A-Z challenge as we explore heavenly bodies. Today’s letter is “G” and we’re going to take a peek at Gemini, the twins. This is the first of our constellations that are in the zodiac (a band around the earth in which the sun travels). Astrologist a great deal out about the zodiac, but they are not scientists. Frankly, I ignore the horoscope in the paper, but have often read those “horrorscopes” found in alternative papers. But that’s another subject and we’ll come back to the zodiac at the end of the month (when we get to the letter Z).
According to legend, the Gemini twins were sons of Leda. Zeus seduced Leda, so she gave birth to Pollux who was immortal. But the other twin, Castor (from whom the oil may have been named) had a mortal dad and therefore was mortal. Don’t ask me how a woman can have twins to different fathers. This is mythology, not science. The twins were assigned as protectors of the ship Argo as it sailed in search of the Golden Fleece. When they boarded the ship, flames leaped from the mast, which associates them with St. Elmo’s fire. Of course, being mortal, Castrol dies. Pollux didn’t feel he could live without his brother and asked his dad, Zeus, if he could die. It was arranged that when Castor sets in the western sky, he dies and goes to Hades, and Pollux gets to follow him. When Castor rises, Pollux also rises.
The best time to see Gemini is late in the evening in the fall, right after Orion has risen. Gemini rises ahead of Orion, so is higher in the sky (just above Betelgeuse. Castor and Pollux are both bright stars, but to me the constellation looks like an upside U, with Castor and Pollux anchoring the letter. Castor is a unique object as it is actually made up of eight stars that circle each other.
Of course, Gemini was the name of a series of American rockets that carried two astronauts into the sky. The first manned rockets were the Mercury program. Gemini was a bridge before the launch of the Saturn rockets that carried the first men to the moon. Castor and Pollux are also characters in the third book of the Hunger Game series (and in the movie).