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A Timely Toast to Spring

On an errand from an Olympian, promptness pays

As signs of spring bloom across the land, the constellations of the new season move into prominence. Some, like Hercules with its familiar shape, are easy to recognize. As members of the zodiac, Cancer, Leo and Virgo are fairly easy to spot, too. Others, like Hydra, Crater, Corvus, Corona Borealis and Boötes, are harder to discern.

The largest constellation, taking more than six hours to rise from end to end, Hydra the serpent is known more for its role in one of Hercules’ 12 tasks. However, in earlier Mesopotamian and Egyptian myths, Hydra was the celestial counterpart of the River Nile, rising each spring.

Comprising mostly dim stars, Crater the cup and Corvus the crow perch atop the back of the snake Hydra. In some tales, Crater is Zeus’s sacred goblet, but others attribute the cup to Apollo. In this tale, the sun god sent his pet crow, Corvus, to bring him a cup of water. As in of Aesop’s tales, the crown dallied for a fig tree’s fruit to ripen. When the Corvus finally returned, the angry Apollo threw both bird and cup into the heavens.

The northern crown, Corona Borealis, was a gift crafted by the Greek god Hephaestus for the springtime wedding of Dionysus and Adriane.

Containing the fourth brightest star, Arcturus, Boötes is one you’ve likely gazed at knowingly or unknowingly. As the herdsman, Boötes is known as the keeper of winter’s bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. However, legends of long, long ago credit him as the inventor of the plow, marking civilization’s shift from a nomadic, hunter-gather culture to a fixed, agrarian one.


Illustration: © Copyright 1925 M.C. Escher/Cordon Art-Baarn-Holland; Graphics: © Copyright 2007 Pacific Publishers. Reprinted by permission from the Tidelog graphic almanac. Bound copies of the annual Tidelog for Chesapeake Bay are $14.95 ppd. from Pacific Publishers, Box 480, Bolinas, CA 94924. Phone 415-868-2909. Weather affects tides. This information is believed to be reliable but no guarantee of accuracy is made by Bay Weekly or Pacific Publishers. The actual layout of Tidelog differs from that used in Bay Weekly. Tidelog graphics are repositioned to reflect Bay Weekly’s distribution cycle.Tides are based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and are positioned to coincide with high and low tides of Tidelog.

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