Pleiades / Subaru
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The Pleiades is an interesting and beautiful grouping of stars in the constellation Taurus, the bull, and is easily observed in the evening sky from fall through spring. The asterism, which is about two to three times the diameter of the full moon, is one of the most prominent celestial objects visible in the night sky to the naked eye or with binoculars.
At a distance of about 440 light years (135 parsecs) from us, it is one of the nearest star clusters to Earth. To astronomers, the Pleiades is known as M45 as it was the forty-fifth image cataloged during the 19th century, by astronomer Charles Messier; hence, it’s also known as Messier 45. It’s an open cluster of stars, loosely bound by gravity, and all moving through space together. Although there are well more than 1,000 stars in the grouping, only as many as 14 are discernible with the naked eye under the best of conditions, though the mythology of most cultures refers only to the brightest six or seven. The cluster, which is dominated by young hot blue stars, is estimated to be about 115 million years old.
Being situated relatively close to the celestial equator, as well as along the ecliptic, the Pleiades can be viewed from every continent except Antarctica and is the most observed and documented asterism by groups of people world-wide, even more so than the constellation Orion.
The asterism has been known and documented in the mythologies of cultures all around the world since antiquity. Besides the European based Greeks, Celts, and Romans, the Aboriginal peoples of Australia, the Maori in New Zealand, the Persians and Arabs of the Near East, the Chinese, Japanese and Indians in Asia, the Swahili in South Africa, the Maya and the Aztec in Central America, and the Hopi, Navajo, Sioux, Cherokee and Inuit in North America, just to name a few, all have stories about the asterism known in the west as Pleiades. Above prehistoric paintings of a bull in a cave in Lascaux, France, are six dots that are oriented with respect to the bull's eye in perfect alignment where the eye represents the bright star Aldebaran, and the six dots are the Pleiades. These cave paintings were made about 15-16,000 years ago.
So, when you go outside in the evening, look to the right of Orion, past the bright star Aldebaran, and you will find a grouping of several relatively bright stars. Visually, M45 is one of the most beautiful open clusters in the night sky. Through a telescope or binoculars, under ideal observing conditions, a hint of bluish nebulosity may be observed around the cluster. This is light reflected from the dust and gas that Pleiades is currently moving through. Through binoculars the Pleiades is still a spectacular cluster of 50 plus magnificent stars that fill the center of the field of view. And, as you observe, remember that it has also been a historical agricultural and mythological marker for ancient societies over the millennia that has helped people to survive.
The Pleiades in Ancient Greek Cosmology
The Pleiades were the seven daughters of the pre-Olympian Titan Atlas, and Pleione, a nymph. According to myth, the Pleiades, named Maia, Electra, Alcyone, Taygete, Celaeno, Merope, and Asterope, were dedicated to Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon and the hunt.
Orion the Hunter had been placed in the sky, along with the scorpion that killed him, by Zeus. Prior to his death, Orion saw the seven sisters and set off to capture them. Zeus, in pity for their plight, turned them into stars and placed them in heaven.
Artemis was furious with Zeus and the mortal Orion. She convinced Zeus to send a monstrous scorpion to attack Orion, the hunter died from the stings. After his death, Zeus placed Orion the sky in eternal pursuit of the sisters, and perpetual flight from the scorpion, or scorpio constellation. The cluster was also used by the ancient Mediterraneans to signal the beginning and end of the sailing season.
The cluster appears in Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, referenced as a signal for the beginning of planting season in May. Hesiod, another Greek epic poet, referenced the Pleiades in his poem, Theogony as well as Works and Days.
The Pleiades in Norse, Celtic, and Bronze Age Mythology
The Nebra Disk, found in 1999 by treasure hunters in the Saxony-Anhalt region of Germany, portrays the star cluster with the moon and sun — dated to 1600 BCE, researchers believe it may have been a portable astronomical instrument. The artifact is the earliest known portrayal of the Pleiades cluster in the West.
In Bronze Age Europe, the Autumn solstice and Winter equinox were associated with grief and mourning. At the solstice, the Pleiades would rise in the east as the sunset in the west, thus the association with mourning and the passing of summer as well as the harvest season.
To Scandinavian, or Viking cultures, the Pleiades were thought of as Freyja’s chicks, Frejya being the Norse goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. For protection, some would paint seven spots, representing the seven stars, on hen houses. Ladybugs were associated with the cluster because of the seven spots on their wings.
The Pleiades in Asian Cosmologies
The first astronomical mention of the star cluster was in the Chinese Annals of roughly 2350 BC and was referred to as the Blossom Stars or Flower Stars. The sprawling Xiaoling Mausoleum is the tomb complex of the Hongwu Emperor, founder of the Ming Dynasty. Located near Nanjing in Eastern China, when viewed from the air, the tomb complex echoes the arrangement of the visible Pleiadian stars. According to author Wayne Herschel, this geoformation is a star map. Called the “treasure mound,” the tomb is said to hold “great cosmic secrets beyond gold treasure.”
