While it is certainly not the most spectacular or brightest constellation in the skies, Aries carries significant meaning for several ancient cultures. While a small and dim constellation, Aries nonetheless is an interesting constellation to observe.
The most famous story about Aries lies in Greek mythology. Chrysomallus the golden fleeced Ram was capable of flight and speech. He was also a faithful servant of Nephele who sent him to rescue her son Phrixus and daughter Helle. Queen Ino the children’s stepmother was jealous of them and wanted the kingdom for her sons alone. So she hatched a devious plot to falsely blame the famine that the kingdom was going through on the two children. She convinced the king that the sacrifice of Phrixus and Helle would restore the kingdom’s prosperity. The golden ram comes to the two children before their execution and rescues them. However Helle fails to hold on and drown while they are crossing the ocean. But Phrixus manages to survive and sacrifices the Ram to the gods on Chrysomallus’s instructions. Zeus then placed the image of Chrysomallus in the heavens as Aries the constellation in celebration of the golden ram’s bravery. They say the reason Aries is such a dim constellation is because his golden fleece was left behind during his sacrifice.
Ancient astrologers of Greece used to create pictures of Aries as a Ram lying down with its head tilted to its right. An alternative representation is the Ram in a running or jumping motion rather than sitting down. The three main stars of Aries which are Alpha, Beta and Gamma depict the ram’s head and horns. In other different representations, two additional stars would represent the front and back hooves. Hamal is the brightest star in this dim constellation. It is reddish in color. Hamal which is short for Ras-Al-Hamal in Arabic translates as the head of the ram or just the ram.
The Gamma star is a double-star or a binary star system which is orbited by a third star. These stars are at a distance of about 204 light-years away from earth. This was one of the first double-star systems ever discovered in 1664 by the English scientist Robert Hooke.
At the vernal equinox the first of two points that the Sun would pass through was located in the Aries constellation. The vernal equinox has now moved into the Pisces constellation. Despite this, it’s still sometimes called the First Point of Aries. It is said that the vernal equinox will come back into Aries but only in the distant future.
The closest star to earth in this constellation is called the Teegarden’s Star. Named after its discoverer, Dr. Bonnard J Teegarden, Teegarden’s star is approximately 12 light years away from Earth. This star is a dim, red dwarf star was discovered by Dr.Teegarden and his team in February of 2003.