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Aries Constellation

Aries the Ram an Informative Article

Mason Russell

Salt Lake Community College

Figure #1 [9]

Aries Constellation


For as long as humans have had interest with the sky many cultures have had their

own interpretations of the Aries constellation. Across the globe dierent objects are seen,

the Ram and its golden fleece in ancient Greek culture, to the Chinese twin inspectors and

in the Marshall Island who see a tortoise. The Babylonians saw an agrarian worker until

changing it to the ram for unknown reasons. The stars were not only viewed as gods but a

necessary tool for survival, used for travel, creating calendars, and agricultural purposes. In

astrology which is not a science, it is a sun sign and traits of those born under the sign

include leadership and assertiveness [Zimmerman, 2012].

The most common story told of the constellation Aries is the ancient Greek tale of

Jason and the Golden Fleece. The king of Thessaly, Athamas left his wife for a much

younger, cruel woman. His old wife Nephele was worried that her two children Phrixus and

Helle would be harmed, so she prayed to Zeus. Zeus told Hermes to send the queens

children a flying golden ram. The ram was to fly Phrixus and Helle to a nearby kingdom as

seen in figure#2. The Ram carried the two east until Helle fell o and plunged into the

ocean. Hellespont the ancient name for the Dardanelles straight near Istanbul, Turkey

marks the place of her death and was named in her honor [McClure, 2016].The ram and

Phrixus continued until they reached the eastern shore of the black sea. Phrixus then

sacrifices the ram for Zeus and gives the golden fleece to the king of Colchis, Aeetes. The

fleece it was then hidden in a secret location where it was guarded by a sleepless dragon.

Figure #2 [10]

Meanwhile in the Kingdom of Iolcus, king Aeson who didn't want the responsibility

of the kingdom, hands down the thrown to Pelias. His one condition is that Pelias steps

down and lets Aesons son Jason rule when he turns the legal age. Jasons mother did not

trust Pelias so she sent Jason away to be raised and trained by the centaur Chiron. Pelias was

a harsh and ruthless ruler and did not wish to give up the throne, his only fear was the

prophecy that a man with one sandal would one day defeat him. Finally, when Jason is of age

he hears how he should be king and sets o for Iolcus. When he reaches Iolcus he asks

Pelias if he may have the thrown. Pelias replies, Bring me the Golden Fleece and you will

be king[Megas, 2016]. So Jason sails towards Colchis through deadly waters.

When they arrive miraculously unharmed, he asks a very annoyed Aeetes how he may

acquire the fleece, Aeetes replies you may earn the fleece by proving your strength and

courage. His tasks were to harness a pair of bulls and harvest a field before sun down.

These tasks were quite near impossible so magic oil was given to Jason by the kings daughter

Medea, which gives Jason the edge to complete his tasks. Medea still afraid that her father

wasnt going to hold his end of the bargain, shows Jason the secret cove, and unleashes a

sleeping potion that impairs the dragon.They grab the fleece and fled for Iolcus. Aeetes was

hot on their trail, but Medea killed her brother and threw his pieces into the sea, causing

Aeetes to stop and retrieve them[Megas, 2016]. Jason returns to Iolcus with the fleece

where he marries Medea. Jason fears that his father Aeson is getting old, so he begs Medea

to use her magic to restore his youth. Medea cuts Aesons body into bits then puts them in a

caldron where he soon emerges unscathed and young. Peliass daughter whitenesss the

magic and begs Medea to do the same for her father. So that night Medea and Peliass

daughter sneak into the kings room and cut him into pieces. This time Medea doesn't

preform magic and walks away leaving Pelias in pieces so Jason can become the new king of


Figure #3 [1]

Location and History

The Aries constellation is considered the 39th largest constellation, although it is not

very luminous it has been seen since the beginning of man. The constellation takes up nearly

441 square degrees on the celestial sphere, the Ra is approximately three hours and its

Declination is twenty degrees. Aries is not a particularly prominent constellation, so a dark

country sky absent of moonlight is most desirable for viewing the Ram at its

finest [McClure, 2016]. Its visible between the latitudes of 90 degrees to -60 degrees. The

constellation is best viewed in the early winter months or late autumn months.

Since Aries is dim relative to some of its neighboring constellations, lights and smog

can make it really dicult to spot. The best way to spot Aries if the conditions do exist is

start by looking for the rams head . Midway between the Pleiades star cluster to the east

and Square of Pegasus to the west is where it can be found [McClure, 2016]. The rams head

is facing his golden fleece in the same direction as the Pleiades star cluster. The brighter

stars making up the head are Hamal, Sheratan and Mesartim. Sheratan and Mesartim

happen to both be part of a binary star system which you can see from a telescope.

