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Starry starry night

24
Oct
2012
 

By Christine Lovatt

The ancient Greeks were fascinated by the world of astronomy, which is why the Greek language still figures strongly in our English terminology.

'Star' comes from the Greek aster and the Latin stellar. It gave rise to asterisk, astronomy and disaster. The aster flower is so-named because of its star shape. Star has gradually come to mean a famous or exceptionally talented performer. The word also features in many popular expressions: Thank your lucky stars is to be grateful for good fortune, reach for the stars is to have high ambitions, and to have stars in your eyes is to be idealistically hopeful about the future.

Our Milky Way is a translation of the Latin Via lactea from the Greek galaxias kuklos, ‘the milky circle’. The name comes from the creamy appearance of the star system against the black sky on a clear night. The Greek galaxias gave us our word 'galaxy'.

The comet also takes its name from the Greeks. They thought the tail streaming behind it looked like long hair flowing, so they called it aster kometes, meaning ‘long-haired star’.

M81 spiral galaxy

Meteoron was Greek for ‘something high up’ and was originally used to denote any phenomena in the sky. By the 16th C, 'meteor' was used specifically for a shooting star. 'Meteorite', meaning a meteor that hits the ground, was coined in the 19th C. A meteoric rise means a fast-moving ascent, like a shooting star.

The Greek word for ‘to wander’ was planasthai, and the derivative planetos was formerly applied to any heavenly body that seemed to wander across the sky. The modern meaning of 'planet', dating from the mid-17th C, is a body that orbits the sun or a star. The rhetorical question what planet are you on? implies someone is out of touch with reality.

The names of the planets come from Greek and Roman mythology, except for the name Earth, which is Germanic and Old English in origin. Mars, which looks red, was named after the Roman god of war and Venus, which appears the brightest planet, was named after the Roman goddess of beauty.

With modern technology many thousands of stars are now visible to even amateur astronomers. The IAU (International Astronomical Union) is responsible for naming solar system objects that are discovered, but starry nights still hold as much fascination as they did back in the days of the ancient Greeks.
 
Happy puzzling!

Christine Lovatt

*Image: www.nasa.gov

49 Responses to

Starry starry night

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said:
November 23, 2012 at 6:54 PM

Yew. How unhygenic. I still think we should give birth through our belly button.

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relle said:
November 23, 2012 at 10:25 PM

Oh Jafa!I had 3 caesarians which was close to the belly button but I really would have prefered the cabbage patch idea! lol

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said:
November 24, 2012 at 8:40 AM

Cabbage patch...lol

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MikeT said:
November 24, 2012 at 8:44 AM

pdiaco: October 27, 2012 at 9:15 AM Questioning what was before the universe doesn't make any sense anymore because current theories say that time started when the universe did. We, made of stuff trapped in time, and with all the boundaries and senses Jafa mentioned have trouble making sense of that. If we remove causality from the question this forces us to ask the much harder and more starkly unanswerable question, not "Where did everything come from." but "Why is there anything?". Resorting to superpowers less easily satisfies that question.

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November 24, 2012 at 5:58 PM

Good call MikeT. What about the 'Many worlds theory - Multiverse? Leading theoretical physicists now think that the first fraction of a second (much smaller in Planck time)when consciousness came into inevitable being (double slit experiment is vital to this) that it caused the local big bang.. Have you seen 'What the Bleep do we know'(Full 3 disc version) It came out couple of years back; if you have't I thought that the chapter "Down the Quantum rabbit hole' was amazing. Didnt care much for the movie version. Also check out the Buddhist understanding of causality.. We could use the private mailbox feature on this site, if no-one else is interested and you would like to continue this conversation :-)Its all about the collapse of the wave..lol

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said:
November 24, 2012 at 6:55 PM

Hey, I'm interested...

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November 24, 2012 at 7:53 PM

Cool Jafa, we'll have to wait for Mikes reply and see where it takes us..:-)

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said:
November 25, 2012 at 8:41 AM

Re. Buddhism/causality. When contemplating the Universe I can feel pretty insignificant in this world and that my passing will not make any difference to the overall scheme of things. But even a small drop causes a ripple and who knows where that small force may lead and what consequences may result. Just like a table needs the sunshine to grow the tree to provide the wood (& other trees must die to make space for that tree to grow), perhaps being part of the process of life is of greater value than what you achieve as an individual.

