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Gemini - Pollux and Castor - Stars and Myths

Updated on January 12, 2018
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Cynthia is a writer, artist, and teacher. She loves studying language, arts, and culture, and sharing that knowledge.

The star cluster in the lower right quadrant of this picture is M35 or Messier35 - one of the "messier" space objects.
The star cluster in the lower right quadrant of this picture is M35 or Messier35 - one of the "messier" space objects. | Source

I’ve always been fascinated by the constellations. I learned about them in detail in middle school and I still enjoy taking out my star maps to locate them in the sky.

One constellation, Gemini, is particularly interesting to me. I was born right when the sun entered Gemini – supposedly – and it’s an easy-to-identify constellation in the sky.

Gemini is one of the constellations of the zodiac.

The zodiac includes 12 constellations that are located around the ecliptic (basically a celestial sphere) and include Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Capricorn, Sagittarius, Aquarius and Pisces.


Pollux & Castor

A few ancient tales exist about Gemini. Its name means “twins.” Since the dawn of humans, civilizations have given Gemini various “twin” names. Arabs in the Middle East called it Two Peacocks, the Hindus named it Twin Deities and the ancient Egyptians heralded it as Two Sprouting Plants.

The two brightest stars in Gemini are called Pollux and Castor.

One story says that Pollux and Castor were the twin sons of the Queen of Sparta, named Leda. Jupiter was their father. Jupiter may not have been Castor’s father, though, because Castor was mortal and Pollux was not.

When Castor died in battle, Pollux begged for his brother’s immortality. It was granted, but they both had to move to the sky.

Another tale recounts how the brothers joined the Argonauts, a group of mariners trying to secure the Golden Fleece. Jason, their leader needed to find the fleece to secure his place on the throne.

Castor had a penchant for horses and Pollux was a brave fighter, often only fighting with his bare hands.

In ancient times, mariners on the sea wanted to honor Leda when they saw a curious glow around the ropes during lightning storms. They called them Ledean Lights.

Want to know more? Find your answers in the Space Answer Book!

The Handy Space Answer Book
The Handy Space Answer Book

I often reference this "handy" book in my wonderings about the sky and all the constellations.

 
Gemini Constellation
Gemini Constellation | Source

Gemini Constellation

In January, the constellation Gemini is in the eastern sky by dusk. In June, it’s in the western sky. It’s located in the Northern Hemisphere.

The constellation is characterized by two relatively bright stars. Pollux and Castor are the “heads” and their bodies extend virtually parallel down from them. The northern “feet” are closer to the constellation Taurus and the southern “feet” are nearer to Orion.

If you look closely, you may be able to see showers of meteors around the feet of the constellation in mid-October and around the head in early to mid-December.

The entire constellation of Gemini boasts more than 50 double-stars. They can only be seen with a telescope.

The signs and symbols of the Zodiac.
The signs and symbols of the Zodiac. | Source

Gemini Stars

Pollux is brighter than Castor. That wasn’t always the case, though. Castor used to be brighter a long time ago. It’s the largest double star in the northern hemisphere. This double star was the first of its kind for scientists to discover.

Castor is pretty bright, as well. It’s magnitude (measure of brightness) is between 1.9 and 2.9. On a scale of 0-5, 0 is considered the brightest object, and 5 is the least bright. It’s about 47 light years away.

Castor as a double star can be seen with a small telescope, but it’s not visible to the naked eye. The two stars revolve around each other every 420 years.

Pollux is brighter at a magnitude of 1.2, making it the 15th brightest star in the northern sky. It’s located about 31 light years away, but retreating at a rate of 2 miles per second!

Gemini’s stars have a name designation called Geminorum. Castor is α Geminorum; β Geminorum is Pollux.

Sir William Herschel was studying the constellation in 1781 when he saw an unidentified object near the star η Geminorum, also called Propus.

Six months later, he determined that it was a planet – not a comet – and one that was twice as far from the sun as its planetary neighbor, Saturn.

The scientific community finally decided to name this new planet Uranus. Saturn’s mythical father was Uranus.

Near the star δ Geminorum (also called Wasat) is where the planet Pluto was discovered in 1930.

Not visible to the naked eye, but interesting nonetheless is the star cluster M35. It’s located at Castor’s feet, right by 1 Geminorum. Astronomers call it one of the most beautiful objects in the sky.

This is just one constellation of which to study, but is incredibly interesting.

What's Your Favorite Sign of the Zodiac?

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References and Resources

Field Book of the Skies. Olcott, William T. G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York: 1954.

The Handy Space Answer Book. Engelbert, Philis and Diane Dupuis. Visible Ink Press, MI:1998.

Guide to Stars and Planets. Moore, Sir Patrick. Firefly Books, New York: 2005.

