Costellazione Altare, stelle principali e mitologia

25 Apr 2017

OSR blog post

Constellation of Altar or Ara

in the genitive Arae = of Altar, of the constellation Altare

Altar, or Ara, is a relatively small but very interesting constellation in the southern hemisphere, visible between spring and summer, preferably in the first ten days of June between 11pm and 1.30-45am. It is not possible to admire it from Italy although, with favorable weather conditions and in suitable periods of the year, it can be glimpsed from southern Sicily. To see Altar you need to go to Egypt, preferably to the central area on the banks of the Nile. Altar is located near the constellation of Scorpius, under its tail. It is also very close to the beautiful constellations of the Peacock and the Bird of Paradise. The symbolism of this constellation has been classified according to three hypotheses, all quite eminent. For a faction of scholars it represents a brazier accompanied by a tripod support, probably referring to the sacrificial offerings of the ancient Egyptian religion. For a second group of scholars it is seen as a simpler and more linear brazier, with a high sparkling flame lit, giving more focus to the concept of blaze than of object and for a last group, however, it recalls a sacrificial altar very similar to those used for ancient ceremonies.

The main stars of the constellation of Altar

The main stars of the constellation of Altare or Ara are not very bright, since none exceeds 3rd magnitude. However, the entire constellation, despite this, was held in high regard by Greek mythology and mentioned several times in various classic songs and stories of the oral tradition. The major stars of Altare are:
– Alfa Ara: it is a yellow-orange star of magnitude less than 3, a super giant, also called Choo. It is a double star that also includes Beta Ara.
– Gamma Ara: it is a triptych, about which there are still some doubts that have not yet been resolved. It is not certain that they are a system and it is assumed that we are part of Altare even if they are more distant from the other two and give a different view of the Sun
– Two star clusters: Altare boasts two stellar groups, one of at least thirty, and the other slightly thinner, clearly visible and very bright, reaching magnitude 6, i.e. almost double that of the main stars. These two clusters are one of the most interesting elements of the Altar constellation, easily observable and of great impact
– Two nebulae: one called NGC6188 and the other PK3424.1. The first is particularly beautiful, thanks to the geometric, triangular designs that the emission zones alternating with the reflection zones form in the central part, while the second is smaller and less brilliant, while maintaining and showing off a certain charm – A
galaxy : tidy and very beautiful, the Altare galaxy, called NGC6300, has a linear shape and can be easily followed even with rather basic tools. Being in an almost blind spot in the sky, with little brightness, it stands out in a particular way and with very interesting reflections, standing out for its characteristic ring finish

The Myth of the Constellation Altar or Ara

As we said earlier, Altare was particularly dear to the ancient Greeks, who often mentioned it in their epic songs. There are several legends that tell of this constellation. The most particular, interesting and attributable myth to this constellation concerns the birth of Zeus, the Father of all Gods. It is said that Zeus was born from a Titan: Cronus, and from Rhea.

Cronus wanted to be the undisputed King of Olympus but the prophecy warned him that all the children born to him would become Gods and, together, they would govern the Divine Mountain and the Universe. To avoid having to share his absolute power, Cronus swallowed all of his newborn children, one after the other.

When Zeus was born, his mother Rhea, to prevent her last child from being taken away from her and swallowed by her domineering husband, hid the newborn and offered Kronos a rock, which he promptly swallowed, thinking it was the child his wife had just given birth to. Zeus lived his childhood and youth hidden by his mother who regularly went to visit him bringing him food and, when he was old enough and strong enough, he confronted his father, forcing him to vomit his brothers, who emerged from Cronus’ body as adults and ready to rule Mount Olympus.

The children of Cronus were Hades, Goddess of the underworld, Poseidon God of the sea and oceans, Hera who later became the wife of Zeus, Hestia Goddess of the home and Demeter Goddess of fields and flourishing crops. Zeus and his brothers thus defeated their father and built a small altar, on which they burned sacrifices and exchanged promises of brotherhood, union and government projects in respect and sharing of ideas and good principles. According to legend, the constellation of Ara should represent precisely that small altar which saw the beginning of the polytheistic government of Mount Olympus, whose paternity belongs to Zeus as it was he who freed his brothers from the body of their monstrous father, returning them to the light and giving them the power to govern. One of the first projects that the patriarchs of the Greek divinities implemented was the war against the Titans, of the lineage of Cronus, to get rid of them and be able to give life to the Olympic society.