Phrixus and Helle were the children of Athamas the King of Thebes. When their wicked
step-mother threatened to have them killed, they escaped on a magical flying ram with a golden
fleece. Helle was understandably alarmed by this experience, and fell from the ram into
the sea, but her brother Phrixus survived and landed safely in Colchis. There, he sacrificed
the ram to Zeus, who promptly placed it among the stars, while the King of Colchis
kept its golden fleece.
Aries is one of the least conspicuous of the zodiacal constellations, and has only two
stars above third magnitude. These are Hamal and Sheratan, the Alpha and Beta stars of the
constellation. Unusually, these two stars not only appear to be close together in the sky,
but actually are: they lie just six light years from one another.
The First Point of Aries
The First Point of Aries is a place of vital importance in the sky - here, the Ecliptic and
the Celestial Equator cross, and when the Sun reaches this point, as it does once a year, the
Vernal Equinox occurs. The First Point of Aries also marks the Celestial Meridian, which
is the zero-point for calculations of Right Ascension.
Because of the effects of precession on the Earth, though, the First Point of Aries moves
through the sky, and in fact it left the constellation from which it takes its name in
about the year 70 BC, when it entered the neighbouring constellation of Pisces. Nonetheless,
it retains the name 'First Point of Aries'. Roughly 23,000 years from now, the Sun will have
completed its circuit of the zodiac, and the First Point will once again lie among the stars from
which it takes its name.
Scorpius includes a broad region of the Galaxy, in
the general direction of the Core. This explains the density of
the Milky Way in the constellation, and the large
number of star clusters found here.