Aries the Ram is certainly one of the smaller constellations in the night sky through the course of the year. To be perfectly honest itís not really all that flashy, but itís still always been one of my favorites. As they say, good things come in small packages, something to keep in mind this week of Christmas!
Currently Aries resides in the southeastern sky during the early evening, a little more than halfway fromthehorizon to the overhead zenith. You canít miss it, or at least most of it. Look for two stars of more or less equal brightness nearly side by side. You should spot them right away. Then look to the lower right of the star on the right and youíll see a dimmer star. Thatís it; youíve found the constellation Aries the Ram.
Aries is one of the smaller constellations of the zodiac, which is made up of twelve constellations that stretch in a band across the night sky. The Zodiac band runs about eight degrees on either side of the sunís apparent path among the stars, and our Earth circles the sun. Since all of the major planets in our solar system orbit the sun in nearly the same mathematical plane, give or take a few degrees, the planets are always are found somewhere in the zodiac band at any one time, depending on where they are in their individual orbits around the sun.
The two brighter stars of Aries are Hamel on the left and Sheratan on the right. The dimmer star on the lower right is Mesarthim. Hamel is a giant star in our Milky Way galaxy, over 850 trillion miles or 66 light-years away from Earth. Itís so far away that the light you see from Hamel today left that star back in 1948, when a gallon of gas was just 26 cents a gallon! Hamel isabout fifteen timesthediameter of our own sun and almost 100 times as luminous.
Even though Aries the Ram is a tiny constellation it has a big story. The Greek mythological story of Aries the Ram is a sweet one. Zeus, the king of the gods, had a pet ram that he named Aries. He was a grand ram with a coat made of goldfleece. Aries also had wings so he could soar the skies above Mount Olympus.
One day Zeus and one of his many girlfriends were having a picnic in a lush valley at the foot of Olympus when out of the distance he could hear Apollo, the god of the sun, shouting at him from high in the sky. The god of the sun noticed that two small children about 10 miles away were about to be eaten by a lion. The kids had slipped away from their mother at a market place and were in some nearby brush, about to become a lionís lunch. Zeus was in a good mood that day and he knew that his pet ram loved kids. So Zeus pointed Aries in the right direction and sent him flying off on a rescue mission.
The lion was within 20 feet of bagging the kids when out of the blue Aries swooped from the sky like a cruise missile. He scooped up the children on his back and flew them off to safety. Aries winged his way back to the local market place and reunited the kids with their greatly relieved mother.
All the rest of his life Aries set out on missions of mercy and rescue. When Aries died, Zeus rewarded him for his bravery and placed his body into the heavens to become the constellation we see today. The little ram did a lot of good!
Diagram of Aries...Click