continued from Starlit Sky: 8. Auriga
Shall we move on to another constellation that is quite near the Taurus? This one is Gemini.
For refreshing go to Starlit Sky: 5. Taurus and Pleiades and then come back here to continue.
Look east wards from Taurus, or up northwards from Canis Minor in the sky. You will find two very bright stars near each other. There, you found the constellation: Gemini.
There is another easy way to locate Gemini. We already know Elnath of Taurus, right? Locate Elnath, then simply go east wards. You will find Gemini.
The two bright stars that you just found are Castor and Pollux. They are the twins from the Greek mythology.
Gemini is dominated by its two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux. These form the heads of the twins. They are among the brightest stars in the night sky.
Though it looks like a single star to the naked eye, Castor is a sextuple star system. That is a 6 star system that gives a magnitude of 1.6. It is around 52 light years away from the Earth.
34 light years away is the brightest of all the stars of Gemini named Pollux. It is a giant star. It is the closest giant star to the Sun. Pollux has a planet orbiting it. It has apparent brightness 1.6, so it is one of the top twenty brightest stars of the night sky. Pollux is called Punarvasu in Indian Astronomical System.
References to Indian Mythology
This constellation has many references to Indian Mythology.
It is called Mithuna Rasi . Mithuna means couple and Rasi is constellation in Sanskrit. Punarvasu star (Pollux) is one of the 27 stars that are used in the Indian Astronomical system. It is the birth star of Lord Rama.
The great poet Kalidasa in his epic poem Raghuvansham has described the greatness of Lord Rama using the Mithuna rasi. He describes the time when Rama and Lakshmana come to Mithila for the swayamvar of Sita. Kalidasa describes the beauty of the boys as the two bright shining stars of the Mithuna rasi. The people of Mithila were dazzled by the brightness of these two boys and were star struck by their radiance.
There is another reference to Indian mythology with the Mithuna rasi.
As we have already seen the Taurus constellation is called Vrishabha rasi in Sanskrit. Vrishabha means bull. The bull is the vehicle of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva’s bull is called Nandi. Mithuna means couple as I already told you. Mithuna is visualized as Lord Shiva and His consort Goddess Parvati. In the months of April and May, when we can clearly see the Mithuna in the sky, the Vrishabha is seen a little below it in the sky. So we imagine that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati are seated on Nandi.
Lord Shiva’s flag has Nandi on it. So He is also called “Vrushabadwaja”. In the months of December and January, when the Mithuna rises in the east, the Vrishabha rasi is seen a little above it. This symbolises that the flag of Shiva precedes the arrival of Shiva and Parvati.
Thses positions of the constellations hold good in the northern hemisphere.
to be continued……………..