On the first Friday of each May, space and science fans alike celebrate space with a dedicated day of observance to everything in the great beyond. Because there’s so much out there in space, you can be sure that there’s always going to be enough to celebrate on this day as every year comes!
This day is dedicated to the extraordinary achievements, benefits and opportunities in the exploration and use of space. The goal of National Space Day is to promote math, science, technology and engineering education in young people to inspire them to pursue a career in science, especially a career in space-related jobs.
But it's also Fellowship Day. A day to celebrate your friends. Why not celebrate with a story about friendship and space?
Constellation: Cycnus, The Swan
Cycnus was a devoted friend of Phaethon, the mortal son of Helios, the charioteer of the Sun. Phaethon was a bold and head strong teenager, and like most teenagers, he thought he knew more than his “Old-Man.” One night his bold nature got the better of him, and despite the advice of his friend Cycnus, and the warnings of his father, Phaethon took out the family car for a bit of a joy ride. The trouble was, the family car was the Sun Chariot and its horsepower was provided by real horses, Phaethon realized very quickly that his joy ride was a mistake, but it was too late. The horses that pulled the Sun Chariot were strong and wild, and only the strength of Helios could control them.
Phaethon’s wild ride took him dangerously close to the vault of the heavens and threatened to singe the earth and destroy the inhabitants of both. Cycnus pleaded with Jupiter to stop this destruction, and with all of creation endangered, Jupiter sent a thunderbolt toward the rampaging chariot and its occupant. With a terrible explosion Phaethon was thrown from the chariot and the fiery steeds were stopped long enough for Helios to gain control and guide them back to their stables. Phaethon, being mortal could not survive the force of a thunderbolt and fell to earth like a shooting star, his charred and lifeless remains landed in the river Eridanus.
Cycnus could not leave his friend to the creatures of the river to feed on, and wanted to give Phaethon a proper burial. Cycnus dove repeatedly into the river to gather the charred remains of his friend. Jupiter, watching this selfless display of devotion was moved, and when Cycnus had completed his task of love and honor. Jupiter decided to give Cycnus a gift of immortality and changed his name to Cygnus and him into a glorious swan. This swan would be placed forever in the heavens amidst the scorched path of Phaethon’s disastrous ride, the Milky Way.
There are other stories that may be related to this constellation, early Christians saw it as the Cross of Calvary and it is also known as the Northern Cross.
More stargazing tips:
Before dawn this weekend – May 5 and 6, 2018 – the Eta Aquariid meteor shower reaches its annual peak. Here’s the bad news. A bright moon will interfere with meteor-watching. Here’s the good news. There are some tricks to watching in moonlight.
If you’re watching in the prime hours before dawn – when the Eta Aquariid radiant point is highest in your sky, and the most meteors will be flying – try sitting in a moonshadow. That could be the shadow of a barn or large solitary tree or even a mountain, anyplace you can create some extra darkness for yourself while gazing up at an open sky.
Get out there and enjoy your friends and space!!