Published December 15, 2022 | Version v1
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Sky Over the Town of Nindirí, in Masaya, Nicaragua


Honourable mention in the 2022 IAU OAE Astrophotography Contest, category Still images of celestial patterns.


This image was taken in Tisma, Nicaragua, in April 2022 during a night illuminated by the Moon. Still, some constellations are visible, but the Milky Way, which runs through the image with some of its brightest regions, hides in the celestial background, partially obscured by terrestrial clouds.

The Scorpion, one of the constellations of the Zodiac, is seen on the left side. We can first spot the brightest star, Antares, in the middle of a group of three in an asterism that looks like the stem of a flower growing from the clouds upwards. Its petals are the head of the scorpion. In the brightness of moonlight, the orange colour of Antares is not clearly visible. The three stars that comprise the head of the scorpion are called Acrab, Dschubba and Fang. They were recently named by the IAU in order to show the global diversity of constellations. Acrab is the Arabic term for the scorpion and Fang (The Room) is the name of the Chinese constellation made out of these stars. The Scorpion’s tail extends to the bottom of the image with the sting just above the horizon in the gap between clouds.

The constellation Centaurus is visible in the middle of this image. We can first recognise Crux and the two pointer stars, Alpha and Beta Centauri right above the clouds. The pointers are the front hooves of the centaur, while the stars of Crux were originally (before Christanity, in antiquity) considered one of the rear legs of the centaur. The stars in the front hooves are Rigil Kentaurus (mixed Arabic and Latin meaning The Foot of the Centaur), to the left, and Hadar, to the right. With Crux at the rear they comprise the legs of the mythological creature’s horse body. The humanoid torso is represented by two bright stars on the shoulders and three fainter stars for the head. The star tale says that this figure represents Chiron, the only decent one among the centaurs who was well educated and the teacher of all great heroes.

The Christian navigators who sailed to the New World around 1500 used these asterisms, although they had never seen them before in Europe. These included explorer Amerigo Vespucci whose name was given to the continent America. His shipmate Andrea Corsali, who came from Florence, where the poet Dante Alighieri was famous for his Divine Comedy written two centuries earlier, was reminded of Dante's poem by the four bright stars of Crux. It was probably in this context that they happened to invent the constellation Crux. Originally, the navigators only used the asterism for practical purposes but some time later, in the period of Christian religious wars between several new churches, celestial cartographers used the cross as a symbol of unity and against war.

Credit: René Antonio Urroz Álvarez/IAU OAE (CC BY 4.0)


Honourable mention in the 2022 IAU OAE Astrophotography Contest, category Still images of celestial patterns: Sky Over the Town of Nindirí, in Masaya, Nicaragua, by Rene Antonio Urroz Alvarez.jpg