Aries is the first sign of the zodiac and the Aries constellation is found between Pisces and Taurus.
What Are Constellations?
The constellations can be a little confusing. Flip through any science atlas, and you'll see a cluster of stars with lines drawn either through or around them. These pictures are then given a name like the Aries constellation, or the Aquarius constellation.
However, when amateur astronomers look up at the sky, they won't find those lines or drawings. Instead, they need to use their imagination in order to "see" the shapes these constellations are supposed to represent. So why are these stars grouped as constellations? There are two widely accepted reasons. One is that it's an easy way to remember the placement of the stars. The second is that following the constellations in the sky helped guide the farmers in planting their crops at the correct times of the year.
About the Aries Constellation
Located at NQ1 at the visible latitudes of +90 and -60 degrees, the Aries constellation shows either a jumping or a running ram flying through the sky. The stars contained within this constellation, include:
- Alpha Arietis
- Lambada Arietis
- Beta Arietis
- Eta Arietis
- Epsilon Arietis
This is by no means an all-inclusive list; in fact, there are more than eleven stars within this constellation, the brightest of which is Alpha Arietis. Here are some facts that help illuminate this constellation:
- Right Accession: 2h 38.16m
- Declination: +20 degrees 47.54m
- Quadrant: NQ1
- Latitudes visible at: Between +90 degrees and -60 degrees
- Best visible: At 21:00 in December
- Area of sky covered: 441.395 square degrees
The Significance of this Constellation
There is special significance to this constellation. Historically speaking, Aries used to be the constellation the sun passed at the vernal equinox (an equinox is when night and day are roughly the same length because the sun is crossing the celestial equator). However, this function has since passed to Pisces, and truth be told, this is where horoscope cusp dates come into play. As one might imagine, this can be a source of much confusion!
Jason and the Argonauts
Two myths, or stories, are associated with constellation Aries. The first deals with Jason and the Argonauts. In this tale, Jason hears about the Golden Fleece, and even though he's been told that it's all but impossible to capture, in true Aries fashion, he sets out to do just that! With his purpose firmly set, he heads off with his men, the Argonauts, to find the fleece.
After many dangers, Jason and the Argonauts arrive at Colchis where the fleece is hidden. In order to capture the fleece, he needs the help of Medea, a kind of sorceress-princess who is also the daughter of the king of Colchis. Confronted by the bold, daring and decisive Jason, she falls head over heels in love and helps him.
However, once Jason has the fleece, he develops an even larger ego than he already had, and decides that another pretty maiden, not Medea, is more suitable for a man of his stature. As you can imagine, Medea is not pleased. Having been tossed aside, she flies into what can only be characterized as a cold rage and slaughters the two children she had with Jason. Not quite satisfied, she goes on to poison the cloak of Jason's new bride, and then escapes in a dragon-drawn carriage!
Jason does not meet with a happy ending. Cursed by the deities for breaking his promise to Medea, the ship Jason used in his travels, Argo, rots through, falls on him and he dies.
Hera and Her Stepchildren
The second myth associated with this constellation involves the wrath of Hera (Zeus's wife) and her stepchildren, Phrixus and Helle. A ram was given to the two children as a mode to escape Hera. Across the sea they flee, but unfortunately, Helle falls off the ram and drowns in the sea. Phrixus arrives safely at Colchis where he sacrifices a ram to honor Helle.
Making Sense of It All
What can these stories teach everyone about the Aries constellation? Many believe that these stories were made up in the hope of helping people remember exactly where this constellation is located. Remember, if the farmers didn't plant their crops at exactly the right time of year, they were more likely to fail.
The other point is that astrology was the science in its day. Astronomy, in fact, is born out of astrology; the separation of the two is fairly recent in terms of human history. These stories help people reconnect astrology and astronomy in a more meaningful way.