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Yossarian
2005-Jul-03, 08:23 PM
Hello all,

I enjoy and appreciate science, but my background is in the liberal arts. Recently I've been trying to brush up on my sciences and the scientific method to counter some proposals and arguments put forth by people who believe in faith over science. Anyway, I have two questions out of pure curiosity;

1.) Is it true that the during ancient times (B.C.E.), the constellations and stars were not in their current postion in the sky? (i.e. Polaris was not the North Star) If true, why?

2.) I am assuming in times past (before the industrial age) that the night sky was brilliant due to the lack of light pollution. In ancient times, did they have any explanations for what the haze we know as the Milky Way was in the sky.

3.) Are there any "random" stars in between the galaxies, or is it just "space"

Also, can any one point me to a message board similar to this that deals with evolution. I am not interested in discussion of evolution v. intelligent design. I just have some questions about sexual selection and the development of intelligence. Thanks in advance for everyone's help.

Crimson
2005-Jul-03, 08:36 PM
1.) Is it true that the during ancient times (B.C.E.), the constellations and stars were not in their current postion in the sky? (i.e. Polaris was not the North Star) If true, why?

Yes. The Earth wobbles--the fancy name for this is precession--which causes the axis to point in different directions. As a result, only in recent centuries has Polaris been a good North Star. It will be at its best in 2102. See "Polaris and the North Pole" by Jean Meeus, Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 100, 5. (http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-iarticle_query?1990JBAA..100..212M)


2.) I am assuming in times past (before the industrial age) that the night sky was brilliant due to the lack of light pollution. In ancient times, did they have any explanations for what the haze we know as the Milky Way was in the sky.

Yes. The first to get it right was Greek philosopher Democritus, in the 5th century B.C. With his telescope, Galileo in 1609 then proved Democritus right. However, many others got it wrong. For example, Aristotle thought the Milky Way was only an atmospheric phenomenon, a vapor from the Earth. See Ken Croswell's book The Alchemy of the Heavens (http://KenCroswell.com/alchemy.html), pages 12-13.


3.) Are there any "random" stars in between the galaxies, or is it just "space"

Yes, some stars have been discovered between the galaxies of the Virgo cluster. Likewise in other galaxy clusters.

Crimson
2005-Jul-03, 08:43 PM
Duh! Crimson forgot to say what Democritus's explanation for the Milky Way was! He thought it was made of stars--and Galileo's observations proved him right.

01101001
2005-Jul-03, 08:43 PM
Welcome to the BABB.

My stab:



1.) Is it true that the during ancient times (B.C.E.), the constellations and stars were not in their current postion in the sky? (i.e. Polaris was not the North Star) If true, why?

Everything is moving, including the earth, and its axis of rotation. The axis hasn't moved a lot in historical times, but significantly over 10 or 20 thousand years.

Ask an astronomer: How different would the night sky have looked in 40,000 B.C.? (http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=432)


2.) I am assuming in times past (before the industrial age) that the night sky was brilliant due to the lack of light pollution. In ancient times, did they have any explanations for what the haze we know as the Milky Way was in the sky.

From a brief look I once took (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=357069#357069), ancient cultures variously described it as, among others, a river (sometimes of silver or milk), a serpent, a path.


3.) Are there any "random" stars in between the galaxies, or is it just "space"


I think they can be ejected from galaxies where they formed. Let's try that Cornell site again. Ah, here's an answer (http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=384).

W.F. Tomba
2005-Jul-03, 09:44 PM
2.) I am assuming in times past (before the industrial age) that the night sky was brilliant due to the lack of light pollution. In ancient times, did they have any explanations for what the haze we know as the Milky Way was in the sky.

From a brief look I once took (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=357069#357069), ancient cultures variously described it as, among others, a river (sometimes of silver or milk), a serpent, a path.
The name Milky Way itself suggests this. OED says it's a translation of the classical Latin lactea via. (The word galaxy comes from a related Greek word meaning milk.)

Gillianren
2005-Jul-03, 10:27 PM
welcome!

as a fellow liberal arts major, I seem to recall reading in my studies of Greek mythology that the Milky Way was specifically Gaea's milk. no, I don't remember how it supposedly got up there. but I can say that the constellations were things "set in the sky" by the gods for one reason or another, so perhaps they just gave 'er a squeeze heavenward.

01101001
2005-Jul-03, 10:35 PM
I seem to recall reading in my studies of Greek mythology that the Milky Way was specifically Gaea's milk. no, I don't remember how it supposedly got up there. but I can say that the constellations were things "set in the sky" by the gods for one reason or another, so perhaps they just gave 'er a squeeze heavenward.

From this thread (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=17340), cited earlier, offers:


When Hero Hercules was still a baby, Hermes, God of messenger, who considered making Hercules immortal, let the baby suck the nipples of sleeping Goddess Hera. Hera, who was surprised and awaked, thrust the baby away. But milk, gushing out from her breast Hercules sucked strongly, splashed to the sky. And it is said that it became the Milky Way.

gopher65
2005-Jul-03, 11:22 PM
I seem to recall reading in my studies of Greek mythology that the Milky Way was specifically Gaea's milk. no, I don't remember how it supposedly got up there. but I can say that the constellations were things "set in the sky" by the gods for one reason or another, so perhaps they just gave 'er a squeeze heavenward.

