Allow us to introduce you to three - count'em three - constellations named for the feline species: Leo, Leo Minor and Lynx.
|Can you see the majestic arch of the lion's neck, right side of frame? |
Photo courtesy Bart Busschots, via Creative Commons 2.0
Leo Minor is just above Leo, with Lynx just above and to the east/right/whatever:
|Map courtesy Roberto Mura, via Creative Commons 3.0|
|Photo: public domain|
Comprised of 10 "anchor" stars, Leo is one of the earliest constellations identified by mankind, with records that go back as far as Mesopotamia in 4000 B.C.E. The brightest star in Leo is Regulus - 69 light years away and 110 times as bright as our own sun.
But what we found most interesting was that it seems to have always been identified as a lion. According to Wikipedia: "The Persians called Leo Ser or Shir; the Turks, Artan; the Syrians, Aryo; the Jewish, Arye; the Indians, Simha -- all meaning "lion".
Babylonian astronomy identified the constellation as the "Great Lion" and called Regulus "the star that stands at the Lion's breast."
According to space.com, Leo's main identifying feature is a backward-question mark curve of six stars that form the lion's head.
Interestingly, there was temporarily a fourth constellation named for the cat.
In 1799, French astronomer and cat lover Jérôme Lalande felt sorry for the domestic cat, as she had no constellation named after her (evidently lions and lynx weren't close enough to satisfy), so he named a group of stars "Felis."
Located next to the constellation Hydra, the constellation is now obsolete.
|Illustration by Jonathan Bode 1801. Public domain.|
(we don't think Jonathan had ever seen a cat...)
"I am very fond of cats" he said. "I will let this figure scratch on the chart. The starry sky has worried me quite enough in my life, so that now I can have my joke with it.”
So yes, we'd say the cat is nicely represented in the evening sky.
But wait! There's more!
What is a Thursday Trivia without a peek into the origins of an animal-related saying? And so we come to today's phrase. Because you see, during the hottest days of August, dogs may rule the day but cats rule the night!
You'll find the term "Cat Nights" in calendars across the Americas and Europe to this day. As the Dog Days of summer draw to an end, they transition into Cat Nights on August 17. And all of them identify an old Irish folk tale as its origin.
|Faraday liked to test out his lungs even as a kitten!|
According to the legend, caterwauling is particularly prominent on August 17th.
(We beg to differ. Any day of the year is quite acceptable for Faraday to test out his lungs. )
Despite extensive searches, the oldest reference to the term "cat nights" that we could find in print was in the Old Farmer's Almanac, which dates back to 1792.
New York Times
Peabody Institute Library of Danvers
Old Farmer's Almanac