Zodiac Signs

by Abby Cessna on November 9, 2009

Zodiac Signs

Zodiac


The zodiac is comprised of twelve different signs. These signs are related to 12 different constellations, which are among the most famous constellations. The 12 constellations of the zodiac form a ring that lies along the ecliptic plane – the route the Sun takes in its path across the sky. The 12 constellations in order are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, Saggitarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.

Aries is a faint constellation, which is supposed to look like a ram lying down with its head turned to the side. Some of the stars in the Aries constellation are Beta Arietis and Gamma Arietis, also known as Sheratan and Mesarthim respectively. In mythology, Aries is the Ram of the Golden Fleece that was sought by Jason and the Argonauts.

Taurus may be one of the oldest constellations. Since it is so old, both the constellation and its stars have a rich history in various cultures. There are various stories concerning the constellation. One of them is the Greek myth of Zeus and Europa. The Bull represents the one that Zeus turned into. It might also refer to the bull god that the Egyptians worshipped at one time. The brightest star of Taurus, Alpha Tauri, has various names in different cultures. The Arabs called it Al Dabaran, “the Follower.”

Gemini is also an old constellation. The Alpha and Beta stars of Gemini are easiest to recognize and represent the Twins. The Greek mythology behind Gemini is the story of the twins Castor and Pollux. They were Argonauts who survived the quest, but later died. Zeus put them in the sky as a reminder of brotherly love.

Cancer is the Crab who was put into the sky by Hera. She had sent it to distract Hercules during his tasks, but he quickly killed it. The constellation does not look that much like a crab though. It is a very small and dim constellation; Cancer is actually the dimmest of the 12 constellations.

Leo is the Lion. Although the most well-known story regarding this star is the Greek mythological one, Leo is known as a lion in many other cultures as well, including in India, Persia, Turkey, and in Ancient Babylon. The Greek myth says that Leo was the Nemean Lion who ended up killing Hercules during his twelve labors.

Virgo is the second largest of the zodiac constellations. The background behind this constellation is somewhat ambiguous. Some believe that she is linked to the Greek or Roman goddess of wheat. However, others think that she is supposed to represent the Roman goddess of justice.

Libra represents the scales of justice carried by the Roman goddess Astraea. Two of the stars that make up Libra once represented Scorpio’s claws. Libra is also the only symbol that does not represent an animal, person, or mythological being.

Scorpius is linked with the Greek myth of Orion the hunter. The legends differ. Some say that Orion died while other versions say he survived. Whatever the outcome, both Orion and Scorpius ended up in the sky.

Sagittarius is the Centaur – half horse and half man. There are numerous stories in Greek mythology about Sagittarius. Some say that he is the son of Philyra and Saturn. Other legends say he was the son of Pan and inventor of archery.

Capricornus, also known as Capricorn, is the second faintest zodiac constellation. It is the Sea-goat and has been recognized by different cultures centuries. It is believed to be a hybrid of a fish and a goat. The constellation is located near other zodiac signs that are associated with water, such as Aquarius and Pisces.

Aquarius is the Water Carrier. This very old constellation often referred to the cup-bearer who served Zeus. Like many other constellations though, there are other stories about him. One says that he poured out the waters of the Great Flood.

Pisces is the Fish constellation with two fish bound together by a string. In Greek mythology, some interpreted the myth as two men bound together rather than two fish. The classical story though is that it is the goddess Aphrodite and her son who tried to escape Typhon by turning into fish.

Universe Today has articles on zodiac signs and their dates> and what a constellation is.

For further information on the zodiac signs, check out zodiac constellations and constellations of the zodiac.

Astronomy Cast has an episode on constellations you should take a look at.

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