Stellar journey through the ages

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 October, 2011, 12:00am


The Hong Kong Space Museum's new sky show combines tales of ancient Greek myths with the modern world's most amazing scientific discoveries.

Astronomyths, which runs until December 31, takes audiences on a stellar journey through the ages, weaving together interesting ancient myths and modern scientific findings, and enabling audiences to learn more about the autumn sky.

The show looks at modern space probes and telescopes, the birth of black holes and extra-solar planets in the so-called 'habitable' zone, and spectacular nebulae, clusters and galaxies.

The ancient Greeks divided the visible sky at their local latitudes into 48 constellations.

They linked up the bright stars in each constellation with imaginary lines using rich imagination.

Blended with mythical stories, stars in these constellations were used to stand for different things, such as creatures or characters.

Several interesting Greek constellation myths were born this way. For instance, there are three familiar constellations of the zodiac observable in the August night sky, namely Aquarius, Pisces and Aries. Each of them has a story behind it.

Aquarius - Servant of the gods' feast

In ancient Greece, unmarried daughters of a banquet host served wine to the guests. In the palace of Zeus, this duty was carried out by his daughter Hebe. However, after she married, Zeus transformed into a giant eagle and searched for someone who could replace Hebe. Zeus fancied the good-looking prince of Troy and abducted him for service as cup-bearer.

Pisces - The origin of the two fish

During a banquet among a group of gods in Olympus, a monster appeared and it had 100 dragon heads, all breathing fire. Naturally, the gods and goddesses ran away. In order to escape, Aphrodite and her son Eros transformed into two fish and dived into a river.

Aries - A story of a golden ram

In eastern Greece, there was a city-state called Orchomenus. Its king married two women, Nephele and Ino. Since Ino wanted her own son to succeed the throne, she planned to persecute Nephele's son and daughter, Phrixus and Helle. By bribing a priest, she convinced the king he had to sacrifice Nephele's son to save his country from disaster.

As Hermes, the messenger of the gods, heard the details of Nephele's grievance, he sent her a golden ram with wings. Nephele ordered her two children to ride on it and flee from their country. Unfortunately, Helle slipped off the ram and drowned. The ram continued the journey and carried Phrixus to Colchis, which is now called Georgia. The king of Colchis let his daughter marry Phrixus.

To express his gratitude, Phrixus killed the golden ram, presenting the golden fleece to the king and offering the mutton to Zeus.

The 41-minute Astronomyths is shown in conjunction with a 16-minute seasonal planetarium show.