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This webpage reproduces a section of
Star Names
Their Lore and Meaning

Richard Hinckley Allen

as reprinted
in the Dover edition, 1963

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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. . . the flaming shoulders of the Foal of Heav'n.

Omar Khayyám's Rubáiyát.

Equuleus, the Foal,

that modern Latin critics would turn into Eculeus, lies half-way between the head of Pegasus and the Dolphin, marked by the trapezium of 4th‑ to 5th‑magnitude stars, — α, β, γ, and δ, — although Argelander catalogues nine others, and Heis twelve down to 6.7 magnitude. Thus "the flaming  p213 shoulders" of our motto are lacking here, and the reference may be to Pegasus, to which the characterization certainly is more appropriate.

The Germans call it Füllen, the Filly, and Kleine Pferd, which with us is the Little Horse, the French Petit Cheval, and the Italian Cavallino.

Hood wrote of it about 1590:

This constellation was named of almost no writer, saving Ptolomee and Alfonsus who followith Ptolomee, and therefore no certain tale or historie is delivered thereof, by what means it came into heaven;

but we know that Geminos mentioned it as having been formed by Hipparchos, its stars till then lying in the early Dolphin. Still Hipparchos did not allude to it in his Commentary, nor did Hyginus, Manilius, or Vitruvius, a century after him.

Ptolemy catalogued it as Ἵππου Προτομή, this last word equivalent to our Bust for the upper part of an animal figure; but with later astronomers it was Equus primus and prior, as preceding Pegasus in rising; while from its inferior size come our own title and Equulus, Equiculus, and Equus Minor. Gore's translation of I'Astronomie Populaire, following Proctor, has Equus, the larger Horse being Pegasus.

Ptolemy's idea of the incompleteness of the figure was repeated in the Equi Sectio, Equi Praesectio, Sectio equina, Sectio Equi minoris, Semi-perfectus, and Praesegmen of various authors and Latin versions of the Syntaxis and of the Alfonsine Tables; the Almagest of 1551 gave Praecisio Equi.

Chrysococca's Tables had Κεφαλή Ἵππου, the Equi Caput of some Latin writers, and the Horse's Head of our day.

The Arabians followed Ptolemy in calling it Al Kiṭʽah al Faras, Part of a Horse, Chilmead's Kataat Alfaras; Al Faras al Thānī, the Second Horse, alluding either to its inferior size, or to the time of its adoption as a constellation; and Al Faras al Awwal, the First Horse, in reference to its rising before Pegasus. From the first of these comes the modern Kitalpha, sometimes applied to the constellation, and generally to the brightest star. Riccioli's Elmac Alcheras certainly is a barbarism, — not unusual, however, with him; but La Lande's rarely used Hinnulus, a Young Mule, has more to commend it.

With the Hindus it was another of their Açvini, the Horsemen, although their figuring resembled ours.

Some of the mythologists said that the constellation represented Celeris, the brother of Pegasus, given by Mercury to Castor; or Cyllarus, given to Pollux by Juno; or the creature struck by Neptune's trident from the earth when contesting with Minerva for superiority; but it also was connected  p214 with the story of Philyra and Saturn. Caesius, in modern times, associated it with the King's Horse that Haman hoped for, as is told in the Book of Esther; and Julius Schiller, with the Rosa mystica.

The constellation comes to the meridian on the 24th of September.

α, 3.8,

is Kitalpha, from the Arabian name for the whole figure, strangely turned by Burritt into Kitel Phard. Stieler has Kitalphar.

With β it was the Chinese Sze Wei.

δ, Triple and binary, 5, 5, and 10, topaz yellow and pale sapphire.

The two largest stars form a system noted as the quickest in orbital revolution of all known binaries except κ Pegasi, and perhaps the 7th‑magnitude Ll. 9091 in Orion, on the border of Taurus. Its period is about 11½ years, and the components are so close that they can be separated only by the largest telescopes; their maximum distance apart every seven years is but 0″.44, this occurring in 1897, their position angle being 208°.

ε is another triple, much resembling δ in character; the component stars, 5.7, 6.2, and 7.1 in magnitude, are 1″.3, and 10″.4 apart, the colors of the first two yellowish, the last ashy white.

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Page updated: 23 Oct 07