Archive for the ‘Pegasus’ Tag

Alien Sunsets   33 comments

Watching the sunset on another world 150 light years from Earth….

What would it look like?


HD 209458 b (Osiris) is a large exoplanet or extrasolar planet that orbits the Sun-like star HD 209458 in the constellation Pegasus, some 150 light-years from Earth’s solar system. First discovered on November 5, 1999 during “Spectroscopic studies.”

Osiris_HD 209458bOsiris

Osiris is a 7th magnitude world, visible from Earth with good binoculars or a decent telescope. Osiris (HD209458b), 150 Ly from Earth orbits very closely to its sun. Measured by the Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope on March 23. 2005 it had an atmospheric temperature of around 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,800 degrees Fahrenheit) it’s year lasts just 3.5 Earth days long. Very bad for the aging process!

Osiris Firsts:

First PrizeHD 209458 b was the first transiting extrasolar planet discovered:

  • Known to have an atmosphere
  • Observed to have an evaporating hydrogen atmosphere
  • Found to have an atmosphere containing oxygen and carbon
  • One of the first two extrasolar planets to be directly spectroscopically observed
  • The first extrasolar planet found to have water vapour in its atmosphere. (April 2007)

(Sunset On HD 189733 – Osiris)

Sunset on HD209458b (reconstructed from the HST/STIS transmission spectrum): Image: Frederic Pont of the University of Exeter: based on data form a camera on-board the Hubble Space Telescope)

Osiris doesn’t actually have as surface on which to sit peacefully watching an alien sunset but for the purposes of this post we will pretend it does. What it does have however is an atmosphere, which when passed through by the light from its star (sun) – it does this every so often when Osiris passes between Earth and its own sun (transits)– allows the scientific types here on sunny Earth to figure out in a scientific way mostly beyond the understanding of the average Earthling, exactly which colours its sun would set in, should Osiris have a surface – as already stated it doesn’t but… and we were spending a happily romantic evening sitting on the (make-believe) surface.

I said it HASN’T got one!!! So don’t try it!! It won’t be any good for you!!

In the image to the right Osiris’s sunset can be seen as it would appear if having travelled at light speed to reach it, you were floating 6,200 miles/10,000 km above the planetary surface – preferably not in a deckchair unless you’re wearing a heavy duty space suit 😉 a space station would do nicely.

Floating 6,200 miles above the planetary surface...The Osirisian sun- HD 209458– it’s star, is, much like Earth’s Sun, white – yes I know…The Sun is yellow…but if there was no atmosphere it would look white – not that we would see it because without an atmosphere life on Earth would have survived for approx. 20 seconds before exploding into instant extinction.

An alien sunset on Osiris really does look alien – unlike Earth’s. Osiris’s atmosphere consists of sodium which when starlight (sunlight) zips through it, absorbs the red light. (think prisms and colours of rainbows when white light is split) This results in the remaining starlight appearing blue. It makes perfectly good sense if you were paying attention in your school science lessons. If you weren’t then it’s your own fault and you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself!!

As back home on Earth the blue light from the star is scattered (“Rayleigh scattering,” a mechanism also responsible for the Earth’s sky being blue) creating a progressive change through the blue end of the spectrum through to a pretty green and later a deep, dark shade of green as its star dips further beneath the horizon.

The more sensible approach to watching the Osirian sunset...In such colours you should be able to get a good view of Osiris’s sun without going instantly blind in which case you will notice it looks oddly flat around the southern half. The same effect occurs when we watch the sun setting from Earth. This is the consequence of diffraction (light bending) and nothing to worry about..

Osiris, Eygptian god of the Underworld_Credit Jeff DahlWhilst you are relaxing in the Osirisian sunset you can reflect on the little snippet of mythology attached to it’s title… Osiris was an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He was classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh’s beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and holding a symbolic crook and flail. His green skin is symbolic of new birth. This image is based on New Kingdom tomb paintings.



    Sunset on HD 189733 bSunset on HD 189733 b looks like an especially awesome Earth sunset when the sky is very clear and there is only a small amount of dust in the atmosphere. HD 189733 b is much closer to its star (sun) than Earth is to our Sun so its star looks considerably bigger 25 times larger than Earth’s sun when viewed at sunset compared.

Soaking up the atmosphere on HD 189733b

HD 189733 b’s sun is orange and nowhere near as hot as Earth’s Sun and consequently is coloured orange as oppose to the white of our Sun. Instead of undergoing a gradual change of colour as it sets, this alien sun transforms straight from its original orange colour to deepest red in the thick layers of the lower atmosphere.

Jupiter and HD 189733 b size comparison

HD 189733b discovered in 2005 is an extrasolar planet of similar size to Jupiter. It orbits a star (it’s sun) in a binary system called HD 189733 in the constellation of Vulpecula in two Earth days. The aging process on this world would be terribly fast in our terms and those wrinkles would appear in a frighteningly super-smart short time!! The star system itself one of the closest planet-star systems known making it extremely hot. It is located near the Dumbell Nebula, approximately 62 light years from Earth and is known as a “Hot Jupiter.”

HD 189733 and M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. Credit: Daniel Jaroschik

HD 189733b shares many similar characteristics as HD 209458b (a.k.a. “Osiris) Although HD 189733b’s atmosphere isn’t thought to be evaporating like Osiris’, atmospheric gases extend far beyond it and out into space. This is significant in that starlight can also pass through meaning that scientists have been able to figure out that the atmosphere contains water and methane resulting in the probability that HD 189733b may have a blue hue, reminiscent of Uranus.

The atmosphere also contains iron, silicate and aluminium oxide particles. These would seem to collect in HD 189733b’s upper atmosphere, forming a thin, hazy, reflective cloud in the exosphere. This leads to the natural conclusion that the weather on HD 189733b is hot and cloudy.

Thanks to the Spitzer telescope it was discovered in February 2007 for the first time that the atmosphere of exoplanet HD 209458b (Osiris) is relatively dry, thick and dusty. Osiris even contains grains of sand (silicates).


Although it is not suitable for the existence of alien life it is an exciting step on the road to discovery of such worlds.


Prof. Frédéric Pont

Pegasus the Winged Horse ~ The Tale of Pegasus and Bellerophon   35 comments


Pegasus the Winged Horse of Myth and Legend

Pegasus and Bellerophon

There are many amazing horses to be found in the realms of fantasia and mythology. However it would be hard to find one as mysteriously majestic as the mighty winged horse Pegasus. One of the most famous myths in Greek Mythology he is a creature to be found on numerous occasions both in works of art and in poetry.

Pegasus the winged horse of myth and legend

Stunning battle horses the Pegasi were amazing creatures, prized for their speed and eroticity and a fantastic sight to behold awesome both in flight and when resting with beautiful and mysterious wings stretching skywards and spreading as if to capture the air currents, jumpy and edgy as they readied for flight.


Bellerophon riding Pegasus  pegasus_wingsGreek Mythology – Pegasus and Bellerophon

The Flight to Olympus – Home of the Gods

Pegasus was the son of Perseus (in some versions, the sea god, Poseidon) and Medusa, the Queen of the Gorgons. The beautiful winged horse was born from the spilled blood of Medusa, when a fight between her and Perseus broke out, resulting in Perseus severing Medusa’s head, causing droplets of her blood to land in the sea. Frothing, white sea foam mingled with the blood-red droplets and so Pegasus was born gaining from the sea foam, his stunning white colour.

From the same blood droplets shed by Medusa Pegasus’s brother was born. Named Chrysaor he was described as a winged Boar. Both creatures were born in adult form.


athena2Following his capture and taming at the hands of the goddess Athena, Pegasus was presented to the Muses at Mount Parnassus, where he provided help and assistance to the poets. It is said in legend that whenever Pegasus struck the ground with his hoof, a beautiful spring burst into life there. One such spring, at Perseus’s command, appeared on a mountain of the Muses’. Known as Mount Helicon, the Hippocrene meaning "horse spring", it was intended to regulate the growth of the mountain. Likewise at the strike of Pegasus’s hoof another spring burst into life at Troezen.

