We are at the letter F in our April’s A-Z challenge, as we tour of heavenly bodies. “F” is even less popular than “E” for constellations. There is only one, Fornax. This constellation is in the southern hemisphere, but can be seen from the mid-latitudes in the north, but it is a constellation that lacks any bright stars and I’m sure I couldn’t pick it out without some help. Fornax means furnace and is located in one of the bends of yesterday’s constellation, Eridanus. But none of its stars are very bright. So I am going to bend the rules and instead of using actual names of the heavenly body, I’m going to go by a description: “Flying Horse.” That’s right, for letter “F” we’re going to explore Pegasus, the flying horse.
|For those who would like to try to find Formax|
As with most of the constellations, there are numerous stories about Pegasus. He was supposedly born when Perseus decapitated Medusa. When Medusa’ blood fell upon the foam waters of the sea, Pegasus rose. He’s supposedly a horse with a mild temper and whose hoofs have been known to “kick up” springs with water that inspire poets. At one time in his career, he carried Zeus or Jupiter’s lightning bolts. He also spent time grazing on the earth (probably because the grass was better than Mount Olympus). Bellerophon, the son of the King of Corinth, put a bridle on Pegasus and the two of them had a fine time riding around. But when Bellerophon asked Pegasus to take him to Mount Olympus, the gods became concerned that the mythical horse was bringing a mortal rider and either snapped a lightning bolt or sent a biting fly to cause Pegasus to buck. Bellerophon was thrown off and crashed back down to earth while Pegasus took his place in the sky.
Pegasus can easily be seen in overhead during the fall (or later at night during the summer). Look for a large square. There are four bright stars that make up the corners and there are only very dim stars within the square (unless it is really dark, you might not even see any stars within the large square). In addition to the square, stars led off to make up the horses neck and head and front legs. Other cultures have created different stories to go with the great square. In India, it’s seen as a bedstead and in South America it was understood to be a barbecue grill.