Stargazing 101- Atlas, Keeper of the Heavens

Atlas isn’t exactly a whole constellation, but a bright star in Taurus. He was thought to be the originator of the constellations. This is a great story about his encounter with Hercules.

The Mythology

Stargazing 101- Atlas, Keeper of the Heavens -

Gaia, Mother Earth, presented Hera and Zeus a golden apple tree when they married. Hera planted the tree in her garden and had the Hesperides, the goddesses of golden light and sunset, guard it. Hercules was working on his twelve tasks and had reached his eleventh, to steal the apples from the Hersperides, a task surely he could not complete. Upon finally reaching the garden, he met Atlas, the titan who held the heavens on his shoulders. Hercules persuaded Atlas to gather the apples for him by offering to take the heavens while Atlas gathered the fruit. Hercules assumed it would be easier for Atlas to get by the Hersperides being that he was their father. Atlas, who hated holding the heavens, planned to take the apples for himself, leaving Hercules with the weight on his shoulders. When Atlas finally returned with the apples, he told Hercules that he would deliver them. Hercules, who knew what Atlas was trying to do, agreed. He had but one request, that Atlas take the heavens back only for a moment while Hercules adjusted his cloak. Atlas felt this was a reasonable request since Hercules had been so gullible in the first place to take the heavens on. Hercules gave the heavens back to Atlas, quickly grabbed the apples and fled, leaving Atlas to once again carry the weight on his shoulders. When Hercules returned with the apples, he found out that his efforts were in vain. Because they were from the garden of the gods, the apples wouldn’t survive on earth, so Hercules was forced to return them.

The Facts

Atlas, also know as 27 Tauri, is a double star found in the constellation Taurus. It is a binary star; meaning one star revolves around the other. Atlas was the keeper of the heavens. He was condemned to hold the weight of the word on his shoulders, literally. The star is considered a bright giant and is around 308 light years away from our solar system.Stargazing 101- Atlas, Keeper of the Heavens

Want your kids to be interested in space? Point them towards the Space Scouts summer adventure kit.