I apologize that this is later than my other post and is probably not sufficiently proofed... but it's out the day it was due!
We’re taking a stop today at the letter L in our A-Z Challenge. As it was with the letter C, there are a host of constellations that begin with an L. Three of the most well-known ones are Leo, Libra and Lyra. Among the half dozen not well known ones is Lynx, which has no bright stars and can only be seen where the sky is truly black. The elusive nature of the Lynx, like the wild variety of which I’ve only seen once (in Northern Ontario), made it worth a mention.
Leo the Lion, is best seen in the northern hemisphere during the Spring. You can find it under the Big Dipper. Look for the star Regulus, which makes up Leo’s front hip. It is a bright star (the 20th brightest in the sky). The shape of the other stars make out a lion. This is an old constellation, existing in mythology long before Ptolemy created his classification of 48 constellations in the 2nd Century. Leo is also in the Zodiac, the swath of stars in which the sun travels through the sky. It is also from this constellation that the Leonid meteors seem to come (around November 17th each year). Leo was one of the challenges that Hercules faced (see the Letter H). The strong man killed the lion which is now set into the sky.
Lyra is a small constellation located in the northern sky during summer, between Hercules and Cygnus, on the edge of the Milky Way. The star, Vega, the fourth brightest in the sky and of a blue color is located at the top of the constellation and an easy point to make out the rest of the stars (which appears to form a box of which Vega is a handle) It is often depicted as a stringed musical instrument. According to mythology, Mercury found a shell along the banks of the Nile, which he noticed had an echo. He decided to attach strings to it, which when plucked, created a pleasing sound. Apollo became interested in this instrument and traded his staff (which allowed one to fly) for it. Apollos then passed the instrument on to his son, Orpheus. Orpheus married Eurydice, but she died from a snake bite. Grief stricken, Orpheus headed underground and charmed Pluto, the god of the underworld, through his music. Pluto agreed to release his wife. The condition was that she could follow Orpheus from the underworld, but he couldn’t look back. Like Lot’s wife, Orpheus couldn’t resist the temptation to make sure his wife was following and when glanced back, his wife was doomed to remain in Pluto’s realm. Orpheus then traveled around, the Harry Chapin of the day,singing sad love songs. Many women fell in love with him through his music. They tried to seduce him, but he would have none of it. Finally, he was killed by some of the potential lovers that he had rejected. "If you can't love 'em, kill 'em" was their motto. These murdering seductresses threw the lyre into river, but Jupiter sent a vulture to retrieve the instrument. He had it placed safely in the sky.
Libra is another constellation within the Zodiac and is seen as a set of ancient scales that is used to weighing out goods in a market place (or the scales of justice as the stars are also sometimes placed in the hand of Virgo, the goddess of justice). Originally, these stars were seen as a part of scorpion’s claws, but was broken off from Scorpius to form this constellation. It was through this occurred around twelves centuries before Christ, when the constellation would have been seen with the Autumnal Equinox and the scales were depicted as weighing out equal time for day and night.
I have been collecting and checking my information from these post from a collection of books about the stars that I own along with the internet. However, my main source is Julius D. W. Staal’s The New Patterns in the Sky: Myths and Legends of the Stars. The book was originally published in 1961, but the new version came out in 1988. It is a delightful book that tells the stories of the stars (this is not the book to find the constellations, for that I would suggest one of several field guides to the stars or an “app” on a smart phone.