The Flight To Mount Olympus – Home Of The Gods

As the conquests of Bellerophon a Greek Corinthian hero and monster slayer grew he became ambitious, and was soon determined to seek out the gods on Mt. Olympus. Hearing tales of the winged horse, he set out to track Pegasus down.

                      Mural of winged horse Pegasus


Bellerophon was instructed by Polyeidos to sleep in the temple of Athena, where the goddess visited him in the night and presented him with a golden bridle. He awoke next morning, bridle in hand to discover, Pegasus who was drinking at the Pierian spring. On seeing the magical bridle, he approached Bellerophon and allowed him to ride. His remarkable speed was a of major assistance to Bellerophon who at various points along the way rode Pegasus into battle against both the Amazons and the Chimera, a creature that breathed fire, had a lion’s mane and head, with a goat’s head rising out of its back. It also had the udders of a goat and a serpent’s tail.



Zeus-god-of-the-gods-greek-mythologyBellerophon and Pegasus rode into and survived many battles and in time Bellerophon came to believe he was a son of a god. Driven by this wrongful assumption he set off to try to ride his flying horse Pegasus Mt. Olympus’s highest peak to meet with the Gods as was his ambition. Zeus was highly displeased when he learned of this audacity and sent a horsefly to bite the Pegasus’s hindquarters. In great pain Pegasus reared up, throwing Bellerophon from his back, causing him to tumble helplessly to the earth below. Some say that wise as Pegasus was he knew what awaited Bellerophon at the hands of the gods and consequently deliberately bucked him off.


Pegasus and Eos the goddess of dawn

Pegasus continued alone on his journey until he arrived in Olympus where he found shelter and safety on the sacred mountain. In return he transported the thunderbolts that Cyclops forged for Zeus and was ridden by Eos, the goddess of dawn. Pegasus was allowed to roam freely on Mount Olympus, wandering happily amongst the meadows and springs and mountains.

In later life Pegasus mated with Euippe (or Ocyrrhoe) and so, it is said, Celeris and Melanippe were conceived, forming the constellation Equeus.

On the last day of his life as reward for his faithful service, Zeus immortalized the winged horse by transforming him into a night sky constellation. As he did so it was said that a single feather fell to the earth near the city of Tarsus.

                                   Eos goddess of dawn2











Modern Day Pegasi

pegasus022In modern terminology, the word "Pegasus" (plural "pegasusses" or "pegasi") has come to refer to any winged horse, though the term "pterippus" (meaning winged horse, plural "pterippi") is also used. Part of the horse zebra and unicorn family the Pegasi is the only creature in it’s genus. How they became so spectacularly winged is a mystery that remains to this day.

Although they are native to the Balklands they are now extinct in that region. The only ones that remain and have survived exist far away on their grazing grounds in the highest peaks of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Living in herds and rearing foals in the same fashion as normal horses the Pegasi are now studied by cryptozoologists.

Pegasus_StallionPegasi stallions are larger than thoroughbreds and more often than not boast coats of shimmering white, though they can be varying shades of browns through to pure star black. They compete for up to 5 mares and fight for dominance during the mating season. The Pegasi’s most striking feature, is their huge wings, which can on larger stallions span as wide as 7.3m+. Bulges of muscles around the area of their withers, shoulders and rib cage are the point at which their flight muscles attach to their breast bone.

Pegasi and foal

Pegasi foals do not develop their flying skills until they are around 6 months old although they learn the skill of walking  practically from birth. The first few weeks of life are also utilised with wings flexing and development of muscles necessary for flight, in the same way as young birds would.

Pegasus – The Constellation


The constellation of Pegasus is home to several galaxies and even a bright globular cluster. It is one of the very first of the 48 constellations to be listed, in the 2nd century by the well-known astronomer Ptolemy. It remains one of the 88 constellations that we see today shining brightly in the Northern sky.

In 1995 a planet at least half the size of Jupiter was discovered orbiting the star 51 Pegasus, which is about 40 light-years from the earth; this marked the first time a planet was detected orbiting a sun like star outside the solar system.


Pegasus the flying horse