Te Ika A Maui
"Now many are
the tales told of Maui for he it was who slowed the Sun, in the
days when it would race across the sky; and he it was who gained
the secret of fire from Mahuika. But the story which I shall tell
is of how Maui tikitiki a Taranga, Maui the last born, fished
up this Island, the North Island of New Zealand.
"Now often the brothers
of Maui would go fishing, and due to their distrust and jealousy
of their younger brother they would leave him behind. But Maui
Potiki was cunning and in the night he hid himself beneath the
boards of their Waka and the next morning when they went out he
remained below. The brothers went to their fishing grounds, but
Maui had already ensured that the fish would not be there, and
so the brothers went further and further out into the ocean. Finally
when far from the land Maui emerged from his hiding place. His
brothers, angry and surprised, talked about returning to land,
but Maui scorned them saying "what use is that, we are so
far from land now, that it would take too long to return."
The brothers cast their lines, but to Maui they would give no
bait, and so Maui the Trickster smote his own nose, so it would
bleed; this he smeared upon a miraculous jawbone given him by
his grandmother Murirangiwhenua, and this he cast into the sea.
Down went this enchanted fish hook, Te Matau a Maui, down into
the very deepest depths of the ocean.
"Something had the
line and Maui Nukahanga, heaved. With all his might he heaved;
with straining muscles and sweating brow he pulled; with clenching
teeth and rolling eyes he dragged his fish up from the sea. Finally,
Te Ika a Maui, the Fish of Maui, rose up and lay out smooth upon
the surface of the sea. As Maui returned to land to give thanks
for his catch, his brothers in their greed attacked the Ika a
Maui, and chopped into its sweet tender flesh. The creature thrashed
and writhed in its pain, and herein turned to stone. That is why
Te Ika a Maui, the North Island of New Zealand, is a rugged land
of high mountains and deep valleys. If not for Maui's brothers
this land would be smooth as the back of a stingray.
"When Maui realized
that he had brought up the island, he was so delighted that he
tossed his fish hook far up into the heavens, where it caught
and hung, outlined with bright stars." And so goes the Maori
story of the creation of the Fish Hook of Maui, the star group
we know as Scorpius.
According to a legend
of the people of the Marshall Islands, the mother of all stars
(Capella in Auriga) proposed a canoe race to a nearby island.
She asked each of her sons to allow her to ride with her possessions
in their canoes; all thought this would slow their craft and they
would lose the race. All, that is, except the youngest (represented
by the Pleiades), who gladly allowed his mother to ride with him.
Among the posessions she had brought onboard were sails and rigging,
and with this to help them their canoe easily pulled ahead. Her
eldest son (Antares in Scorpius), frustrated and angry, demanded
the canoe and equipment, but his mother would not agree. The eldest
son had to fasten the sail to his shoulders, causing his bent
back that now accounts for the shape of Scorpius. He was so enraged
that his younger brother won the race and became king of the stars
that he never wanted to see his brother again. That is why the
Pleiades and Antares are always separated in the sky, Antares
setting in the west as the Pleiades rise in the east.
That story is completely
different yet remarkably similar to the classic Greek story of
the separation of Scorpius from Orion in the sky. You will remember
that Orion, representing light and the Sun, was stung by the scorpion,
the contemptible insect of darkness and symbol of death. Ancient
Egypt, too, kept the similar idea of opposition between evil forces
and good, and when the Sun entered Scorpius it marked the reign
of the god Set, personification of evil, and the mourning of the
beloved Osiris, brother of Set.
Scorpius occupies a rich
and wonderful area of the Zodiac, although the modern boundaries
of the constellation are host to the Sun for only nine days of
the year. The Sun resides in Ophiuchus, the forgotten zodiacal
constellation, for twice that time. The greater part of the scorpion
lies south of the ecliptic, with Graffias, Beta Scorpii, the only
bright star in the north. This star is an interesting multiple
star which is occulted by the Moon on occasion. With its principal
component at magnitude 2.6, there are companions of magnitudes
4.9 and 10.3, and there are lesser stars in this system, as well.
The giant red star Antares, rival of Mars, is also a double star,
with a faint bluish star circling it close by which was discovered
in 1819 during an occultation by the Moon.
star clusters so magnificantly captured in Conrad Jung's accompanying
photo are naked-eye objects, although viewing with binoculars
or a small telescope will give a really spectacular sight. M6,
at the top of the photo, is called the Butterfly Cluster. M7,
3.5 degrees to the southeast (toward the bottom in the photo),
is larger, with a diameter more than that of the full Moon. It
contains about 80 member stars brighter than tenth magnitude;
they are about 800 light years distant, while the stars of M6
are about twice that far away.
Three other Messier objects
are within the realm of Scorpius. They are M4, M62 and M80, all
globular clusters. Other clusters and diffuse and planetary nebulas
make Scorpius an important and satisfying destination for observers
and particularly for astrophotographers.