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The gods of ancient Greece weren’t especially good parents. One of the ancient gods known as the Titans, for example, swallowed his newborn children. Eventually, though, the kiddos escaped and overthrew him. Their victory is commemorated in the stars, as the altar where they swore allegiance to each other. It’s the constellation Ara, and it’s below the tail of the scorpion.
In the story, Cronus was the king of the Titans. He’d come to power by defeating his own father. A prophecy said that one of his children would, in turn, defeat him. To prevent that, he swallowed each of his first five children.
Eventually, though, his wife, Rhea, got tired of that plan. When the last child, Zeus, was born, she hustled him away to an island and gave Cronus a rock wrapped in a blanket.
When Zeus grew up, he returned home and forced his dad to cough up his brothers and sisters, who were fully grown gods and goddesses. They pledged to defeat the Titans, and won a 10-year war. Zeus became the king of the new gods and ruler of the sky. To celebrate their victory, he placed the altar among the stars.
The altar is so far south, though, that most of it is visible only from far-southern parts of the United States — places like Florida, south Texas, and especially Hawaii.
Ara is one of the smaller constellations, with only a couple of moderately bright stars. But it does have some good deep-sky objects, and we’ll talk about one of them tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield