The 20th of January heralded the beginning of an astronomical phenomenon that has not been seen in over a decade. Until the 20th of February, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will all be visible simultaneously in the sky just before dawn. This is the first time it has happened since December 2004 until January 2005. Perhaps then it is a fitting time to look at how the heavens have always been a source of inspiration and wonder for humankind.

Today we have all sorts of technology that helps us to understand and measure astronomical events. We know that the alignment of the planets is due to the fact that they all orbit the same body, the sun. In the past however they had no such things and the only explanation for something that was so much bigger and greater than ourselves were gods.

In ancient Egypt the rise and fall of the sun was due to the first king of the gods was the sun god Ra, Ra was a god of creation who was reborn each day and spent the day journeying through the sky until night time when his voyage took him to the underworld leaving earth in darkness until Ra was born again.

In ancient Greece the rise and fall of the sun and moon was also explained by gods. Helios was the sun god who drove the chariot of the sun across the sky during the day while his sister Selene drove the chariot of the moon across the sky at night.

Countless other myths and legends describe phenomenon that we can now explain such as the story of Orion the hunter who was made into the constellation Orion on his death along with his dog who became the star Sirius.

All the stories that have existed in almost every culture for thousands of years show man’s imagination has been fired by the cosmos and perhaps this is why today they are still a source of wonder as despite the fact that we no longer believe that gods are responsible for such amazing phenomenon they still captivate people in a way that is no less magical.

How man has always looked to the stars