Written in the stars: Constellations with Arab names

Several constellations have Arab antecedents. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 July 2019

Written in the stars: Constellations with Arab names

  • Many have believed, and some still do, that the constellations hold the key to understanding the world

Man has always looked to the stars, tying their appearance and location to events on earth, from births, deaths and natural disasters to changes in weather, harvests and even the migratory patterns of wildlife.

Many have believed, and some still do, that the constellations hold the key to understanding the world.

Al-Ghorab, the Corvus constellation, is a small star group in the southern sky, modeled on the Babylonian raven. Babylonians associated the constellation with Adad, the god of rain and storm, because its stars would rise before the onset of the spring rains.

One myth associated with Corvus is that when Apollo received news of his wife Coronis’s unfaithfulness from a pure white crow, he turned its feathers black in rage.

Ad-Dulfin, the Delphinus constellation, is located in the northern sky. The constellation represents the dolphin sent by the sea god Poseidon to find Amphitrite, the sea goddess he wanted to marry. One of the major stars in the constellation is Epsilon Delphini. Its traditional name, Deneb Dulfim, comes from the Arabic “zanab ad-dulfin,” or dolphin’s tail.

Ad-Dubb Al-Akbar, or Ursa Major, the Greater Bear, includes a group of stars commonly known as the Big Dipper, and is one of the most recognizable patterns in the northern sky. One of its stars, Dubhe, gets its name from the Arabic “dubb,” which means bear.

Al-Hamal, or the Aries constellation, in the northern hemisphere is usually associated with the story of the Golden Fleece in Greek mythology. Hamal is the brightest star in the constellation, and its name is derived from the Arabic “Ras Al-Hamal,” or Head of the Ram. Another star, Delta Arietis, or Botein, gets its name from the Arabic “baten” or “butain,” which means “belly.”

Al-Asad, the Lion, or the Leo constellation, is one of the largest constellations in the night sky. It is usually associated with the Nemean lion in Greek mythology. Regulus Alpha Leonis is the brightest star. Its Arabic name, Qalb Al-Asad, means “the heart of the lion.” Denebola is the second-brightest star in Leo. Its name is derived from the Arabic “Danab Al-Asad,” which means “the lion’s tail.”


Alaska man discovers 50-year-old message in bottle from Russian Navy

Updated 19 August 2019

Alaska man discovers 50-year-old message in bottle from Russian Navy

  • Then Russian Navy Capt. Anatolii Prokofievich Botsanenko wrote the letter when he was a 36-year-old aboard the Sulak
ANCHORAGE, Alaska: A man discovered a 50-year-old letter in a bottle from the Russian Navy on the shores of western Alaska.
Tyler Ivanoff found the handwritten Russian letter early this month while gathering firewood near Shishmaref about 600 miles (966 kilometers) northwest of Anchorage, television station KTUU reported.
“I was just looking for firewood when I found the bottle,” Tyler Ivanoff said. “When I found the bottle, I had to use a screwdriver to get the message out.”
Ivanoff shared his discovery on Facebook where Russian speakers translated the message to be a greeting from a Cold War Russian sailor dated June 20, 1969. The message included an address and a request for a response from the person who finds it.
Reporters from the state-owned Russian media network, Russia-1, tracked down the original writer, Capt. Anatolii Prokofievich Botsanenko, KTUU reported.
He was skeptical he wrote the note until he saw his signature on the bottom.
“There — exactly!” he exclaimed.
The message was sent while the then 36-year-old was aboard the Sulak, Botsanenko said. Botsanenko shed tears when the Russian television reporter told him the Sulak was sold for scrap in the 1990s.
Botsanenko also showed the reporter some souvenirs from his time on the ship, including the autograph of the wife of a famous Russian spy and Japanese liquor bottles, the latter kept over his wife’s protests.
Ivanoff’s discovery of the bottle was first reported by Nome radio station KNOM.