From this thread (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=17340), cited earlier, offers:


When Hero Hercules was still a baby, Hermes, God of messenger, who considered making Hercules immortal, let the baby suck the nipples of sleeping Goddess Hera. Hera, who was surprised and awaked, thrust the baby away. But milk, gushing out from her breast Hercules sucked strongly, splashed to the sky. And it is said that it became the Milky Way.

It depends on whether or not you are talking about classical greek mythology or ancient mythology, and which area of greece you are thinking about. Remember, this was religion to those people, so there were many different stories and ideas.

01101001
2005-Jul-03, 11:39 PM
It depends on whether or not you are talking about classical greek mythology or ancient mythology, and which area of greece you are thinking about. Remember, this was religion to those people, so there were many different stories and ideas.

Of course -- like the cited thread says. There were many cultural descriptions of the Milky Way. Surely, even within a culture, it had different explanations. Take your pick.

Melusine
2005-Jul-04, 12:27 AM
Gillianren, I can see how you would recall Gaea as the source, because she is the beginning of everything, born from Chaos and was goddess of the Earth, and gala is milk in Greek (I'll explain more at the end), but 0110 is correct as I know it. And Gopher65, at the time the Milky Way was so named during Hellenistic times in Alexandria, mythology wasn't a religion, but it was catalogued by Eratosthenes and the Athenian Apollodorus around 120 AD.

This was the time that astrology (study of stars) was beginning to turn a bit more into astronomy (law of stars), and a compendia of mythological origins was written called the Catasterisms. These had 44 myths of how people turned into stars, but the origins of the names of real stars were not created by ancient Greeks before them, but by those in Alexandria. The early Greeks had few astral legends, all in all. The legend of Gemini is one, and the Milky Way is another of the 44. It says:


Catasterism number 44, the origin of the Milky Way, is given thus: "The sons of Zeus might only share in the divine honors if Hera had sucklesthem. Hermes, therefore (so they say), brought Heracles at his birth to Hera and held him to Hera's breat and she suckled him. But when she realized it was Heracles, she shook him off and the excess milk spurted out to form the Galaxy."

I do not know of any other explanations; my information comes from books, but I'm sure Google has it somewhere.

Back to Gaea (or Ge or Gaia), sometimes a family tree would help. But one thing to remember is that the couplings always represent the earth and sky, or tend to forthe most part--Gaia and Ouranos (Uranus), Zeus and Hera., etc. So, it goes likes this, beginning with Chaos, the "great yawning" in Greek:

Chaos was created and had ---> Ge (earth)m Tartarus (the underground depths), Eros (love), Erebus (the gloom of Tartarus), and Night.

Ge, (Gaea, Gaia)produced Ouranos (the sky) by herself somehow. She then coupled with him (lots of incest going on) and produced
--->the Titans
--->Cyclops
---> the Hekatoncheires (the 300-armed giants)

The 12 Titans, one of which was Zeus, who was not eaten by his father Kronos (Roman Saturn), because Konos was given a stone thinking it was Zeus.

Zeus coupled with Hera (goddess of childbirth) who was the eldest daughter of Kronos and Rhea. So, yeah, technically brother and sister got together, though Zeus had many goddesses. Zeus was god of the heavens controlling thunder, lightning, and rain, et al., and Hera represented marriage and family. There isn't much variation about Zeus and Hera.

:)

Melusine
2005-Jul-04, 12:35 AM
It depends on whether or not you are talking about classical greek mythology or ancient mythology, and which area of greece you are thinking about. Remember, this was religion to those people, so there were many different stories and ideas.

Of course -- like the cited thread says. There were many cultural descriptions of the Milky Way. Surely, even within a culture, it had different explanations. Take your pick.
I think you are both right in one way or another. Sure, there are earlier ancient legends regarding the stars, and yes, there are a few variations based on the few writers we have to go on, but Greek is the basis of the language we use, and the Greeks really began the modern alphabet, so the names are Greek-based. Since we have so few Greek sources (relatively speaking to today's terms), we definitely don't for ancient sources before them--cave pictures, art work, et al.

However, the variations within Greek circles aren't wildly different from the Roman versions and alterations--a name here or an object there. Wheat, corn...whatever...it will symbolize the same thing. :)

Musashi
2005-Jul-04, 01:13 AM
I thought Kronos was a Titan and Zeus eventually killed him and enslaved most of the other titans. But, it has been a while...

Melusine
2005-Jul-04, 01:22 AM
I thought Kronos was a Titan and Zeus eventually killed him and enslaved most of the other titans. But, it has been a while...
Kronos was a Titan, as I mention above, he is Zeus's father and he ate his children, but he was fooled into thinking he ate Zeus, when in fact it was a stone that Rhea had given him. Later Zeus and some other deities overthrew Kronos and the Titans and Zeus took control of the upper regions, Hades, the bottom and Poseidon the middle regions (oceans).

