Where Astronomy and Mythology Meet, Part 2

Jupiter and Europa

Jupiter and Europa

Yesterday I posted a scifaiku that reflects upon the relationship between planet Jupiter and Galilean moon, Europa. The following poem explores that relationship much further. It’s a combination of astronomy and mythology, an interplay about which I wrote in an earlier post. For this poem, I drew from “The Rape of Europa.”

Two paintings follow the poem, by Rembrandt and Titian respectively. I think that these paintings show that no matter how far from Earth the human race travels, our myths and legends will always be with us.

by Kurt MacPhearson

Vulcan forged your golden basket,
chased with figures depicting Io’s fate,
yet you still chose to befriend that bull
merely because its low contained more melody
than a lyre ever produced.
Oh, Europa, such creatures are never docile.
It’s contrary to their nature.
Then again, we weren’t there to stop you
when that bull bent its back.
You aren’t the first to be deceived
by Jupiter’s bright and swirling charms.
The honeymoon was awesome; the starry tour quite fun;
though isn’t it strange how quickly
the euphoria of new love can fade?
He promised children. He promised Crete.
But all he gave were icy rings to seal your fate.
Hadn’t made a single revolution before learning
you shared a resonant relationship
with Ganymede, and poor Io, who Jupiter
hides like a mistress opposite you.
And now, it seems there’s no escape,
especially since Jupiter rarely turns asideStarLine 34_4
his bloody eye.
It’s not fair, what he puts you through.
But you hide it so well.
Those tears, beneath an icy veneer,
when he rages with his belts.
Which is why we forgive your cryovolcanic tantrums
when the stress of his pull becomes too much.
Such a stance defines a true hero’s composition,
for even though he won’t relinquish
his jealous grip upon your heavenly body
we know he can never break
your iron core.

Originally appeared in Star*Line 34.4

The Abduction of Europa by Rembrandt

The Abduction of Europa by Rembrandt

The Rape of Europa by Titian

The Rape of Europa by Titian


Scifaiku #4


cracks in the crust
Jupiter grating upon
Europa’s last nerve

Where Astronomy and Mythology Meet

Solar-SystemOne of my favorite things about speculative poetry is the interplay between astronomy and mythology. We see it throughout the cosmos: moons, planets, stars, galaxies… even the asteroids that have caused us such worry over the last few decades have names derived from mythology. With these names, it’s natural (for me, at least) to imagine these celestial bodies with the background and personality of their namesakes.

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology recognize the names of the major players—Jupiter (Zeus), Mars, (Ares), Neptune (Poseidon), Venus (Aphrodite)—but most would raise the proverbial questioning eyebrow at the mention of lesser characters such as Ganymede, Deimos, and Charon, let alone the significance they, as moons, hold to the planets they orbit. I too had this lack of knowledge, but as I began to research the astronomical bodies and the mythological characters after which they’re named, the imagery unfurled like a tapestry depicting the Trojan War as if fought in space.



Similar to “Io’s Reality Check,” the following poem tells the story of how I imagined Callisto may have ended up orbiting Jupiter as one of the Galilean moons. Callisto was a minor character, best known for being turned into a bear by Juno for having an affair with Jupiter.

by Kurt MacPhearson

Your story began the moment
the Great Pretender lured you
from Diana’s train; bore him Arcus,
a strapping Greek lad, but with him
came Juno’s ire, which regardless
of her husband’s charms, got you
just what you deserved: transformation
into a bear, and a son dead-set
on spearing you

Your tragedy would have ended
at the point of a thrust
if Jupiter hadn’t stepped in
and flung you both to hang
like dippers in our northern sky,
so forgive us if your tale seems murky,
finding you the outmost Galilean —
a pitted bronze shell of your former self
with an icy-tear patina suggesting
your troubled history — yet no sign
of your wayward son

Some dare say you earned this fate
for lack of discerning core, yet few
resist godly charms; take solace
that your aren’t alone: Europa
knows how to handle stress,
Ganymede’s scarred shoulders
remain strong, and with stealthy plumes
of SO2, Io lags to warn
of a scornful wife’s attack

Though it may appear we’re onlyDreams and Nightmares #96
concerned with crater formation
and how your hidden seas
generate a magnetosphere,
the truth is that we have many eyes:
the heavens may be a forest in which
even legends get lost, but if
we ever develop tools with which
to penetrate myth, we’ll certainly do
all that we’re able to reunite you
with your long-lost cub

Originally appeared in Dreams and Nightmares #96

From Image to Inspiration

I found this image of Jupiter and Io the other day. The stunning detail reminded me of the interplay between the two objects described in the poem “Io’s Reality Check,” that I posted in Unreal to Real.  Images like this one stir up my creative juices. If you’re anything like me, there’s plenty more to be found on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day site. Check it out, and see where your imagination can take you…


Jupiter and Io