Augiga The Charioteer Essay Research Paper Auriga

Augiga The Charioteer Essay, Research Paper

Auriga, the Charioteer is the last of the autumn

constellations with a right ascension of six hours and a

declination of 41.73 degrees. Auriga is an ancient Northern

Hemisphere constellation featuring one of the brightest

stars in the sky: Capella. Auriga is usually shown as a

charioteer; the young Auriga wields a whip in one hand and

holds a goat (Capella) and her two/three kids in the other.

To find Auriga, first locate Orion. Taurus is to the

right (west) and just above these two, much higher in the

sky, you will see Capella. While this star marks roughly the

mid-point of the constellation, north to south, most of the

more interesting aspects of the constellation are found to

the south of the star, all the way down to El Nath, the

second brightest star (gamma Auriga) which is actually

shared with Taurus, and also known as beta Taurus.

Auriga’s stars are fairly bright; five are second

magnitude or brighter. Alpha Auriga (Capella) is the sixth

brightness star, at a visual magnitude of 0.08. The star is

43.5 light years away, and is about ten times the size of

our Sun. Capella’s visual magnitude is really the combined

brightness of the primary star and another star that

revolves every 104 days. This star is also known as

Menkalina. The star name derives from the Arabic name Al

Mankib dhi’l Inan, “The Shoulder of the One Who Holds the

Reins,” that is, “The Shoulder of the Charioteer.” Several

open clusters are found in Auriga. Each contains about 100

stars and is about 2,700 light years away. The main part of

Auriga is a five-sided figure of first, second, third

magnitude stars. The Charioteer has two strange variable

stars. Epsilon is usually a third magnitude star, then once

every twenty-seven years it undergoes an eclipse, dimming by

almost a magnitude for nearly two years. The next scheduled

eclipse is in the late summer of 2010.

The Charioteer may be the legendary King Erichthonius

of Athens. He was the son of Hephaestus, the God of Fire,

which the Romans called Vulcan. Like his father Erichthonius

he was also crippled. Erichthonius was raised by Athene, the

patron goddess of Athens, and from her he learned how tame

horses. He was the first to harness four horses to one

chariot, in imitation of the Chariot of the Sun. For this he

was honored by Zeus by being placed among the stars as the

constellation of Auriga.

Others say that The Charioteer represents Hippolytus,

the son of the very same Theseus of Athens who sailed to

Crete, traveled to the Labyrinth with the help of King

Minos’ daughter Ariadne and killed the monstrous Minotaur.

It is said that Hippolytus stepmother Phaedra desired the

young man and killed herself in despair after he rejected

her, but not before writing a note to her husband, Theseus

charging Hippolytus with rape. Reading the note, Theseus

banished Hippolytus from the city and prayed to that the god

Poseidon should strike him down. As Hippolytus drove off in

his chariot, the horses drawing the chariot were thrown into

a panic by the vision of a giant bull emerging from the sea.

The chariot crashed and Hippolytus was killed.

Some people identify The Charioteer with Myrtilus, a

son of Hermes and the chariot driver for King Oenomaus of

Elis. The king had a beautiful daughter Hippodamia. There

were many suitors who sought her hand in marriage. But to

marry her, a suitor had first to win a chariot race with the

king, who rode in a chariot driven by Myrtilus. Any suitor

who could not beat the king’s chariot, had his head lopped

off. Hippodamia’s chances of marriage did not look very good

until Pelops son of Tantalus showed up. She fell in love

with him and arranged that Myrtilus would throw the chariot

race. He sabotaged the king’s chariot so that a wheel came

off during the race and the king was thrown to his death.

The ungrateful Pelops threw the chariot driver Myrtilus into

the sea, where he drowned. Hermes memorialized his drowned

son Myrtilus by putting the image of the Chariot Driver

among the stars.

The Chariot Driver is shown as holding a small goat.

The goat is usually identified as the animal that had fed

the baby Zeus on the Island of Crete milk, where his mother

Rhea had hid him from his father Cronus. Cronus was a Titan,

one of the elder gods. Because of a prophesy that one of his

children would otherthrow him, Cronus swallowed each of his

children as they were born. Out of gratitude to the goat

that had fed him , Zeus placed the image of the goat into

the stars. Another story tells us that the goat was so very

ugly that it could frighten even the Titans. When Zeus

became an adult, he made a cloak from the hide of this ugly

goat. This was Zeus “aegis” which protected him and

frightened his enemies. There is no explanation of how the

goat became associated with the Chariot Driver.


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