Riding the wave

Aries (the Ram)

The Greeks imposed the name Krioς to this constellation, from which the Latin Aries, meaning "ram". This constellation is not particularly bright, despite its astronomical relevance, so it is not easy to be located. It is however associated with one of the most beautiful stories of greek mythology.

Nephele, goddess of the clouds, was married to Athamas, son of Aeolus, king of Orchomenus in Boeotia. Their union generated two children, Phrixus, his name meaning "Pelting Rain," and Helle, "Bright Light". But Athamas abandoned Nephele and married the wicked Ino. The goddess, offended, returned to the Olympus and, as a punishment, struck the kingdom of her former husband with a persistent drought.

Ino hated her stepchildren and tried to convince her husband to sacrifice them to Zeus, and thus obtain the end of that disaster. Nephele then asked the intercession of the gods and they, out of compassion, sent a ram with a golden fleece in order to avoid the sacrifice.

In fact Phrixus and Helle, riding the ram, began a flight toward Colchis, where they expected to be offered asylum by the King Aeetes. But during the trip Helle fell in the lough between Asia and Europe - today called the Dardanelles - that was named, in her memory, "Hellespont", meaning "Helle' sea".

Phrixus, grateful to the gods for saving him, sacrificed the ram to Mars and gave the golden fleece to Aeetes, which put it under the custody of a perennially sleepless dragon, where it remained until Jason and the Argonauts were able to seize it.

Constellation Aries

The constellation can be recognized from an imaginary bow that represents the head of the ram, and combines the brightest star "Hamal" with the "Sheraton" and the "Mesarthin". The rest of the animal is delineated by a few faint stars.

The area of the constellation is 440 square degrees of sky and in this region there are only four bodies of splendor above magnitude 4 m.

Aries is bordered by the Triangle and the Perseus to the north, by the Taurus to the east, by the Cetus (the Whale) to the south and by Pisces (the Two Fish) to the west.

The constellation crosses the meridian at the end of October, around midnight.

It is easier to be recognized when it crosses the meridian in mid-December, at 9pm.