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Disappearing Family

June 14, 2014

Three bright objects with a family history are slowly vanishing in the evening twilight. They should drop from view completely in the next two or three weeks.

The brightest member of the trio is Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. It’s quite low in the west-northwest as darkness begins to fall. It’s the brightest pinpoint of light in the sky at that time, though, so as long as you have a clear horizon, it should be an easy target.

In mythology, Jupiter was the king of the gods of ancient Rome. But he was adapted from Greece, where he was known as Zeus. If you know anything about Greek mythology, you know that Zeus was a busy fellow. He fathered many children by many women.

Among his conquests was Leda, the queen of Sparta. She gave birth to the twins Pollux and Castor. Pollux was the son of Zeus, while Castor was the son of Leda’s husband. The two brothers were inseparable. But during a battle, Castor was mortally injured. Pollux begged Zeus to save him. So Zeus made both of them immortal by placing them in the heavens, where they remain today — the brightest stars of the constellation Gemini.

And the twin stars stand close to the upper right of Jupiter right now. Pollux is closer to Jupiter, and is slightly brighter than its “twin.”

Jupiter and the twins will return to view in the morning sky this summer. Pollux and Castor should be in good view by early August, with Jupiter following below them later in the month.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2014

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