Gemini is one of 12 zodiac constellations, and lies between Cancer (to the east) and Taurus (to the west). Constellations that lie to its north are Lynx and Auriga, while Canis Minor and Monoceros lie to its south. The word 'Gemini' translates as 'twins' in Latin. The two brightest stars of this constellation are the alpha Geminorum (Castor) and beta Geminorum (Pollux) respectively.
The mythology associated with this celestial entity is quite interesting. According to Greek mythology, the two bright stars present at the top of Gemini constellation symbolize the twin brothers, Pollux and Castor; Pollux is the brightest in the constellation.
It is said that Castor and Pollux were half brothers. Castor, a mortal human being, was born to Leda and her husband, king Tyndareus. Pollux, on the other hand, was the immortal son of the Greek God Zeus and Leda. Castor took part in many adventures with Pollux, but died during one of them.
Pollux avenged the murder of his dear brother; but couldn't overcome the grief caused by his death. He requested Zeus to let him go to the world where his brother Castor had departed. Acceding to the request, Zeus placed the two brothers side-by-side in the heaven, and the Gemini configuration was formed.
The Gemini configuration is formed of four main stars. Apart from the alpha and beta Geminorum, Gamma and Mu are the other prominent stars. This constellation is also the astrological sign of those born between May 21 and June 20.
Some Interesting Facts
- NGC 2392 and M35 are the two prominent objects of the Gemini configuration seen at night. The M35 is actually a cluster of as many as 200 stars.
- The alignment of this constellation can be visualized as two lines that descend from Castor and Pollux, the bright stars.
- In 1678, the fact that Castor is a visual binary was discovered.
- The phenomenon called precision of equinoxes has resulted in the summer solstice lying in Gemini.
- The nearest star to this constellation is Gliese 251, which is at a distance of about 18 light years.
- One of the myths regarding the twins associate them with cattle theft. This is because, earlier, the mythology referred to the Milky Way as a herd of cattle. The position of one of the twins in the Milky Way, and the other outside it, created a picture resembling a thievery of the cattle.
- Pollux, which has a magnitude of 1.15, is a yellow-orange colored giant star.
- The magnitude of Castor is 1.58.
- In the 2nd week of December every year, one can observe meteor shower from the Gemini constellation. This meteor shower is named as Geminids.
The mythology and facts about this constellation make it an interesting topic of study.