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Moon and Jupiter

September 15, 2011

The planet Jupiter follows the Moon across the sky tonight. It rises below the Moon in mid-evening, and looks like a brilliant star.

This is an appropriate time to watch the planet, because Thursday is Jupiter’s day. Like the planet, the day takes its name from the king of the gods of the ancient world.

Jupiter himself was the most powerful god of Rome. He was the god of the sky, so he brought life-giving rains and the cycle of day and night. And when he was angry, he hurled lightning bolts, which brought with them the angry sounds of thunder.

The practice of naming the days of the week for the planet-gods originated in ancient Babylon. The roster of planets at the time included the five true planets that were visible to the unaided eye, plus the Moon and Sun: seven planets, seven day names.

Rome adopted both the seven-day week and the scheme for naming the days, but substituted the names of its own gods. In languages like Spanish and French, those names are still used today.

By the time the seven-day week reached Britain, though, the country was ruled by the invading Anglo-Saxons, who plugged the names of their gods into the days of the week. So Jupiter’s Day became Thor’s Day, after the mightiest of the Saxon gods. Over the centuries, the pronunciation slipped a bit — giving us Thursday — a day named for the planet that honors the king of the gods of the ancient world.

More about Jupiter and the Moon tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2011


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