Young World

Up above the world so high

Have you heard of the constellation called Ursa Major? It’s also called the Great Bear and is one of the constellations listed by Greek astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy, in the second century AD. There is also another constellation near it called Ursa Minor or Little Bear. Now why are we talking about stars? The story of how these constellations were created comes from Greek mythology.

Walk in the woods

Zeus, the king of gods, fell in love with a young woman called Callisto. This made his wife, Hera, jealous and so she began to watch him carefully. One day, when Zeus and Callisto were walking in a forest, he saw Hera coming their way. Since he didn’t want her to make a scene, he turned Callisto into a huge bear. He then met Hera and went back to Mt. Olympus with her, hoping he could, later, return and transform Callisto to human form again.

Unfortunately, Callisto’s son, Arcas, was hunting in the same woods at that time. When he saw the bear, he decided to target it. And so he stalked it and, when he was in the correct position, let fly an arrow that pierced its heart. Imagine his shock, when the dying bear turned into his mother!

Overcome with grief, he began to cry. Zeus heard him weeping and realised what had happened. He didn’t want Hera to hear Arcas and find out what had happened. So he turned both mother and son into constellations.

Callisto became the Ursa Major, the largest constellation in the northern sky. Arcas became the Ursa Minor. The story goes that Arcas turned to see his mother while being placed in the sky and so the Little Bear curves towards the Great Bear. In fact the Polaris, or the North Star, is a part of the Little Bear.

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Printable version | Nov 12, 2020 8:59:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/kids/Up-above-the-world-so-high/article13986410.ece

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