mercredi 1 octobre 2008

Centaurus 9

The ramping Centaur! . . . .
The Centaur's arrow ready seems to pierce
Some enemy; far forth his bow is bent
Into the blue of heaven.

John Keats' Endymion
Centaurus, the Centaur,
is from the Κένταυρος that Aratos used, probably from earlier times, for it was a universal title with the Greeks; but he also called it Ἱππότα Φήρ, the Horseman Beast, the customary term for a centaur in the Epic and Aeolic dialects. This, too, was the special designation of the classical Pholos, son of Silenus and Melia, and the hospitable one of the family, who died in p149consequence of exercising this virtue toward Hercules. Apollodorus tells us that the latter's gratitude caused this centaur's transformation to the sky as our constellation, with the fitting designation Εὐμενής, Well-disposed.
Eratosthenes asserted that the stellar figure represented Χείρων, a title that, in its transcribed forms Chiron and Chyron, was in frequent poetical use in classical times, and is seen in astronomical works even to Ideler's day. This has appropriately been translated the Handy One, a rendering that well agrees with this Centaur's reputation. He was the son of Chronos and the ocean nymph Philyra, who was changed after his birth into a Linden tree, whence Philyrides occasionally was applied to the constellation; although a variant story made him Phililyrides, the son of Phililyra, the Lyre-loving, from whom he inherited his skill in music. He was imagined as of mild and noble look, very different from the threatening aspect of the centaur Sagittarius; and Saint Clement of Alexandria wrote of him that he first led mortals to righteousness. His story has been thought in some degree historic, even by Sir Isaac Newton. As the wisest and most just of his generally lawless race he was beloved by Apollo and Diana, and from their teaching became proficient in botany and music, astronomy, divination, and medicine, and instructor of the most noted heroes in Grecian legend. Matthew Arnold wrote of him in Empedocles on Etna:

On Pelion, on the grassy ground,
Chiron, the aged Centaur lay,
The young Achilles standing by.
The Centaur taught him to explore
The mountains where the glens are dry
And the tired Centaurs come to rest,
And where the soaking springs abound.
. . . .
He told him of the Gods, the stars,
The tides.
Indeed, he was the legendary inventor of the constellations, as we see in Dyer's poem The Fleece:
Led by the golden stars as Chiron's art
Had marked the sphere celestial;
and the father of Hippo, mentioned by Euripides as foretelling events from the stars.
The story of Pholos is repeated for Chiron: that, being accidentally wounded by one of the poisoned arrows of his pupil Hercules, the Centaur renounced his immortality on earth in favor of the Titan Prometheus, and was raised to the sky by Jove. His name and profession are yet seen in p150the mediaeval medicinal plants Centaurea, the Centaury, and the still earlier Chironeion.
Prometheus evidently inherited Chiron's astronomical attainments, as well as his immortality, for Aeschylus, who thought him the founder of civilization and "full of the most devoted love for the human race," made him say in Prometheus Bound:
I instructed them to mark the stars,
Their rising, and, a harder science yet,
Their setting.
The conception of a centaur's figure with Homer, Hesiod, and even with Berōssōs, probably was of a perfect human form, Pindar being the first to describe it as semi-ferine, and since his day the human portion of the Centaur has been terminated at the waist and the hind quarters of a horse added. William Morris thus pictured him in his Life and Death of Jason:

at last in sight the Centaur drew,
A mighty grey horse trotting down the glade,
Over whose back the long grey locks were laid,
That from his reverend head abroad did flow;
For to the waist was man, but all below
A mighty horse, once roan, but now well-nigh white
With lapse of years; with oak-wreaths was he dight
Where man joined unto horse, and on his head
He wore a gold crown, set with rubies red,
And in his hand he bare a mighty bow,
No man could bend of those that battle now.
Some ancient artists and mythologists changed these hind quarters to those of a bull, thus showing the Minotaur, and on the Euphrates it was considered a complete Bull. The Arabians drew the stellar figure with the hind parts of a Bear, but adopted the Greek title in their Al Kentaurus, that has been considered as the original of the otherwise inexplicable Taraapoz, used in Reduan's Commentary for our constellation.
Some of the Centaur's stars, with those of Lupus, were known to the early Arabs as Al Ḳaḍb al Karm, the Vine Branch; and again as Al Shamārīḣ, the broken-off Palm Branches loaded with dates which Kazwini described as held out in the Centaur's hands. This degenerated into Asemarik, and perhaps was the origin of Bayer's word Asmeat. He also had Albeze; and Riccioli, Albezze and Albizze, — unintelligible unless from the Arabic Al Wazn, Weight, that was sometimes applied to α and β.
Hyde is our authority for another title (from Albumasar), Birdun, the Pack-horse.
Ptolemy described the figure with Lupus in one hand, and the Thyrsus in the other, marked by four 4th-magnitude stars, of which only two can now be found; this Thyrsus being formed, Geminos said, into a separate constellation by Hipparchos as θυρσόλογκος, — in the Manitius text as θύρσος, — and Pliny wrote of it in the same way, but their selection of such small stars seems remarkable.
The Centaur faces the east, and the Farnese globe shows him pointing with left hand to the Beast and the adjacent circular Altar; but in the Hyginus of 1488 the Beast is in his outstretched hands, the Hare on the spear, and a canteen at his waist; the Alfonsine Tables have the Thyrsus in his right hand and Lupus held by the fore foot in his left, which was the Arabian idea. The Leyden Manuscript gives a striking delineation of him with shaven face, but with heavy mustache (!), bearing the spear with the Hare dangling from the head, and a Kid, instead of the Beast, held out in his hands towards the Altar, the usual libation carried in the canteen. Bayer shows the Centaur with Lupus; Burritt has him in a position of attack, with the spear in his right hand and the shield on his left arm, the Thyrsus and vase of libation depicted on it; Grotius calling this portion of the constellation Arma. The Century Dictionary illustrates a Bacchic wand with the spear.
In Rome the constellation was Centaurus, the duplici Centaurus imagine of Manilius, and the Geminus biformis of Germanicus; Minotaurus; Semi Vir, the Half Man, and Semi Fer, the Half Beast; Pelenor and Pelethronius from the mountain home of the centaurs in Thessaly; Acerº Venator, the Fierce Hunter; and Vergil had Sonipes, the Noisy-footed. The Alfonsine Tables designated it as Sagittarius tenens pateram seu crateram to distinguish it from the other Sagittarius with the more appropriate bow.
Robert Recorde, in 1551, had the Centaure Chiron, but Milton, in 1667, wrote Centaur for the zodiac figure, as so many others have done before and since his day; in fact, Sagittarius undoubtedly was the original Centaur and from the Euphrates, the Centaur of the South probably being of Greek conception. But in the classical age confusion had arisen among the unscientific in the nomenclature of the two figures, this continuing till now; much that we find said by one author for the one appearing with another author for the other. During the 17th century, however, distinction was made by English authors in calling this the Great Centaure.
In some mediaeval Christian astronomy it typified Noah, but Julius Schiller changed the figure to Abraham with Isaac; and Caesius likened it to Nebuchadrezzar when "he did eat grass as oxen."
This is one of the largest constellations, more than 60° in length, its centre about 50° south of the star Spica below Hydra's tail; but Aratos located it entirely under the Scorpion and the Claws, an error that Hipparchos criticized. It shows in the latitude of New York City only a few of its components in the bust, of which θ, a variable 2nd-magnitude on the right shoulder, is visible in June about 12° above the horizon when on the meridian, and 27° southeast from Spica, with no other star of similar brightness in its vicinity. It was this that Professor Klinkerfues of Göttingen mentioned in his telegram to the Madras Observatory, on the 30th of November, 1872, in reference to the lost Biela comet which he thought had touched the earth three days previously and might be found in the direction of this star.
ι on the left shoulder, a 2 1/2‑magnitude, is about 11° west of θ.
Gould's list contains 389 naked-eye stars in this constellation.
One of the remarkable nebulae of the heavens, was discovered here by Sir John Herschel, who called it the Blue Planetary, "very like Uranus, only half as large again."
A 7th‑magnitude nova that appeared in Centaurus between the 14th of June and the 8th of July, 1895, had changed since its discovery to a gaseous nebula, as has been the case with recent novae in Auriga, Cygnus, and Norma.

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