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November 26, 2012 at 12:25 PM

Hi Jafa, Yeah definitely I think we all change something- kind of like the butterfly effect, even if only on an energetic level- I say if only, but when u get right down to it absolutely everything is energy, trapped in different molecular structures; from stars to mosquitoes to elephants to us, so really it's the only thing that is infinite and ultimately important. E = mc2 showed (among other things) that the amount of available energy resultant from the big bang can neither grow or lessen, only relocate.. so I like to think of that as proof of the existence of our soul and reincarnation. Buddhists (quoting Tibetan in particular here) believe that nothing has 'independent origination' or in other words inherent existence of its' own cause; everything that we can see arises from a causal beginning- or is dependant on causality or pre-conceding conditions to 'be'...but it seems that energy (in some form)was always around. Hard for us to get our brains around, but from that 'initial state' scientists can explain all the things that have gone on/are going on around us. For the really small stuff, (sub atomic particles, which we are made of, of course)the home of pure energy- quantum physics explains the rest, but leaves a lot of room for philosophical/spiritual interpretation. There's a book by Lynne Mctaggart called 'The Field' that touches on heaps of cool stuff along these lines if u want to check it out further. :-)

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said:
November 26, 2012 at 3:41 PM

Thanks Michelle19, sounds like a good read.

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pdiaco said:
November 27, 2012 at 10:28 AM

There can be no logical beginning or end in time, distance or matter. That's why this transcends science or religion. The scientists must incoporate 'religion' or philosophy into their research, but the 'media-popular' ones never do, so they will always come up with whacky theories, all of which eventually become supplanted with other whacky theories, which are all good for entertaining the masses. In the immortal words of g0rgis above: 'There is nothing to understand. Just feel it and be part of all this wonder'. That gem of a philosophy is about as close as one can get to the 'truth'.

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MaudFitch said:
November 27, 2012 at 10:41 PM

"The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition." Carl Sagan.

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jonah said:
November 28, 2012 at 6:02 AM

"Glory! The universe's magnificent indifference! No matter what these stupid and half real human beings do, the reality is serene and unchanging." Albert Camus

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said:
November 28, 2012 at 8:19 AM

Or Pdiaco, 'Just feel it and wonder...'

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November 28, 2012 at 10:01 AM

Well I guess thats that, 'Ours is not to question why'. Just be good little ants. I wonder that if we're not supposed to question and ignorance is bliss, why we're born questioning and where we would be without it.. Wouldnt be on this computer typing ,for one and we'd still be squatting on the ground, among many many other things. To understand it for me is not to take the sacredness out of it, but makes me feel more and more in awe and more and more a part of it..

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November 28, 2012 at 10:26 AM

Here's a poem I wrote in 2007 from my love/awe at the natural world, which gets deeper for me the more I understand it. THE SPINNING ORB DARKENS- Birds scurry for home/with the Suns' last rays/The misty mountain draws her wrap, tighter still/The tree tops fiery yellow, in lofty glee/Proud recipients of the Suns' last, 'Til tomorrow,then../V2 Dimmer, now/Crickets find their voices/It cools, cools!/Borrowed-pink clouds,fleeting spectres/Lorikeet stragglers, defiant of the Earths' revolving/race dusk loudly/Spiders drop their anchor lines/Build their silken scaffolding and wait../V3/The Sun has fallen,nights'dark veil/Envelops the terrestrial/The owl hoots its' dinner bell/Stars reappear, animating infinity/With the distant diamond-like clarity/of their OWN light...There is no bias in the natural World- Only boundless energy, beauty and truth...

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said:
November 28, 2012 at 3:04 PM

Beautiful, Michelle19. So many lovely images. My fav. 'Lorikeet stragglers... race dusk lo├║dly', and 'The misty mountain draws her wrap, tighter still.'

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November 29, 2012 at 1:44 PM

Thankyou Jafa, the beauty of nature is just so inspiring.. :-)

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said:
December 07, 2012 at 7:31 AM

I have a question. Natural Selection has worked wonders with life on Earth adapting us to suit our environment. So WHY do we have such an overdeveloped brain??? We aparently use like 5% of our brain capacity. Why would Natural Selection give us abundantly more brain power than we need?