of Bootes to the west and the “butterfly” of Hercules to the east. In the middle of the crown lies the brightest star of the constellation known as Gemma, the gem. Gemma is a pair of stars revolving around one another.

There are over 400 galaxies that are clustered in the southwestern corner of Corona Borealis. Unfortunately, none of them are visible even with a moderate-sized telescope. They are estimated to be around a billion light-years from our own galaxy.

Several entertaining legends are given to explain the Northern Crown. The Shawnee tribe tells about a circle of star-maidens dancing in the night sky. The circle appears to be incomplete because one of the maidens decides to leave the group so she can marry a mortal warrior on Earth named Alcon. She becomes homesick for her dancing in the night sky and rejoins the other star-maidens, bringing her son with her. Eventually the sky gods agree to bring her beloved Alcon and place him in the night sky. The legend names the bright star Arcturus in Bootes as Alcon, the mortal warrior.

The Greeks speak of a god scorned by a goddess. Feeling rejected, he took off his crown and flung it into the night sky. The jewels then began to sparkle like stars. The Australian Aboriginal sees the star group as a boomerang. The Arabs envision a cracked bowl or plate.

Scan the August night sky and look for the Northern Crown. Imagine dancing Indian star-maidens, a crown of jewels or even a boomerang shimmering overhead. I wish all of you clear dark, and enchanting night skies.

Happy stargazing!

The Waynedale News Staff
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