Whispering Woods Faery Lore Course: Lesson Seven – House Faeries

Whispering Woods Faery Lore Course

Lesson Seven

House Faeries

 

House faeries are found in virtually every culture in the world. They are known to do household chores and to protect the home they reside in. They are often solitaire faeries. And they have been known to have a mischievous side to them as well. But in general they are a good faery to have about. And they greatly appreciate small treats such as a bowl of milk and perhaps some cookies or other treat.

Brollachan (Brollochan is Gaelic for a shapeless thing) – This Scottish house faery has been described as being a hairy and shapeless mass. At other times it is said that they have the legs and feet of a goat, much like the Greek God; Pan. The only two words ever uttered by this faery is “Mi phrein” (myself) and Tu phrein (thyself).

Brownies – Brownies are found around Scotland and parts of England. They are very hard working and prefer a tidy house. They are generally solitaires who like dark places to reside in when not doing housework. They are said to be shaggy and ugly in appearance. They are squat with large eyes. Brownies are rarely seen as they are able to make themselves invisible. They are often grateful for a saucer of fresh milk. If you make a Brownie angry he can be quite malicious. To get rid of a Brownie, offer him a suit of clothes. Though the origin of the Brownie is unknown, it is thought that they are the spirits of servants who have passed. They are also known as hobgoblins.

Deduska (Grandfather) – This Russian house faery is often invisible. But when seen he is often wearing a red shirt, cloak and belt and is said to be hairy. He is also known to be a shape-shifter. He generally resides with his family behind the stove, in a cupboard or out in the stable. As long as he is kept happy with an offering of leftovers, he will protect the home and crops. But if he becomes angered he will become very malicious to one’s home and crops. It is said that he is quite a spinner of thread.

Aitvaras – These house faeries hail from Lithuania. Once adopting a home they tend to supply the inhabitants with grain and money which they steal from the neighbors. It is said that within the home they appear as cockerels and outside the home as small dragons. He can be seen breathing yellow flame from his mouth and at other times only his long, flaming tail is visible. There is a legend that one may purchase an Aitvaras from the devil in exchange for ones soul.

Glaisein – These strange Manx house faeries are said to be physically strong. They don’t attach to any particular house but rather assist at various farm houses, threshing corn and helping with the sheep. More often then not they will skulk about in the hills and refrain from helping out. They have been known to kidnap human women for their wives and have been reported to have raped lone human women. They are able to shape-shift into foals or yearling lambs.

Hinzelmann – During the 16th century, this unique German house faery lived in Luneburg castle with his wife, “Hille Bingels”. He was said to have blonde hair and wore a red cap. The owner of the castle allowed him to have his own room and to take part in meals at the main table. Hinzelmann was said to be very useful doing chores for the owner of the castle. Legend has it that he left after four years had passed and left three things behind in the castle: a straw hat, a small, hollow cross and a leather glove embroidered with pearls. He told the Lord of the castle that as long as these three things be kept together, the family would prosper. If they were separated, the family line would die.

Para – This is a Finnish house faery who is known to steal milk from neighboring cows, bringing it back to his host farm. It is said that he can be persuaded to become a house servant. And that to make him appear, a mushroom is fried in tar, salt, and sulphur and then is beaten with a rod. The Para then appears and begs to be spared such a beating. They are known to shape-shift into a cat or a frog.

Hospodaricek – This is a Southern Slavonic house faery who takes on the appearance of a snake and lives behind the oven. As long as he is treated well he will protect the house and the inhabitants, especially the children. He will often warn the family of any impending danger. But if not treated well he will bring misfortune on the house and its inhabitants.

Kikimora – These female Russian house faeries are reputed to be tiny women with chicken feet. They prefer to live behind the oven or in the cellar. They are usually invisible but will appear when someone is about to die. They love to spin and perform household chores. When annoyed they will make strange noises and tickle children until they wake up. It is an old saying that to appease them you must wash your pots and pans in Fern tea.

Duendes (Lord of the House) – These Spanish house faeries manifest as small middle aged women with long fingers. They are said to dress in green, grey or red clothing. The males are said to favor brimless hats, dark hoods or red caps. They prefer to live in isolated houses, caves or lonely towers. They appear at night taking on the various household chores. If a human is untidy around the house, the Duendes will try to drive that person off through various unpleasant means. They would love to drive their human families from the homes so that they might have these dwellings to themselves.

Lars Familiaris – These are the oldest known form of Roman house faeries. They protect the house and all of its possessions. They will often warn the inhabitants of any impending danger. The custom was to offer them a small libation at each meal. It is thought that these faries are the spirits of the founding ancestors of each particular family. They are given a special place beside the hearth. There is a school of thought that the concept of House Faeries began with the Lars Familiaris of Rome.

Bannik – This Russian house faery is unusual in that he frequents bath houses and fresh water ponds. An offering to this house faery would be a pail of hot water and some soap. Legend has it that if he rubs your back while using the bath house that you will have good luck, but if he scratches you then your luck will run bad. He can often be heard giggling and hissing under the benches of the bath house. And it is suggested that every third warming of the water in the bath house be left for the sole use of this peculiar faery. The Bannick is one of four subspecies of Domoviyr house faeries.

 

Quiz:

1. The Glaisein can shape-shift into foals or yearling _______.

2. Aitvaras hail from __________.

3. Brollochan is Gaelic for a ________ _____.

4. The Hospodaricek takes on the shape of a ______.

5. The Bannick frequents ____ _____ and fresh water ponds.

6. The Para is known for stealing ______ from neighboring farms.

7. The Deduska house faery is a ____ – ______.

 

 

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Whispering Woods Faery Lore Course: Lesson Six – Water Faeries

Whispering Woods Faery Lore Course

Lesson Six

Water Faeries

 

“Be Find” (White Lady) is an ancient Irish term for female water faeries.

“Pixy led” is a term for being led astray by mischievous faeries. If this happens, turn your clothes inside out to confuse the faery and thus escape.

“Red cap” may well be a symbol for the Fly Agaric mushroom, which is red with white spots.

Afranc – This is a type of Welsh Water Faery. The word “Afranc” comes from the word “abha” which means “river”. They are said to have claws and to wield spears. There is a well known tale of how King Arthur fought an Afranc in Llyn Barfog. And another tale relates to how one was dragged from the river Conway and then was dropped into Lake Glaslyn which is a bottomless lake on Mount Snowdon.

Bean Fionn (White Lady) – She is a white robed water faery who lives beneath the waters of lakes and streams in Ireland. She is known to drag unsuspecting children into her watery domain where she drowns them. One famous Bean Fionn lives in Loch Gur. It is said that she drowns a victim once every seven years.

Dracae – These French water faeries are reputed to live in a city beneath the River Seine. For entertainment they ride along the surface of the water on wooden plates. They are said to favor mating with human men. There are tales that they have presented themselves as a golden chalice rising out of the water. And that when a person reaches for this chalice they are then pulled beneath the surface of the water.

Jenny Greenteeth – She is a well known water faery living in the River Ribble in Lancashire. She is said to haunt the stepping stones at Brungerley and that every seven years she claims a new victim by drowning them. It is thought that her presence is marked by the green scum floating on top of the river surface.

Kappa – This is a very strange looking Japanese water faery. They have green skin and a tortoise shell on their backs. They also have webbed feet and trunk like noses. They also have an indentation in their heads which serves as a reservoir for a small amount of water, for they are very aquatic and must stay wet. In spite of their appearance they are very dangerous to unwary travelers. They tend to lure humans and animals into the water where they are killed and then eaten.

Judi – This is a Macedonian water faery. They have snake-like bodies and long hair. And they live in the rivers and lakes. When they catch a human swimming in their domain they use their hair to ensnarl their victim and then they drown them. It is said that they are responsible for the storms that damage local crops.

Nakk – These are the Estonian water faeries. The males are said to have beautiful singing voices that they use to lure their prey into their rather large mouths prior to eating them. The females have long beautiful hair that they comb with golden combs. At times they are said to have tails like that of a mermaid.

Neck – He is a Scandinavian water faery who is often found sitting on the surface of a river or lake. He has golden hair and wears a red cap. He is often seen playing a harp. Once a year he takes a human sacrifice. It is said that he is extremely afraid of iron and steel.

Nixen – These are German fresh water faeries. It is said that they wear red caps and that as soon as a human approaches they dive beneath the water leaving only a ripple to mark there presence. It is said that sometimes one can hear a Nixen singing but that it drives the one listening into madness. They have been known to steal human babies and to marry human women. The children from such a union are called “urchins”. On occasion they have been known to warn humans of impending drowning and even have taught some how to play the fiddle in their particular manner of playing.

Shellycoats – These Scottish water faeries live in shallow woodland ponds. They are covered with shell-like scales which are red or purple in color, thus their name. They often look like large fish with a large mouth and eyes. They are reputed to be able to fly and love to play pranks on unsuspecting humans.

Toice Bhrean (The Lazy One) – This female Irish water faery is the guardian of Lough Gur, a lake in county Limerick. She neglected to watch over a magickal well and this resulted in it overflowing and thus creating Lough Gur. Once every seven years an unwitting victim is drowned in this lake.

Njuzu – This is a Zimbabwe water faery that appears as a fish with a human head. At other times they appear as beautiful young women whose intent is to lure young men to their deaths. At one time young children were sacrificed to these water faeries.

 

Quiz:

1. Dracae are ______ water faeries.

2. A Nixen singing drives the one listening into ________.

3. Pixy led, is a term for being led _____ by mischievous faeries.

4. Jenny Greenteeth is a well known water faery living in the River ________ in Lancashire.

5. Nakk have rather large ________.

6. Shellycoats are covered with shell-like scales which are ___ or ______ in color.

7. Toice Bhrean is the guardian of _____ ______.

 

 

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Whispering Woods Faery Lore Course: Lesson Five – Vampire Faeries

Whispering Woods Faery Lore Course

Lesson Five

Vampire Faeries

 

Many vampire faeries are the spirits of un-baptized children, murder victims and women who have died during childbirth. And just like vampires, their purpose is to suck the lifeblood out of humans. This is done by either draining the actual blood or by draining the life energy out of someone. They are found mentioned throughout history and in many different parts of the world. Here are but a few:

Owls – The owl is associated with many faeries who represent death such as Gwyn Ap Nudd who is known as the Lord of death and in particular Lilith, the first wife of the Christian “Adam”. It is said that she became one of the four wives of their Satan. And “Screech Owl (Strix Aluco) came to mean “vampire”. In Scotland the owl is known as “Cailleach” which means Hag. and is further translated as Cailleach Oidhche (the Hag of the Night). It is thought across Europe that owls are actually witches who have shapeshifted. And all across the world owls are thought to be harbingers of death.

Anchanchu – This is a vampire faery of the Aymara Indians from Peru. I is said that he travels around in a whirlwind. And that he puts his victims at ease with a pleasant smile before draining their life blood from them. It is thought that they dwell in caves high up in the Andes Mountains. They are sometimes viewed as goblins.

Pey – This is a vampire faery from Sri Lanka that favors the blood of wounded and fallen warriors. The female counterpart of this vampire faery is the Peymakilir, who devours corpses while dancing about frenziedly.

Azeman – This vampire faery is also from South America. The Azeman travels around by day as women and at night as a bat in search of victims to be drained of their blood. One way to stop her from attacking is to sprinkle grains or seeds about, upon seeing them she will compulsively stop to count them and gather them up. Another way of stopping her is by propping a broom against a door, as she won’t cross this.

Hibla-Bashi – These are Iranian vampire faeries. In appearance they are half man and half goat.

Churel – It is said that the Churel is the spirit of a woman who died during childbirth. She resides in India and is said to capture young men from whom she sucks out their life essence until they are no more. She also eats the hearts and livers of young children. She does not die until she passes on her secret mantra to a successor. Often, her feet are backward, and she has an unnaturally long and thick black tongue. She can appear as very hideous or as a very charming woman.

Dakini – These are Indian vampire faeries who feed upon those who have recently died. They are said to favor those who were recently executed for a crime.

Ieles – The Ieles are vampire faeries that reside in Romania. They appear as large cats that walk upright. They attack their victims at crossroads though they do not enter the center of such roads. Often they will sing or dance to help lure humans off the main road to them.

Langsuir – She is a vampire faery from Malaysia. She is a woman who has died from childbirth. She has floor length black hair, long nails and is said to wear green robes. When a woman dies there, in order to keep her from coming back as a Langsuir, glass beads are placed within her mouth. Also eggs are placed under her arm pits and needles are placed withinher hands. According to myth, men who are not wary will be killed or castrated when she morphs into a hideous being; she will also eat babies and harm pregnant women and has been said to cause miscarriages. She is considered to be the deadliest banshee in Malaysian folklore.

Morava – The Morava are vampire faeries from Southern Slavonia. They appear at night as moths in order to suck the blood from sleeping human beings.

Leanansidhe – This is a peculiar type of vampire faery in that she is a muse who inspires poets and musicians. But in return she draws the life essence out of the one being so inspired. She is found in Scotland as well as Ireland.

 

Quiz:

1. Azeman is from _____ _______.

2. The Ieles are vampire faeries that reside in ________.

3. The owl is associated with many faeries who represent ______.

4. Pey favors the blood of wounded and fallen ________.

5. Dakinin are Indian vampire faeries who feed upon those who have recently _____.

6. Churel eats the hearts and livers of young _______.

7. Hibla-Bashi appear as half man and half ______

 

 

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Whispering Woods Faery Course: Lesson Four – Hag Faeries

Whispering Woods Faery Course

Lesson Four

Hag Faeries

 

During the English Renaissance the word “Hag” and “Fairy” were often synonymous with each other. They were often found in folktale related stories of the Crone These Goddesses’ were connected to Death, as well as the season of winter. It was thought that the Hag Faeries were responsible for winter, sickness and of course death. Hag Faeries are also known to be a threat to humans as they kill and devour humans. They will often cook the carcass within a large cauldron. Hag Faeries are usually found between the times of Beltain and Samhain. The term “Hag ridden” referred to a horse that was stolen by a faery or witch and ridden all night, only to be returned at dawn all worn out or Hag ridden.

There are many different Hag Faeries and following are but a few examples of these.

Vargamor: (Wolf Crones) these faeries dwell within the forests of Sweden. They are said to have the power of sorcery and to be closely associated with wolves, thus their name, Wolf crones. The vargamor are known to provide human victims for wolf companions.

Caillage Ny Groagmagh: (Old Woman of Gloominess) She is a hag faery from Manx and is said to control the weather. And similar to the American groundhog, she comes out at Imbolc to check the weather. If the weather is bad it will stay that way for awhile. And if it is good she will keep it that way for awhile.

Yama-Uba: Yama Uba is a notorious mountain hag faery who lives in Japan. She has a head full of snakes which she uses to catch human prey with. The snakes feed it into her mouth which is located on top of her head. Reminds me of my ex mother in law (tongue in cheek).

Gorska Makva: She is a Hag Faery from Bulgaria who prowls through villages at night in an effort to torment children.

Baba Yaga: (Grandmother Bony Shanks) This Russian hag faery was said to live in a magical home which would move from place to place on a set of chicken legs. Baba Yaga is sometimes shown as an antagonist, and sometimes as a source of guidance; there are stories where she helps people with their quests, and stories in which she kidnaps children and threatens to eat them. If someone offended her she would tear their flesh from their body with her bare teeth. It is said that she flies around in a cauldron and that she sweeps away the tracks behind her with a broom made out of silver birch. She is responsible for storms rising.

Gentle Annie – She is a hag faery of the Scottish Lowlands. It is thought that she has control over the storms. She is a cannibal hag with a blue face and iron claws that supposedly were used to dig a cave in the Dane Hills in Leicestershire.

Yuki Onna: Yuki Onna is a Japanese hag faery that lives in the snowstorms. She delights in leading travelers astray so that they perish in the ice and snow.

Gyre-Carlin: Is a Hag Faery who resides in Scotland. When she rides the storms she is known as “Nicnevin”. She is also known to have considerable skills in Spinning.

Cally Berry: She is an Ulster Hag Faery who is in a constant state of war with Finn Mac Cumhal and his followers. She sometimes takes the form of a crane to fly about and predict storms. She is often equated with the Caillech Bheur of Scotland, though in my opinion they are two separate entities.

Gwyllion: (Hag Fairy) these are the mountain faeries of Wales. They often lead wanderers astray in the mountains. It is said that they tend to herds of goats in the mountains and that they also can shape shift into goats. It is said that they detest both humans and storms.

Muireartach: She is a Scottish Hag Faery who will appear as a bluish-grey, old crone with sharp teeth and only one large eye. Or sometimes she will appear as a sea snake. She was also mother to the king of the mythical underwater realm of Luchlan. She is also responsible for creating storms off of the Scottish coast.

 

Quiz:

1. Vargamor dwell within the forests of _______.

2. Gentle Annie is a Hag Faery of the __________ lowlands.

3. Hag Faeries are usually found between the times of _______ and Samhain.

4. Baba Yaga flies around in a _______.

5. Cally Berry sometimes takes the form of a _____

 

 

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Whispering Woods Faery Lore Course: Lesson Three – Will-O-the-Wisps

Whispering Woods Faery Lore Course
Lesson Three
Will-O-the-Wisps

 

The Will-o’-the-Wisp (Fools Fire) (ignis fatuus) refers to the ghostly lights sometimes seen at night that hovers over bogs. It looks like a flickering flame. These lights are also sometimes referred to as “corpse candles” or “hobby lanterns”.

Sometimes they are believed to be the spirits of un-baptized or stillborn children. Or at best the spirits of dead folks.

