Winter Milky Way

Image title: Winter Milky Way
Author: Giorgia Hofer
Country: Italy

Taken near Lake Misurina in the Veneto region of Italy in February 2019, this image shows a clear and starry sky over a winter landscape.

We can see part of the Milky Way arc. From the left side, towards the south-east, we see Sirius, "The Burner" in Greek, the brightest star in the night sky. It is part of the constellation Canis Major, The Great Dog, one of the dogs of Orion, the great hunter, in Greek mythology. Orion’s other dog, Canis Minor, the Small Dog, is represented by the bright star Procyon and its fainter neighbours. The Greek star name means “The One [rising] before The Dog” and the star is seen at the top left side of the image just above the arc of the Galaxy. Orion lies to the right of Canis Major. We can spot its characteristic “belt”, an asterism composed of three bright stars aligned in a straight line. 

Above the treetops to the right of Orion, the open star clusters of the Hyades and the Pleiades in the constellation Taurus, the Bull, are visible. According to ancient lore, these two clusters form a Celestial Gate directly next to the intersection of the great circles of the ecliptic and the Milky Way. In Greco-Roman mythology, Taurus is associated with the god Zeus who is said to have used a bull to seduce the Phoenician princess Europa.

Above the constellation Taurus, we can see a bright star just above the arc of the Galaxy. This is Capella, the brightest star of the constellation Auriga, The Charioteer. This is one of the 88 modern constellations and is associated with the Greek hero Erichthonius of Athens. Hindu astronomy considers Capella as the heart of Brahma, one of the three major gods. The indigenous people of Bororo in Brazil have a constellation representing a cayman, comprising some of the stars of Auriga and some stars from neighbouring constellations.

To the right of Taurus, we find the modern constellation Perseus with the bright double star cluster h+chi Perseii, which represents the metal of Perseus’s sabre in Greek mythology. Perseus is the hero who was sent out to prove himself, and happened to rescue Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus as the Roman poet Ovid wrote. We can also see the constellation Cassiopeia, associated with the queen and mother of Andromeda in Greek mythology. It is composed of five bright stars in the shape of a W, which was considered the asterism of The Key by the Greeks according to the poet Aratus. The recognisable shape is also associated with other mythologies: for instance, it represents the princess Sharmishtha in Hindu astronomy, a bat in Thailand, and a camel in native Arabic astronomy.

In the gap between the trees, the Andromeda Galaxy is visible.

Also see image in Zenodo:


Giorgia Hofer/IAU OAE

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Release date:
15 December 2022, 12:00
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