Guardians of the Poles

Polophylax

Polophylax, Guardian of the South Pole, wears a blue robe and stands next to an imaginary 1)Every constellation is a function of the imagination, but I am calling imaginary constellations the ones that have no stars to back them up. southern cross2)There is a real Southern Cross, but it isn’t this one..  Full map

Polophylax was one of the shorter-lived constellations, appearing only on a couple of maps made by Petrus Planicus in the 1592 and 1594, depicting the constellations near the south pole. The name comes from Greek words meaning “Guardian of the Pole,” but it appears only here, sort of a back construction of a mythological figure. Planicus never actually saw these stars. His constellations in the Southern Hemisphere were based on astronomical observations made by sailors, and when they brought him more detailed data in the late 1590s, Polophylax dissolved into two birds: the toucan and the crane. The responsibility of watching over the south pole now falls to them. It’s a difficult job! They have the phoenix and the peacock to help them3)The constellations Tucana, Grus, Phoenix, and Pavo are known as the Southern Birds., but I’d much rather have the blue-robed guardian of the south pole back. Since he has no mythology – he was probably created as a counterpart to the guardians of the north pole – I’m going to make up a story for him:

Polophylax, like Petrus Planicus, fled from Brussels to escape the Spanish Inquisition, but instead of ending up in Amsterdam and becoming a cartographer like Planicus did, Polophylax kept fleeing all the way down to the south pole, pursued relentlessly by evil inquisitors and unable to find any rest or safety anywhere. He left his home in Belgium a young man, but by the time he finally arrived in Antarctica, he was very old, with long white hair that blended in with the frozen landscape. And of course, he wore a big, shapeless blue gown. He was immediately surrounded by a herd of friendly penguins, who carried him off to a warm cave, leaving the inquisitors to be eaten by killer whales. Polophylax was so happy to finally find a safe home where he was welcomed and protected, that he decided to do everything he could to protect it. And so, he became the Guardian of the Pole. The end. Unfortunately, he turned into a couple of birds only three years later and the tracks the inquisitors left behind them as they chased him across the globe turned into fire and creeping ash, and within a couple centuries the whole planet became uninhabitable.4)As for Petrus Planicus, he had a much more peaceful life. He became a cartographer and astronomer in Amsterdam, soon becoming the expert on shipping routes to India, and was one of the founders of the Dutch East India Company. Currently, he exists as an asteroid called 10648 Planicus.

guardians of the [north] pole

Kochab and Pherkad, two stars in the bowl of the Little Dipper, circle close around Polaris and are called the Guardians of the Pole. In the northern hemisphere, these two stars never set, and circle around Polaris once in a day – so they can be used to tell the time. Sometime I’ll show you how to make a star-clock out of paper. This will be a very useful & handy thing for you, because you don’t wear a watch anymore but when it’s dark out your sundial doesn’t work.

Ursa Minor could use a couple of guardians right here, getting rudely kicked.

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1. Every constellation is a function of the imagination, but I am calling imaginary constellations the ones that have no stars to back them up.
2. There is a real Southern Cross, but it isn’t this one.
3. The constellations Tucana, Grus, Phoenix, and Pavo are known as the Southern Birds.
4. As for Petrus Planicus, he had a much more peaceful life. He became a cartographer and astronomer in Amsterdam, soon becoming the expert on shipping routes to India, and was one of the founders of the Dutch East India Company. Currently, he exists as an asteroid called 10648 Planicus.

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