mardi 23 septembre 2008

Serpens 4

The starry Serpent . . .
Southward winding from the Northern Wain,
Shoots to remoter spheres its glittering train.


le Serpent in France, il Serpente in Italy, and die Schlange in Germany, probably is very ancient, and always has been shown as grasped by the hands of Ophiuchus at its pair of stars δ, ε, and at ν, τ Ophiuchi. The head is marked by the noticeable group ι, κ, γ, φ, υ, ρ, and the eight little stars all lettered τ, and consecutively numbered, 10° south from the Crown and 20° due east from Arcturus; the figure line thence winding southwards 15° to Libra, and turning to the southeast and northeast along the western edge of the Milky Way, terminating at its star θ, 8° south of the tail of the Eagle and west of that constellation's δ.
Of the four stellar Snakes this preëminently is the Serpent, its stars originally being combined with those of Ophiuchus, although Manilius wrote
Serpentem Graiis Ophiuchus nomine dictus dividit;
but it now is catalogued separately, and occasionally divided into Caput and Cauda on either side of the Serpent-holder.
The Greeks knew it as Ὄφις Ὀφιοῦχου, or simply as Ὄφις, and familiarly as Ἑρπετόν and Ἐγχέλυς, respectively the Serpent and the Eel; the Latins, occasionally as Anguilla, Anguis, and Coluber; but universally as Serpens, often qualified as the Serpent of Aesculapius, Caesius, Glaucus, Laocoön, and of Ophiuchus; and as Serpens Herculeus, Lernaeus, and Sagarinus. The 1515 Almagest and the Alfonsine Tables of 1521 had Serpens Alangue, thus combining their corrupted Latin with their equally corrupted Arabic, as often is the case with those works. It also was Draco Lesbius and Tiberinus, and, perhaps, Ovid's and Vergil's Lucidus Anguis.
In the astronomy of Arabia it was Al Ḥayyah, the Snake, — Chilmead's Alhafa; but before that country was influenced by Greece there was a very different constellation here, Al Rauḍah, the Pasture; the stars β and γ, with γ and β Herculis, forming the Nasaḳ Shāmiyy, the Northern Boundary; while δ, α, and ε Serpentis, with δ, ε, ζ, and η Ophiuchi, were the Nasaḳ Yamāniyy, the Southern Boundary. The enclosed sheep were shown by the stars now in the Club of Hercules, guarded on the west by the Shepherd and his Dog, the stars α in Ophiuchus and Hercules.
To the Hebrews, as to most nations, this was a Serpent from the earliest times, and, Renan said, may have been the one referred to in the Book of Job, xxvi.13; but Delitzsch, who renders the original words as the "Fugitive Dragon," and others with him, consider our Draco to be the constellation intended, as probably more ancient and widely known from its ever visible circumpolar position. The biblical school made it the serpent seducer of Eve, while in our day imaginative observers find another heavenly Cross in the stars of the head, one that belongs to Saint Andrew or Saint Patrick.
Serpens shared with Ophiuchus the Euphratean title of Nu‑tsir‑da, the Image of the Serpent; and is supposed to have been one of the representatives of divinity to the Ophites, the Hivites of Old Testament times.
The comparatively void space between ν and ε was the Chinese Tien Shi Yuen, the Enclosure of the Heavenly Market.
Argelander counts 51 stars within the constellation boundaries, and Heis 82. In its cluster NGC 5904, 5 M., Bailey has discovered 85 variables.

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