In Japan, Subaru, or the Pleiades, is more than the name of an auto manufacturer — it also relates to the cultural value of “harmonious grouping,” or in modern parlance, “teamwork,” a characteristic of samurai and shogun societies.
According to myth, Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess quarreled with her brother Susanowo, the embodiment of the power of nature. Intimidated, she hid in a cave. The world went dark, and to entice her back out, her jewels were hung from a sacred tree nearby — eventually, she left the cave and returned to the sky so the earth would once again be nourished by her light. Amaterasu’s jewels were associated with the Subaru, or Pleiades cluster. The story is an allegory — just as the sun becomes low in the sky in winter, the Subaru ‘jewels’ can be seen as a reminder that the sun will return in spring.
Hindu mythology holds that the seven sisters, called the Krittika, were married to the Rishis, the seven sages that made up the stars of the Great Dipper. All lived together happily in the northern sky.
One day Agni, the god of fire, saw the Krrtika and fell in love. He knew they belonged to the Rishis, and despondent, he wandered in a forest trying to forget them. But the little goddess Svahi, embodied by the star Zeta Reticuli, saw Agni and was smitten. She disguised herself as the Krrtika and offered herself to him — he believed he had won the Rishis’ wives.
Svaha became pregnant, and when her child was born, a rumor spread that six of the Rishis’ wives were somehow the baby’s mother(s). When the seven Rishis heard this, they divorced their wives, but one, Arundhati (the star Alcor) refused to leave her husband. The other six wives became the stars of the Pleiades.
In Vedic astrology, the degrees of 26 Aries to 10 Taurus are ruled by the Krittika, or Pleiades. One born under the influences of the sisters is said to be fiery, warlike, and adventurous. Under an aggressive exterior, the natives have a deeply nurturing quality and have great capacities to support others.
Native American Pleiades Mythology
A Cherokee myth tells the story of seven boys who played a game with rolling stone and sticks, called gatayu’sti, all day. They neglected their chores such as weeding the gardens. Their mothers nagged them without success — one day they gave the boys boiled gatayu’sti stones for dinner instead of corn.
Angry, the boys began to dance and pray for help from the spirits. Eventually, their mothers searched and found them dancing, but with every circle, the boys danced they lifted higher off the ground. The mothers ran to retrieve their sons, but too late — they boys were now out of reach. Eventually, the boys rose into the heavens and became the Pleiades cluster, which the Cherokee still call Ani’tsutsa (the boys).
According to an article in Indian Country Today, “The Iroquois, Delaware, Carrier, Inuit, Haida, Salish, Paiute, Wiyot, Shasta, Luiseño, Chumash, Zuni, Cheyenne, and Blackfoot have all labeled the shining collection [Pleiades cluster].” The article also notes the slightly elusive quality of the cluster — rather than looking directly at the grouping, the constellation is much clearer when viewed with peripheral vision.
Citing a myth from the California Sierra and Paiute tribes, the author shares the story of the Grizzly Sisters and the Deer Sisters (Pleiades). “One day Grizzly mother ate Deer mother. Deer sisters retaliated by trapping Grizzly sisters in a cave.”
The midwestern Dakota believed that the cluster is the Tiyami, abode of the ancestors, and when we die, we go to live in the Pleiades. One famous story is how seven maidens were being hunted by a bear. The girls prayed to the gods, who responded by raising the ground under their feet high into the air. The angry bear clawed at the earth, leaving claw marks, but finally gave up and left. The maidens were turned into stars and placed in the sky for eternal safekeeping, and the spot where they stood is now Wyoming’s “Devil’s Tower,” complete with huge vertical striations thought to be bear claw marks.
This is a small sample of Pleiadian myth and symbolism. This relatively tiny star cluster has taken on proportionally huge significance in almost every ancient tradition and cosmology. Perhaps we instinctively assign great significance to the Pleiades because we have a place for them in our collective consciousness — for now, we don’t know why, but perhaps we’ll find out as consciousness evolves.
Works and Days by Hesiod
The Works and Days is a didactic poem written by the ancient Greek poet Hesiod around 700 BC. It is in dactylic hexameter and contains 828 lines. At its center, the Works and Days is a farmer's almanac in which Hesiod instructs his brother Perses in the agricultural arts.
The poem revolves around two general truths: that labour is the universal lot of Man, but that he who is willing to work will always get by. Hesiod prescribes a life of honest labour (which he regards as the source of all good) and attacks idleness, suggesting that both the gods and men hate the idle. Within the poem’s advice and wisdom, Hesiod also pursues his own agenda to some extent, attacking unjust judges (such as those who decided in favour of Perses, Hesiod‘s less-than-responsible brother, who was granted an inheritance by the ruling of these unjust judges) and the practice of usury.
