mardi 2 septembre 2008

Aquila 8

Aquila represents an eagle, the thunderbird of the Greeks. There are several explanations for the presence of this eagle in the sky. In Greek and Roman mythology, the eagle was the bird of Zeus, carrying (and retrieving) the thunderbolts which the wrathful god hurled at his enemies. But the eagle was involved in love as well as war.
According to one story, Aquila is the eagle that snatched up the beautiful Trojan boy Ganymede, son of King Tros, to become the cup-bearer of the gods on Olympus. Authorities such as the Roman poet Ovid say that Zeus turned himself into an eagle, whereas others say that the eagle was simply sent by Zeus. Ganymede himself is represented by the neighbouring constellation of Aquarius, and star charts show Aquila swooping down towards Aquarius. Germanicus Caesar says that the eagle is guarding the arrow of Eros (neighbouring Sagitta) which made Zeus love-struck.
The constellations of the eagle and the swan are linked in an account by Hyginus. Zeus fell in love with the goddess Nemesis but, when she resisted his advances, he turned himself into a swan and had Aphrodite pretend to pursue him in the form of an eagle. Nemesis gave refuge to the escaping swan, only to find herself in the embrace of Zeus. To commemorate this successful trick, Zeus placed the images of swan and eagle in the sky.

The name of the constellation’s brightest star, Altair, comes from the Arabic al-nasr al-ta’ir, meaning ‘flying eagle’ or ‘vulture’. Ptolemy called this star Aetus, the eagle, the same as the constellation. The German scholar Paul Kunitzsch notes that the Babylonians and Sumerians referred to Altair as the eagle star, testimony to an even more ancient origin of the name. Altair’s neighbouring stars Beta and Gamma Aquilae form the eagle’s outstretched wings. These two stars have their own names, Alshain and Tarazed, which come from a Persian translation of an old Arabic word meaning ‘the balance’.
Altair forms one corner of the so-called Summer Triangle with the stars Vega and Deneb, found in the constellations Lyra and Cygnus respectively. A charming eastern myth visualizes the stars of Aquila and those of Lyra as two lovers separated by the river of the Milky Way, able to meet on just one day each year when magpies collect to form a bridge across the celestial river.
The southern part of Aquila was subdivided by Ptolemy into a now-obsolete constellation called Antinous, visualized on some maps as being held in the eagle’s claws.

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