There are also tales told about the Will o’ the Wisp being guardians of treasure, leading those brave enough to follow them to sure riches.

In many places they Will o’ the Wisp were associated with spirits of the dead who could not enter either heaven or hell, wandering the earth leading foolish travelers astray.

The Will o’ the Wisp is the most common name given to the mysterious lights that were said to lead travelers from the well-trodden paths into treacherous marshes. When seen within graveyards they are known as corpse lights and were said to be death omens.

Elf Fire is an English name for the Will-o-the-wisp as is Friar’s Lantern and Fox Fire.

An Old English name for the will-o-the-wisp is; Gyl Burnt Tayle.

In Germany the will-o-the-wisp is known as Heerwische, Huckepoten or Irrlichter (Crazy Light). Will-o-the-wisps are not local to any one area in the world but are sighted all about.

Be careful when traveling near a bog!

 

Luchtenmannekens: (Men of the Air) these are the Dutch version of the Will-O-The-Wisps

Teine Sith: (Fire Fairy) the Teine Sith is the Scots Gaelic version of the Will-O-The-Wisp in the Hebrides islands.

Faeu boulanger: (rolling fire) This will-o-the-wisp is found in the channel island of Guernsey.

It is believed to be a lost soul who cannot escape his earthly shackles. On being confronted with the specter, tradition prescribes two remedies. The first is to turn one’s cap or coat inside out. This has the effect of stopping the faeu boulanger in its tracks. The other solution is to stick a knife into the ground with the blade up. The Faeu boulanger will fall upon the blade in a failed attempt to kill itself, thus allowing time for one to escape.

Feux Follets: (Merry Fires) This French Canadian Will-o-the-Wisp is believed to be the damned spirits of criminals or bad Catholics who served Satan and sometimes worked in concert with the Loup Garou, or Werewolf, in pursuit of wayward souls. It looks like a blue flame and tries to lure folks into the bogs. The French versions are known as Annequins or Fioles.

Liekkos: In Finland this will-o the -wisp is thought to be the spirits of children who were kidnapped during a Mid-Winter celebration. Only by switching places with another child can they return to earth. The Liekkos are said to be omens of death if seen by someone.

Ellylldan: (Fire Fairy) this is the Welsh version of the will-o-the-wisp it appears as a light and misleads travellers from their path.

Gandaspati: In Indonesia, the will-o-the-wisp is known as Gandaspati. It is said to be a wicked spirit in flame that can shape-shift into the form a dragon. The spirit causes the death of whoever touches it.

Candelas: This is a Sardinian Will-o-the-wisp that is seen right after sundown.

Irrbloss: A will-o-the-wisp found residing in Sweden. Another one is the Lygte Men. They are said to be the souls of men who stealthy moves boundary markers around in order to confuse the unwary traveler.

St. Elmos Fire: The legend is that back in the 4th. Century, St. Elmo (Erasmus) died at sea during a storm. Prior to his death he informed the sailors that he would return after death to signal the end of the storm. Right as he died a will-o-the-wisp appeared at the massy head of the ship. Thus it is known as St. Elmo’s fire.

Fiammetta: This will-o-the-wisp is found in Italy and is said to lead the souls of the newly departed into the Otherworld.

Lyktgubbe: A will-o-the-wisp found in Scandinavia.

Fir Clis: These are the will-o-the-wisps of Scotland known as the Northern Lights.

 

England

Depending on what area of England that you may be in, chances are there is a local Will-othe-wisp. Following are some of these local will-o the-wisps:

Pinket: This is a Will-o-the wisp from Worcester. These are thought to be the spirits of unbaptised children.

Billy Wittwisp: Is a Will-o-the-wisp found in West Yorkshire.

Jenny wt T Lantern: The will-o-the-wisp that is found in North Yorkshire.

Jenny Burnt Tail: A will-o-the-wisp found in Cornwall.

Hinky Punk: These are the will-o-the-wisps of Somerset and Devon counties of England.

Jacky my Lanthorn: Another name for the Somerset will-o-the-wisp.

Kit in the Candlestick” This will-o-the -wisp is found in Hampshire England.

 

Quiz:

1. Elf Fire is an ________ name for the Will-o-the-wisp

2. Faeu boulanger means ________ _____.

3. The Fiammetta is found in _______.

4. The Dutch version of the Will-O-The-Wisps are called ____________.

5. Will-o-the-wisps looks like a _________ ______.

6. In Finland this will-o the -wisp is thought to be the spirits of _______ who were kidnapped during a Mid-Winter celebration.