To be exact Aries is located in (NQ1) which is the first quadrant of the northern

hemisphere and is the last stop on the ecliptic. The constellations bordering Aries are Cetus,

Taurus, Pisces, Perseus and Triangulum. Aries is an ancient constellation but it was not

ocially recognized by the International Astronomical Union until 1922 and its boundaries

were not defined until 1930 when they were outlined by astronomer Eugn

Delporte [Zimmermann, 2012]. Until that day it was recognized as a significant star cluster

or ancient constellation. Perhaps poor Aries just wasnt bright enough.


Objects of Interest

Lets take a moment and talk about the three brightest stars of the Aries

constellation. Alpha Arietis, Beta Arietis and Gamma Arietis are the only three stars that are

classified as bright! The brightest star Alpha is 66 light years away and is also referred to as

Hamal, which is Arabic for head of lam.There is also a linkage that exists between the

March equinox and Hamal. If you could backtrack some 2,500 years, youd find the annual

conjunction of the sun and Hamal happening on the March equinox[McClure, 2016].

Hamal is an Orange giant a (k1) star and also has a planet roughly the mass of Jupiter

orbiting it. Beta is also a very interesting star at 59.6 lightyears away it has adopted the

nickname Sheratan and it marks the rams second horn. Sheratan is a spectral type [A5] star

and is part of a spectroscopic binary system. Not much is known about its buddy but its

suspected to be near the type [f5] and is around four times fainter than the primary. This

binary system has a highly elliptical orbit and it completes

every 107 days. Figure #4 [2]

Next stop 164 light years away from earth

we reach Gamma or Mesarthim. Gammas two

parts of stellar classification are [A1] and [B9] stars

and are considered to be the first stars starting the

constellation. The binary system was discovered in

1664 with a common telescope by Robert Hooke.

The orbital period of the pair is greater than 5000

years[Gamma Arietis, 2017]. 114 million light years away there is a spiral galaxy called NGC

772 which can be located southeast of Sheratan as seen in figure #5. This spiral galaxies arms

are wound quite tightly and is lacking a large prominent bulge. The surface brightness

magnitude is 13.6 and appears to be somewhat of a bright galaxy. NGC 772 has slight

gravitational interactions with NGC 770 that is almost 114,000 light years away. These two

galaxies are part of the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies or Arp which was released in 1966. NGC

772 is 240,000 lightyears long while its smaller companion is quite smaller. There are also

several planetary systems in the Aries constellation as well. The star HIP 14810 is orbited by

three planets ten times the mass of Earth. The star is similar to the mass of our sun although

a little larger and is also a [g5] type star. Another g type star [G6] which is also a little more

massive than our sun, has two planets with nearly twice the mass of Jupiter. This was

discovered in 2001 using instruments to measure the stars radial velocity at Lick and Keck


Figure #5 [8]

Name Ra Dec Dist (LY) Vis. Sp.

Mag Class

66 K2III
Ari 02h07m10.29s +232746.0 2.01

Ari 60 2.64 A5V

01h54m38.35s +204829.9

41 Ari 02h49m58.99s +271538.8 159 3.61 B8Vn

Ari 03h11m37.67s +194336.1 168 4.35 K2IIIvar

HD 20644 03h20m20.37s +290254.6 640 4.47 K2II-III

39 Ari 02h47m54.44s +291450.7 181 4.52 K1III

2 Ari 4.62 kA0hA3(IV)Si

01h53m31.80s +191745.0 164.0

35 Ari 4.65 B3V

02h43m27.11s +274225.8 370

1 Ari 01h53m31.77s +191738.7 164.0 4.70 B9.5IV

Ari 01h57m55.78s +233545.9 133 4.79 F0V

Ari 03h14m54.11s +210240.7 340 4.87 A1V

14 Ari 02h09m25.29s +255623.9 320 4.98 F2III

Ari 187 5.03 A2m

02h06m33.91s +223854.3

Ari 659 K1p

01h57m21.03s +174903.3 5.09

2 Ari 03h22m45.27s +204431.6 319 5.10 K3III

38 Ari 02h44m57.51s +122645.5 125 5.18 A7III-IV

Ari A 02h59m12.70s +212025.0 332 5.2 A2Vs

Ari 02h12m47.98s +211239.5 98 5.23 F5V

Ari 603 5.26 B6V

02h49m17.56s +172751.6

1 Ari 03h21m13.61s +210849.7 462 5.27 B5IV

Table #1 [3]

Top 20 Brightest Stars in the Aries Constellation



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