Alexandria

StarDate: July 20, 2012

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.



The lion’s bright heart is dropping from view in the evening sky. The star Regulus is low in the west by nightfall, and sets not long after. It’ll drop lower in the sky each evening, and disappear from view within a few weeks.

More than two millennia ago, Regulus was just climbing into view in the morning sky at this time of year. That appearance may have served as a marker for several cities in the ancient world, including Alexandria.

Alexander the Great, who was born on or near today’s date in the year 356 BC, established Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt. The city was intended not only as a tribute to Alexander, but as a symbol of his power and his rightful place in the cosmic order.

In fact, a recent study by two architecture professors in Italy suggests the city layout was based on two celestial alignments.

The alignment of Alexandria’s original main road didn’t follow the natural contours of the land, suggesting that there was another reason for it: paying tribute to Alexander. That’s because the road points at the sunrise on the date of Alexander’s birth. That’s also the point where Regulus first became visible in the dawn sky. And in the ancient world, Regulus was the star of kings.

The study found that several later cities in the region also seemed to align with Regulus — bolstering the idea that the star of kings helped glorify the achievements of Alexander — the greatest king of his day.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012

 

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

The one constant in the Universe: StarDate magazine

FacebookTwitterYouTube

©2014 The University of Texas McDonald Observatory