A Teapot in the Sky

It’s a bird — it’s a plane — it’s a teapot in the sky! No, it’s not a teapot-shaped satellite or some space-age steepware aboard the space station. It’s the Teapot Asterim (a sort of sub-constellation), a group of bright stars that are part of the constellation of Sagittarius, which is usually visible over theU.S. in mid July.

Long ago, in fact long before that, and even longer before that…we’re talking a loooooooooooooong time here, people looked up at the stars and said things like, “Gee, that group of stars looks like two fish. The group over that way looks like a guy with a jug of water. And the group over yonder…” Eventually, these were named Pisces, Aquarius, and so on. People being who they are, soon each of these star pictures in the dark night sky were assigned special meanings, and a Zodiac of twelve “signs” was developed. This got tied in with the mythologies of ancient civilizations inEgypt,Greeceand theRoman Empire.

A photo taken by Marco Lorenzi in 2003 of the Teapot Constellation
A photo taken by Marco Lorenzi in 2003 of the Teapot Constellation

One of those star groups, identified as early as 150 A.D. by Ptolemy, looked like the mythical creature called a centaur, which was supposed to have the body of a horse with the torso, arms, and head of a man rising up in place of the neck and head of a horse. Rather creepy, actually! It was named Sagittarius (Latin for “an archer”) because it seemed to be carrying a bow and arrow poised to zing to its mark; it became the ninth sign of that Zodiac system.

As is true with the full complement of stars in the sky, some appear brighter to us than others do. Somewhere as tea became a popular beverage, someone decided that some of the brighter stars in the Sagittarius constellation formed the shape of a teapot, as shown here:

An artist’s illustration of how the teapot sits in the constellation
An artist’s illustration of how the teapot sits in the constellation

There is even a cluster of clouds that look like steam coming out of the teapot spout, at least to those with some imagination. I must confess that to me they just look like stars — big balls of chemicals and gas burning in the frigid cold of space, a true contradiction.

Maybe if I drink a potful or two of tea… sip, sip, sip, gulp, gulp, gulp, stare, stare, stare! Hm… no teapot yet. Another potful… still nothing. Sigh! Time to try a little trick I discovered as a kid, gazing up into that inky darkness. I let my vision go unfocused just a bit. That way the brighter stars stand out. Okay, here goes… hmmmmmm… aha! There’s the teapot! Now, all I need is a celestial teacup. Time to blur my view again. Hmmmmmmmm… dang, no teacup.

Oh, well. Time to go back in the house and steep up another potful.

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One thought on “A Teapot in the Sky

  1. Pingback: Tea Moments — First Stars | Tea Blog

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