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January 14, 2013

Ancient skylore is pretty tawdry. Everywhere you look, you find stories of betrayal, seduction, vanity, and even murder. Yet some skylore is a bit more uplifting — tales of love, devotion, and sacrifice.

One of those tales is told in the story of Castor and Pollux — the twins of Gemini — who climb high overhead on winter nights.

According to the most common version of the story, the queen of Sparta gave birth to two sets of twins — one boy and one girl in each pair. One set was fathered by her husband, the other by Zeus, king of the gods.

The four children were raised together, and the two boys — one mortal, the other immortal — were inseparable. They had many adventures, and joined Jason and the other Argonauts in the search for the golden fleece.

But during a fight with some landowners, the mortal Castor was killed. Pollux was inconsolable, and eventually begged Zeus to allow him to die so he could join Castor. Moved by Pollux’s love for his brother, Zeus agreed to keep them together for eternity. They spend half of their time in the underworld, the other half in the heavens — where they’re represented by the stars of Gemini.

The constellation is in the east as night falls this month. Its two brightest stars represent the twins themselves, with slightly fainter Castor above Pollux as they rise. The rest of Gemini stretches to their right as two streamers of moderately bright stars.

We’ll have more about Gemini tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012

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