7. Jenny wt T Lantern is the will-o-the-wisp that is found in ______ Yorkshire.

 

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A Little Humor for Your Day – “Signs that You May Be a Redneck Pagan”

Signs that You May Be a Redneck Pagan

If chewing tobacco is considered a sacred herb
If part of your rite includes throwing shotgun shells into the fire
If the bell on your altar was ever worn by an animal in a pasture
If the cakes and wine are done with a bowie-knife, a can of Foster’s and Little Debbie’s
If they chose their High Priestess at a wet t-shirt night
If when your priestess says “Blessed Be” in circle, you respond with “YEEE-HAW!”
If you bought your chalice at the Piggly Wiggly
If you buy your incense and candles at Wal-Mart (ouch!)
If you call the God & Goddess by hollerin’ “Hey, Y’all! Watch me
If you carry your ritual sword in your pickup’s gun rack
If you found out your familiar is an oppossum and still ate it
If you have cast a love spell on livestock
If you have ever refilled your chalice from a keg.
If you have ever written a spell on the back of a Denny’s menu
If you invoke the sprits so that your beer lasts longer
If you shoot guns into the air when the priestess says, “The circle is open but unbroken”
If you think the Wiccan Rede is good for making twig furniture.
If you’ve ever done a candle spell for your local high-school football team ..
If you’ve ever harvested ritual herbs with a weed wacker ..
If you’ve ever meditated to “Dueling Banjos”
If your Wand of Power is a cattle prod
If your altar cloth is vinyl
If your annointing oil smells like “Old Spice”
If your broom has four-wheel drive and SC plates
If your circle dance includes the words “dosey-do” ..
If your craft name starts with Bubba
If your familiar can point quail
If your ritual music includes Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire

Well, you might just be a Redneck Pagan!

Astronomy Picture of the Day – Elliptical M60, Spiral NGC 4647

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2016 January 28

Elliptical M60, Spiral NGC 4647
Image Credit & Copyright: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

 

Explanation: Giant elliptical galaxy M60 and spiral galaxy NGC 4647 do look like an odd couple in this sharp cosmic portrait from the Hubble Space Telescope. But they are found in a region of space where galaxies tend to gather, on the eastern side of the nearby Virgo Galaxy Cluster. About 54 million light-years distant, bright M60’s simpler egg-like shape is created by its randomly swarming older stars, while NGC 4647’s young blue stars, gas and dust are organized into winding arms rotating in a flattened disk. Spiral NGC 4647 is estimated to be more distant than M60, some 63 million light-years away. Also known as Arp 116, the pair of galaxies may be on the verge of a significant gravitational encounter, though. M60 (aka NGC 4649) is about 120,000 light-years across. The smaller NGC 4647 spans around 90,000 light-years, about the size of our own Milky Way.

Earth Sky News for Jan. 28th: Use Sirius to imagine sun’s path through Milky Way

Use Sirius to imagine sun’s path through Milky Way

If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere now, you can use the brilliant star Sirius – and the star Vega – to imagine the direction our sun and solar system are traveling through space. The sun in its orbit is traveling away from Sirius and toward the star Vega. Although we couldn’t fit them both on one chart, Vega shines over your northwestern horizon, opposite Sirius, at dusk/nightfall at this time of year. Vega sets at early evening while Sirius stays out until the wee hours of the morning.

So if you stand outside at dusk or nightfall with your back to Sirius – facing northwest – you’ll be facing the direction our solar system moves through the Milky Way galaxy. Cool, huh?

Tonight’s chart, and the photo below, both can help you be sure you’re seeing Sirius. Both show the east-southeastern sky not long after the sky gets dark, as viewed from mid-northern latitudes. The brightest star of nighttime – Sirius – shows up close to the horizon in early evening, rising upward as evening deepens into night. Sirius is found by drawing a line through the three stars of Orion’s Belt.

When an overwhelmingly bright star like Sirius hovers near the horizon, it doesn’t just twinkle. Itscintillates: sparkles in red and blue.

By the way, the direction to the star Vega – the general direction toward which our sun is traveling through space – is called the solar apex or sometimes the apex of the sun’s way.

Bottom line: Look for the star Sirius in the constellation Canis Major at nightfall tonight. It’s easy to find because it’s so bright – brightest star in the sky. Once you find it, turn around so that your back is to this bright star. You’ll be facing into the sun’s path through the Milky Way!

 

Author

Bruce McClure

Article published on EarthSky