51.Lepus

Written by probationideadlyi on September 3rd, 2014. Posted in 88

 

Under Orion's feet, mark too the Hare,
Perpetually pursued. Behind him Sirius
Drives as in chase, hard pressing when he rises,
And when he sinks as hotly pressing still
Frothingham's Aratos


The Hare

One of the chief characteristics of the constellation figures is the element of strife and conflict that seems to be especially emphasised, and is the predominating feature in many of the star groups.

Thus the giant Hercules brandishes a club and

  • tramples on the Dragon's head;
  • Orion attacks the onrushing Bull;
  • Ophiuchus struggles with a writhing Serpent, and crushes underfoot the Scorpion, which in turn thrusts at him with its sting;
  • the Hounds, driven on by the Herdsman, continually pursue and harass the Great Bear;
  • the fierce monster of the deep, the Whale, seems eagerly looking for whom he may devour,
  • while the champion Perseus, with drawn sword, stands ever ready to join in mortal combat;
  • the Archer aims his shaft at the heart of the Scorpion,
  • the Hydra pursues the Lesser Dog, and is in turn in danger of being seized by the Crab;
  • and here we find the timid Hare fleeing before the Hounds of Orion.

The story the stars unfold is therefore one replete with action and strife, and this fact is further evidence that the constellations were deliberately planned, for a haphazard arrangement of figures, passive in their attitudes, would savour of no special significance ; but action calls for a plan and a definite idea that is preconceived, and so we find in the constellations an endeavour on the part of primitive man, through the medium of symbolism and allegory, to depict in the starry heavens for all ages, the predominant features of their lives, with special emphasis laid on the manifestations of nature, and the phenomena coincident with the creation of the world.

Classical writers are much in doubt as to the history of the constellation Lepus. It is situated directly south of Orion, and was one of the animals which the giant hunter is said to have delighted in hunting. It is for this reason, so it is said, placed near him among the stars.

Lepus is an inconspicuous constellation, and in these latitudes seems to crouch low on the horizon as if in an endeavour to escape attention.
According to Brown, the Hare is a reduplication of the moon, and as the sun seems to put to flight the moon, and as the solar overcomes the lunar light, so Orion pursues and conquers the Hare. An astonishing amount of folklore connects the moon and the Hare.

Allen in his Star Names and their Meanings relates much that is of interest in this connection. Dr. Seiss claims that in the Persian and Egyptian zodiacs the figure represented beneath the foot of Orion is not a Hare but a Serpent. If this is the case, we would have among the constellations the figures of three giants engaged in subduing serpents, surely sufficient to fully emphasise the enmity that instinctively exists between mankind and serpentkind. Schiller regarded Lepus as representing Gideon's Fleece.

Lepus does not rise until Aquila, the Eagle, the bird which loves the sun, is setting, from which fact arose the mythological belief of the hatred existing between the Hare and the Eagle.
As Lepus sets the Crow rises, and this fact accounts for the ancient belief that the Hare detested the voice of the Raven.
The early Arabs sometimes called this constellation "the Chair of the Giant" or "the Throne of Jauzah," owing to its position in the sky close beneath Orion. The Arabs also likened the four stars forming the quadrilateral which identifies the constellation, to four camels slaking their thirst in the near-by river in the sky, the Milky Way, or possibly Eridanus, the River Po.

Hewitt says that in early Egyptian astronomy Lepus was "the Boat of Osiris," the great god of that country, and identified with Orion.

The Chinese called the constellation "a Shed."

Lepus has been thought by some to represent certain Biblical figures such as "the Magdalen in tears," "Judas Iscariot," or "Cain driven from the face of the earth to the face of the moon." 

Alpha Leporis was called α (Arneb)  by the Arabs. It is a double star, the stars being coloured pale yellow and grey. It culminates at 9 p.m. on Jan. 24th.

Six seconds away from α (Arneb is situated Sir John Herschel's 3780, a Sextuple star, a beautiful object even in a small telescope.
Beta  Leporis, known to the Arabs as β (Nihal)  is a triple star of magnitudes 3d, 10th, and 11th.

Lepus contains the celebrated variable R Leporis, of a deep crimson colour. It was discovered by Hind in 1845, and is sometimes referred to as "Hind's Crimson Star." It has been likened to "a drop of blood on a black field." No other star in these latitudes compares with it in depth of colour.

Just west of Lepus is the little asterism known as "the Brandenburg Sceptre," designed by Kirch in 1688. It contains but four stars of the 4th and 5th magnitudes, and the sceptre is represented in Burritt's Atlas as standing upright in the sky

How to remember Lepus: Rather cartoonish looking rabbit head, with two long and floppy ears

Bayer –

  1. α (Arneb)
  2. β (Nihal)
  3. γ
  4. δ
  5. ε
  6. ζ
  7. η
  8. θ
  9. ι
  10. κ
  11. λ
  12. μ
  13. ν


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