Zeus wanted power! (Rhea btw, was Kronos's sister, both Titans).

Edit: Add note to Musashi: I mentioned this a week or so ago,
http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=489431#489431

That castrated father is Uranus. :wink:

W.F. Tomba
2005-Jul-04, 03:10 AM
Greek is the basis of the language we use, and the Greeks really began the modern alphabet, so the names are Greek-based.
Although we do have a lot of words that come either directly or indirectly from Greek, it's not accurate to say that English is based on Greek. Modern English is mostly a combination of Anglo-Saxon and French, so the roots of most English words go either to Proto-Germanic or Latin. Latin was of course influenced by Greek, as the Romans borrowed a lot of Greek culture, but I think that the similarities between Latin and Greek were mostly due to common ancestry, not one language influencing the other.

Melusine
2005-Jul-04, 03:34 AM
Greek is the basis of the language we use, and the Greeks really began the modern alphabet, so the names are Greek-based.
Although we do have a lot of words that come either directly or indirectly from Greek, it's not accurate to say that English is based on Greek. Modern English is mostly a combination of Anglo-Saxon and French, so the roots of most English words go either to Proto-Germanic or Latin. Latin was of course influenced by Greek, as the Romans borrowed a lot of Greek culture, but I think that the similarities between Latin and Greek were mostly due to common ancestry, not one language influencing the other.

I'm sorry I did not clarify what I meant, because I am well aware of the origins of our language; I was referring to the names of the stars, planets and other astral objects. They are derived from Greek names. :wink:

I guess I should add, that it's pointless to refer to pre-Greek ancient civilizations' names for objects, in reference to the Milk Way, since the names were based on Greek words. Does that clarify better?

Gillianren
2005-Jul-04, 09:55 PM
Melusine, I do remember all the family relationships; it was just that one particular story I was falling down on. mea culpa. you're absolutely right as to why I probably remember it as Gaea (I tend to use the "Gaea" and "Gaia" spelling pretty interchangeably, which is a horrible habit), though everyone else is probably right in suggesting that there could be more than one version of the story.

and let me, at this point, insert yet another plug of Isaac Asimov's Words from the Myths, which is where I got quite a lot of my knowledge of myths.

and, as to words "coming from" Greek--well, some did. as I'm sure Melusine remembers discussing, English is notorious for borrowing from any other language that happens to cross its path. now, that's a language with chutzpah.

Melusine
2005-Jul-04, 10:20 PM
Melusine, I do remember all the family relationships; it was just that one particular story I was falling down on. mea culpa. you're absolutely right as to why I probably remember it as Gaea (I tend to use the "Gaea" and "Gaia" spelling pretty interchangeably, which is a horrible habit), though everyone else is probably right in suggesting that there could be more than one version of the story.

and let me, at this point, insert yet another plug of Isaac Asimov's Words from the Myths, which is where I got quite a lot of my knowledge of myths.

and, as to words "coming from" Greek--well, some did. as I'm sure Melusine remembers discussing, English is notorious for borrowing from any other language that happens to cross its path. now, that's a language with chutzpah.
Oh, I agree, I was just saying that the names of constellations and planets are mainly derived from Greek--Greek language, then refurbished by the Romans. Our constellation names are not Mayan names, or Sumerian based (I mean actual origin), even though they had their own names--the Milky Way story is Greek legend. It is interesting that Sedna is an Inuit name of a goddess, which has not been the normal course of naming many objects in the sky--it's good to see other myths being used for names. I completely agree with WF Tomba, but in the case of the Milky Way, it's name came from the Greek language--gala ---> milk---> galaxy. :D

Argos
2005-Jul-05, 02:31 PM
3.) Are there any "random" stars in between the galaxies, or is it just "space".

Gravitational interactions within the galaxies can expell stars to the intergalactic medium, like this one (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/star_leaving_our_galaxy.html?822005).

Donnie B.
2005-Jul-05, 04:12 PM
The Navajo have at least three different creation myths that explain the Milky Way. In one, Coyote hastily steals a piece of ash bread (bread made of corn and baked in ashes) from First Man and First Woman. The trail of ashes he creates upon fleeing forms the Milky Way.

Quoted from:
http://dine.sanjuan.k12.ut.us/string_games/significance/nav_starlore/milky_way.html

I imagine that you could find hundreds of different Milky Way stories from various cultures around the world.

Maksutov
2005-Jul-05, 05:41 PM
Hello all,

I enjoy and appreciate science, but my background is in the liberal arts.[edit]
"Liberal arts"? I thought those (that) were extinct! You ain't gonna make much of a yuppie, son!

Anyway, welcome to the BABB! Enjoy your stay.

But remember


Let me see if I've got this straight: in order to be grounded, I've got to be crazy and I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I'm not crazy anymore and I have to keep flying.

That's some catch, that Catch-22! - Dr. 'Doc' Daneeka