The poem is also the first extant account of the successive ages of mankind, known as the “Five Ages of Man”. In Hesiod‘s account, these are: the Golden Age (in which men lived among and freely mingled with the gods, and peace, harmony and abundance prevailed); the Silver Age (in which men lived for one hundred years as infants, followed by just a short strife-filled time as grown adults, an impious race of men which Zeus destroyed because they refused to worship the gods); the Bronze Age (in which men were hard and violent and lived only for war, but were undone by their own violent ways, relegated to the darkness of the Underworld); the Heroic Age (in which men lived as noble demigods and heroes, like those who fought at Thebes and Troy, and who went to Elysium on their deaths); and the Iron Age (Hesiod‘s own time, in which the gods have forsaken humanity, and in which man lives an existence of toil, misery, shamelessness and dishonour).
(ll. 609-617) But when Orion and Sirius are come into mid-heaven, and rosy-fingered Dawn sees Arcturus, then cut off all the grape-clusters, Perses, and bring them home. Show them to the sun ten days and ten nights: then cover them over for five, and on the sixth day draw off into vessels the gifts of joyful Dionysus. But when the Pleiades and Hyades and strong Orion begin to set, then remember to plough in season: and so the completed year will fitly pass beneath the earth.
(ll. 618-640) But if desire for uncomfortable sea-faring seize you; when the Pleiades plunge into the misty sea to escape Orion's rude strength, then truly gales of all kinds rage. Then keep ships no longer on the sparkling sea, but bethink you to till the land as I bid you.
The Aircraft Research Laboratory was started in 1915 which was headed up by Chikuhei Nakajima. Then, in 1932, it was reorganized to become the Nakajima Aircraft Company. After World War II ended, they reorganized once again to become Fuji Sangyo Company. Using just spare parts from the war aircrafts, the company created the Fuji Rabbit motor scooter in 1946. Then, in 1950, the government divided Fuji Sangyo into 12 small corporations.
Five of these later merged with a new corporation to form what is known as Fuji Heavy Industries.The companies that were a part of the merger included: Fuji Kogyo (scooter manufacturer), Fuji Jidosha (coachbuilders), Omiya Fuji Kogyo (engine manufacturer), Utsunomiya Sharyo (chassis manufacturer) and Tokyo Dangyo Trading Company
The CEO of FHI, Kenji Kita, desired to get involved with car manufacturing. That’s when he began making plans with the name P-1. He asked others in the company to help him formulate a name for the P1, but none of the respondents provided anything appealing. After all the research, he decided to go with the Japanese name, Subaru, the Japanese name for the Pleiades star formation. It is thought that the biggest star in the Subaru logo represents Fuji Heavy Industries, while the five smaller stars represent the five companies that merged under the Fuji Heavy Industries.
The first car produced was the Subaru 1500. In the end, just twenty of these cars were manufactured because multiple issues with supply occurred. Later, they built several other vehicles including the 1500, air-cooled 360, the Sambar, plus the 1000. Subaru is internationally known for their use of the Boxer engine layout similar to those in cars like the Volkswagen Beetle and Porsche 911, in most of their vehicles above 1500 cc as well as their use of the all wheel drive drive-train layout, the 4x4 first introduced in 1972, and the AWD became standard equipment for mid-size and smaller cars in most international markets as of 1996, and is now standard in all US market Subaru vehicles. They also offer many turbocharged versions of their passenger cars, such as the Impreza WRX.
Motorsports have been a significant part of the Subaru brand. From 1980 through 1989, the Subaru Rally Team Japan was led by Noriyuki Koseki. He was also the founder of Subaru Tecnica International (STI). They ran the Leone coupé, sedan RX, DL, SRX plus the RX Turbo during the World Rally Championship.
Drivers have been successful with modified versions of the WRX and WRX STi in rally races. In 1995, 2001, and 2003, drivers won titles in the WRC as part of Subaru’s World Rally Team. In addition, from 1995 through 1997, Subaru took home three manufacturers’ titles. During this time, the Subaru Legacy set several endurance records. In fact, the Justy still holds the world record as the fastest sub 1.0-liter vehicle with no turbo engine. In 1989, it set the speed at 123.224 mph taken from an average.
At the end of 2008, Subaru announced that it wasn’t competing in any more World Rally Championships. FHI said the decision came from an economic downturn. Rumors speculated that it was also due to the new WRC technical regulations and a breakdown in the Prodrive relationship, although Subaru denied those allegations.
For a short time, Subaru involved themselves in Formula One circuit racing. In 1990, they purchased the Italian Coloni racing team. Their B3’s featured a 12-cylinder engine and wore the Subaru badge. It shared the same boxer layout but had an existing design built by Motori Moderni, an Italian firm. The cars turned out to be underpowered and overweight. That led to the breakup of the partnership before the season ended.
The import scene and rally racing began to rise in the United States, so in 2001, Subaru released the Impreza WRX. Sports car enthusiasts fell in love with it and enjoyed watching the Rally Team win driver’s titles six times for Rally America.