starry sky

There are many constellations to be viewed in the dark nights at Joshua Tree. Scroll down to see a couple in the sky right now . . .


One day the great hunter Orion saw the Pleiads (perhaps with their mother, or perhaps just one of them) as they walked through the Boeotian countryside, and fancied them. He pursued them for seven years, until Zeus answered their prayers for delivery and transformed them into birds (doves or pigeons), placing them among the stars. Later on, when Orion was killed (many conflicting stories as to how), he was placed in the heavens behind the Pleiades, immortalizing the chase.


The brightest star in the constellation is [7931] alpha Tauri, or Aldebaran ("the follower"). Aldebaran is an orange-red giant, an irregular variable star, about 65 light-years distant. It is also sometimes called the Bull's Eye because it lies in the head of Taurus. It is the 13th brightest star in the sky. It was named Aldebaran because it appears to follow the Pleiades cluster across the sky. The Chinese know Aldebaran as the Fifth Star of the Net, while the Inuit call it the Spirit of the Polar Bear. The Seris people in Mexico believe that it provides light for seven women giving birth, represented by the Pleiades. The Dakotas saw the Pleiades as a white buffalo, chased by a hero (Aldebaran) across the sky.


Castor and Polydeuces grew up inseparable and were part of many tales, including the myth of the Golden Fleece. When they clashed with another pair of brothers over two beautiful women, Castor, the mortal twin, was killed. Polydeuces asked Zeus not to be separated from his brother and Zeus allowed the two to spend half of the time at Olympus and half in Hades. The twins were also said to have been given the power to save shipwrecked sailors by the sea god Poseidon and were considered to be the patron saints of sailors.
The constellation Gemini occupies an area of 514 square degrees and contains four stars with known planets. It can be seen at latitudes between +90° and -60° and is best visible at 9 p.m. during the month of February. In sidereal astrology, the Sun passes through the constellation Gemini from June 16 to July 15. In tropical astrology, the sign Gemini still stretches roughly between the dates May 22 and June 23.

canis minor

Canis Minor contains only two bright stars. Procyon (α CMi) at apparent magnitude 0.38, is the seventh brightest star in the night sky, as well as one of the closest. Procyon means "before the dog" or "preceding the dog" in Greek, as it rises an hour before the 'Dog Star', Sirius, of Canis Major. It is actually a binary star system, consisting of a yellow-white main sequence star of spectral type F5 IV-V, named Procyon A, and a faint white dwarf companion of spectral type DA, named Procyon B. Procyon B, which orbits the more massive star every 41 years, is of magnitude 10.7. The system is 11.4 light-years from Earth. Gomeisa (β CMi), with an apparent visual magnitude of 2.89, is the second brightest star in Canis Minor. Lying 162 light-years (50 parsecs) from our solar system, it is a blue-white hued main sequence star of spectral class B8 Ve, and is about 3.5 times the Sun's mass.


Orion is very useful as an aid to locating other stars. By extending the line of the Belt southeastward, Sirius (α CMa) can be found; northwestward, Aldebaran (α Tau). A line eastward across the two shoulders indicates the direction of Procyon (α CMi). A line from Rigel through Betelgeuse points to Castor and Pollux (α Gem and β Gem). Additionally, Rigel is part of the Winter Circle. Sirius and Procyon, which may be located from Orion by following imaginary lines (see map), also are points in both the Winter Triangle and the Circle.