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun

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    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Terrye - haha, I will! I've gotten so much fun feedback from these, I'm already working on the next one! ;D Cheers!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 

      6 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      CC, great job and hope you will be continuing on with a whole series on the constellations. :)

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Doc Sonic - a fellow Gemini! That's awesome! Thanks for stopping by and for your feedback. They mythology is interesting, no? Thanks again. Cheers!

    • Doc Sonic profile image

      Glen Nunes 

      6 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Very informative. I'm a Gemini, and I knew a little bit about the constellation, but not so much about the mythology. You did a nice job covering both.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Docmo - haha, double delights for sure! :D I've got another one I'm just about to finish. Thank you so much for stopping by. I definitely enjoyed writing this. Cheers!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      6 years ago from UK

      Truly resourceful, filled with fascinating facts and immensely readable, Cyndi. I love astronomy and equally love Greek Mythology so this hub is a 'twin' delight!Voted up , of course!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Teaches - aw, thank you. Yes, the Greek mythology is fascinating. I think I want to research the others to share. Thanks so much for stopping by at another of my hubs - you are a gem, my friend. :) Hubhugs!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Dan - hmm, yes, Pollux and Castor can sometimes play coy and "blend in" - but look in the western sky this time of year in the evening and if you can find Orion's belt, look "up" from that for two bright stars. Thank for stopping by. It's always great to see you. Cheers!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      This is an amazing hub on arts and science. I used to love reading about the Gemini in Greek mythology. Thanks for the interesting lesson on these constellations. Voted up!

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 

      6 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Gemini is one of those constellations I always have problems finding. I don't know why, but for some reason it just doesn't stick out to me like some of the others.

      Informative Hub!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Patty - that sounds awesome! My parents fostered my love of studying the constellations by getting me a telescope. I love looking for the various constellations. :) It's definitely so interesting. Thank you so much for stopping by! Cheers!

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 

      6 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Very Interesting Information!!! When I was younger, my dad and I would study constellations together. He had nearly every Carl Sagan (hoping I didn't kill the name) book and when the stars were out, we would spend a great deal of time searching for each constellation!! I now try to do that with my own children. Outer space is fascinating !! Thanks for sharing!!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Great information so nicely done. I've never been into constellations but have a son-in-law who is always pointing out Orion's belt!

      I enjoyed reading this one.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Hehe, KrisL - too funny! Thank you so much and that reminds me...I should go hop more often. ;) Cheers!

    • KrisL profile image

      KrisL 

      6 years ago from S. Florida

      Lit Girl: I found it hopping, thought . . . "I have to follow this person," and then saw that you wrote it. What fun!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      KrisL - thank you so much. :) Yeah, I definitely was trying to make it reader-friendly without getting too much into the scientific query. Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your feedack. Cheers!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      K9 - aw, thanks for comin' by! I sometimes wonder if I have a split personality. Hehe. Just kidding. Thanks for your feedback. Have a wonderful day! Hubhugs. :)

    • KrisL profile image

      KrisL 

      6 years ago from S. Florida

      A big cut above the average hub . . . really does tell the average reader everything you'd want to know, without getting too technical, and gives resources for learning more.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      6 years ago from Northern, California

      I really enjoyed learning the variations in ancient stories of Pollux and Castor, (Gemini). My sister is a Gemini, thus, the thoughts about people born under this sign having two built-in personalities... I believe it to be true! ;)

      Nice job!

      HubHugs~

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      alocsin - hehe, yes, I like to keep my readers on their toes. Hehe. Cheers!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Vellur - yes, I'm now curious about the other constellations for sure! Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm so glad you enjoyed the read. :)

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      CloudExplorer - the ancients definitely liked studying the sky. Thank you for stopping by! I appreciate your comments and votes and feedback. :) Thanks again!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Teresa - hehe, now I need to go read your hub about dogs. :D Thank you for your comments. There are lots of Gemini's walking around. Hehe. Hubhugs!

    • cclitgirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Ruchira - aw, thanks for stopping by! You're sweet. Your dad was a fellow Gemini? Awesome! :)

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 

      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Certainly an unexpected hub from you but I love the mix of science and art. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      Interesting and useful. Enjoyed the read. Each consellation has an interesting history associated. LOved this hub and voted up.

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 

      6 years ago from New York City

      Awesome hub on the constellations, and their relation to our astrological signs.

      astrology is something really quite unique, and I found it very interesting how the ancient people actually came up with it all, just by studying the sky at night.

      Nice hub, well written, and very useful for those who need to know about astrology, voted up and out!

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Voted up Cyndi. I just had to read this before I turned in for the night. My youngest son is a Gemini born in mid June. Wonderful job and packed with interesting facts.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 

      6 years ago from United States

      A resourceful hub, Cyndi. I am sure you would be proud of the traits and it's constellation. My dad was a gemini.

      voted up indeed as interesting.

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