When looking at the night sky we are seeing the light from stars, some of which may have formed near the beginning of the universe, estimated about 15 billion years ago by modern astrophysicists. I am only concerned about the objects of the night sky visible to the unaided eye as it was originally with our ancestors, who had no binoculars or small telescopes. The names of stars and constellations are a way to bring some order to the cosmos, and the ancients who had no time keeping apparatus used this order to keep track of and understand the world. The mythologies of the stars and constellations are stories that link us to some traditions as far back as Homer fl. 850 B.C., a Greek epic poet whose two greatest works in Western literature are the Iliad and the Odyssey….
Precession of the equinoxes is a slow westward shift of the equinoxes along the plane of the ecliptic, resulting from precession of Earth's axis of rotation, and causing the equinoxes to occur earlier each sidereal year. The precession of the equinoxes occurs at a rate of 50.27 seconds of arc a year; a complete precession requires 25,800 years to 25,920 years. As the Earth spins on its axis at 23°27' tilt, its poles remain pointed in approximately constant directions in the sky over a relatively short period of time, but wobbles like a gyroscope. This effect, first noticed by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus in the second century B.C. was not accurately determined until the seventeenth century A.D. This phenomenon is due primarily to the gravitational effects of the Sun and Moon on the equatorial bulge of Earth. The position of a star can change drastically even in just 25 years.
Today the North Star is Polaris, in the constellation Ursa Minor.
About 4,000 years ago, the North Star was Thuban, in Draco.
The other effect of the precession of the equinoxes is that over the course of 2,160 years the Earth is in different positions in its orbit with respect to the distant stars when a given season begins. The stars and constellations that we come to associate with a particular season gradually change. The point of the vernal equinox today, for example, is in Pisces, while 2,000 years ago it was in Aries. This means that spring now begins when the Sun is in Pisces.
Finally, precession has subtle long-term consequences for the seasons. Precession affects what times of the year Earth is closest to the Sun (perihelion) and farthest from the Sun (aphelion). This relationship may play a role in the triggering of ice ages as seen in the next chapter.
The names of the stars date back hundreds or even thousands of years, and after the collapse of the Greco-Roman civilization, this knowledge was preserved by the Arabs. During the Renaissance, the Europeans adopted many of these names and terms from the Arabic sources, which is why a majority of star names are Arabic in origin.
In 1603, German astronomer Johann Bayer (1572-1625) instituted a system of assigning Greek letters to stars (Bayer designation), consisting of a lowercase Greek letter followed by the genitive name of the constellation. The letters are usually assigned to the stars in the order of their brightness within a given constellation.
Before each chapter I will present an inserted chapter that lists the constellations associated with each age, with a description of its history, references to Biblical passages, the star names of each constellation and their meanings in various languages. At the end of each insert are any references to Greco-Roman Mythology for that group.
Also before each Insert there will be a Star Chart of each major constellation and it’s opposite showing the various stars' positions and correlations with each other. Although the information in the main chapters is the motivation for this book I deemed it important to show this background for its relevance. This information is very useful to the astronomer, scientist, historian, mythologists and just the plain curious who may have never known of such.