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AURIGA (the “charioteer” or “waggoner”), in astronomy, a
constellation of the northern hemisphere, found in the catalogues
of Eudoxus (4th century B.C.) and Aratus (3rd century B.C.). It
was symbolized by the Greeks as an old man in a more or less
sitting posture, with a goat and her kids in his left hand, and
a bridle in his right. The ancient Greeks associated this constellation
with many myths. Some assume it to be Erichthonius,
son of Athena and Hephaestus, who was translated to the skies
by Zeus on account of his invention of chariots or coaches.
Others assume it to be Myrtilus, a son of Hermes and Clytic,
and charioteer to Oenomaus, who was placed in the heavens by
Hermes. Another myth has it to be Olenus, a son of Hephaestus,
and father of Aega and Helice, two nymphs who nursed Zeus.
Ptolemy catalogued fourteen stars, Tycho Brahe twenty-seven,
and Hevelius forty in this constellation. Interesting stars
are: α Aurigae or Capella (the goat), one of the brightest
stars in the heavens, determined by Newall and Campbell to be
a spectroscopic binary; β Aurigae, a star of the second magnitude
also a spectroscopic binary; ε Aurigae, an irregularly variable
star; and Nova Aurigae, a “new” star discovered by Anderson
in 1892, and afterwards found on a photographic plate exposed
at Harvard in December 1891. Several fine star clusters also
appear in this constellation.
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