Home Deepsky Atlas TheAstronews Links Solar System
HAS Logo

Hawaiian Astronomical Society

Constellations: Aries -- The Ram who lost Helle


Two traditions lie behind Aries. The first identifies it with the Golden Fleece that Jason and the people of the Argo sought to recover. Before Aries was a fleece, it was a ram that played an important role in the lives of two children. It begins as the usual evil stepmother story. One of Jason's uncles, Athamas, king of the Minyons, married Nephele, goddess of the clouds. He had two children by her, Phrixus and Helle. Athamas then fell in love with Ino, later to become the goddess of sea foam. She hated Nephele's children and urged Athamas to sacrifice Phrixus to the gods to end a famine. Nephele appeared in a vision to Phrixus the night before the sacrifice, bearing a ram with a golden fleece. Phrixus and Helle escaped on the Ram's back. Helle fell off and drowned as the ram crossed the sea. That particular location is sometimes still called the Hellespont (more often the Dardanelles, after Dardanus, one of the founders of Troy). Phrixus continued to the eastern end of the Black Sea (called the Euxine in ancient times), settled in Colchis (current western Georgia), sacrificed the ram and placed the ram's fleece under the care of a never sleeping dragon.

Ino was the daughter of Cadmus, incurring the wrath of Hera for agreeing with Zeus to help raise Dionysus. Depending on the source, either she, Athamas, or both were driven mad through Hera's actions and killed their own children. Melicertes her son alone escaped by jumping into the sea ahead of Ino. Ino changed into a goddess, later helping Odysseus on his journey home. She is also known as Leucothea. Melicertes' body was carried by dolphins to his uncle Sisyphus of Corinth, who founded the Isthmian games in his honor. Melicertes may be linked with the Phoenician god Melqart (the Canaanite Baal of Tyre, sometimes called Baal Amon), which brings us to the second tradition.

Baal Amon (or Hammon) is derived from the Egyptian god Amon. Amon merged with the sun god Re (or Ra) as early as the late third millennium B.C. His cult was based in Thebes, the city ostensibly founded by Cadmus. Amon was usually depicted in human form, with the exception that he sometimes had a ram's head. His cult survived the attempt by Amenhotep IV (or Akhenaton) to replace his worship with the worship of Aton (the solar disk) in the 14th century B.C.. Worship of Amon declined sharply in the 1st century B.C., replaced by the cult of Isis, Osiris, and Horus.


Each map can be clicked on to produce a 929x1200 version of it. They sport red labels, which look good on screen, but which disappear when used with red flashlights. Each map, therefore has a second link to a map better suited for printing in a graphics program, and using in the field. While they are quite large, they are all about 50k, and so are easy to view at today's modem speeds. The first map is a wide area view of the constellation, suitable for naked eye browsing. The next views are binocular width, showing stars to mag. 10, deepsky objects to mag. 12.9, and labeling deepsky objects to magnitude 12.

Interactive, wide area map of Aries

Map thumbnail

Click the map for a 929x1200 version of the above. Click here for a map better suited for use in the field.

Detailed Map

Map thumbnail

This a more detailed view of the constellation. The map displays stars to magnitude 10, and deepsky objects to magnitude 12. Click here for a map better suited for use in the field.


Image thumbnail 9k JPEG NGC772 (Best 6) is a spiral galaxy located 1.3° ESE of Mesarthim (Gamma Arietis). Dreyer describes it as bright (mag. 10.3), quite large (7.5'x4.0'), round, with a gradually brighter middle. The galaxy rates a single "R" in the resolvability department. On this galaxy it means that the arms look mottled in a 12". An almost stellar nucleus is also possible. Increasing the magnification makes the arms disappear.

Image is a 20 minute exposure by Jim Girard, taken through a 10" SCT (reduced fo f3.3), with an SBIG ST-7.
Map Printable Map


If you have any questions about the Hawaiian Astronomical Society
please (link requires javascript).

Return to top of page

Return to Deepsky Atlas home page

Return to HAS home page