Prometheus at the Galactic Center: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Jul 8, 2019

"Thy godlike crime was to be kind, to render with thy precepts less, the sum of human wretchedness"~Byron. Image from Peter Paul Rubens.

The planet Saturn, the Titan god of the old order, opposes the Sun this week, while standing on the opposite side of the Milky Way from the planet Jupiter, god of the Olympians. But while these two gods have their counterparts in the celestial world, there’s another player in the story who doesn’t appear; he’s the ‘hidden god’, who serves as the bridge between them.

The ‘hidden god’ is Prometheus, a Titan like Saturn, but who sides with Jupiter and the Olympians during the Trojan War. The name Prometheus means “forethought” and though he sided with the Olympians in the war, he was still a threat to Jupiter because of his role in the creation of humankind.

It was Prometheus who made the human being nobler in shape than the animals, and who gave him uprightness like the gods. He then went to the Sun, where he lit a torch and brought down fire to humanity, and this is where he got in trouble. Fire made the human being too powerful, and for this, Prometheus was chained to a rock, where he suffered what would have been an eternal and torturous fate, but Hercules happened upon him, and, breaking his bonds, freed him.

In the sky this week, Saturn and Jupiter will appear in the southeast, about an hour after sunset. The thickest region of the Milky Way stretches between them, and if you follow the Milky Way up the sky, you pass just by Hercules who appears upside down as though diving in to free Prometheus. If we imagine Prometheus between Saturn and Jupiter in the sky right now, then he appears in front of the sacred region at the center of the galaxy ~ a fitting place for the god credited with the creation of humanity!

Two hundred years ago, Byron, described him this way:Thou art a symbol and a signTo mortals of their fate and force;Like thee, man is in part divine,A troubled stream from a pure source.~"Prometheus" by George Gordon, Lord Byron