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The Little Marine Mammal of the Stars!

I just love the little constellation Delphinus the Dolphin and I hope you fall in love with it too! It's in the upper tier of the smallest of constellations seen from Earth. When most people think of constellations they think of dot-to-dot pictures made by stars. The vast majority of constellations however don't measure up to this. The little celestial dolphin is a pleasant exception.

Delphinus is a simple little constellation and easy to find, Even in areas of moderate light pollution. It's certainly not the brightest but it's very distinct and in a tight little group. In the early evening, as soon as it's dark, look for Delphinus in the southeast sky. All there is to Delphinus are four stars that make a little sideways diamond that outlines the dolphin's body, and another star to the lower right of the body that marks its tail. That's all there is to it.

If you're still having problems locating it a great tool for zeroing in on Delphinus is the use of the Summer Triangle, made up of three bright stars that are the brightest in their respective constellations. They're the three brightest stars you can see in the high southeast sky. The star at the bottom of the summer triangle is Altair, the brightest shiner in the constellation Aquila the Eagle. Just to the left or east of Altair and there will be Delphinus, swimming in the heavenly sea.

As it is with most constellations, different cultures have stories about what they see. Even the same culture can have multiple stories. That makes sense since these stories are spread by word of mouth. Most stories I'm familiar with have Delphinus as a dolphin or porpoise. One of the earliest stories of Delphinus as a dolphin comes from a Southeast Asia Hindu tale. It's thought by some that the Greeks "borrowed" that interpretation from the Hindus.

I think one of the best Greek stories involves Arion, who was a rock star of his time. He was out on a concert tour winning the hearts of all who heard him and making a lot of money. He didn't have the best security though. After every concert, he would just throw all the money he earned from the gig into a big burlap sack, throw it over his shoulder, and headed out to the next town. His lackadaisical system eventually got him in a lot of trouble.

He had just finished a concert in Sicily and hired a boat and crew to take him back to Corinth on the Greek mainland. His crew turned out he hired a bunch of pirates who were out for plunder. They would wait until the boat was well out to sea before they revealed their true identity. Their evil plan was to have Arion walk the plank to meet his death. Then the pirate plan was to sail on to Corinth and claim that Arion accidentally fell overboard. Then they could legally claim the musician's loot. I don't think that law is still on the books!

Everything proceeded as planned, at least to start out with. Arion was on the plank pleading for his life. There was no way were those pirates going to let Arion live. the rock star figured this was the end. Before his appointment with death, he persuaded the crooked captain to let him play his harp and sing one more time. Arion gave it all he got and gave one of his greatest performances. He was so good that it's said that birds gathered from miles around to get a listen. Fish jumped out of the water with glee and dolphins surrounded the boat, leaping for joy!

Arion sang and performed an album-cut version that bought him a little more time. Eventually, though his voice gave out and figured it was all over. This was it. He jumped into the ocean but death was not waiting for him because one of the dolphins hoisted Arion up on his back and sped him safely to Corinth on the mainland. The pirates had no idea where Arion and the dolphin swam off to, so they had quite a surprise when they pulled into the port of Corinth and were met by Arion and the local cops. A music-loving hero dolphin saved the day! The world would not be denied Arion's fantastic talent!

The gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, who were also fans of Arion were so impressed by this dolphin that upon the swimming mammal's passing they placed his body in the stars as the constellation we see in the heavenly sea!