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Sunday, August 21, 2011
about fornax. @ 5:41 PM

Fornax may be the designated name of our Constellation, but it has a long and interesting history that goes all the way back to the Ancient Romans!

Fornax (originally Fornax Chemica) was formed by French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1752 in honor of his friend, the great chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, who is the father of the Metric System, modern chemistry and Fornax -- the combustion furnace. Of course, naming his combustion furnace Fornax was no accident; in Latin, fornax means 'furnace.' The constellation is located in the southern hemisphere and lies in a bend in constellation Eridanus, the celestial river. If you are interested in Astronomy, this website gives very specific information about each of the stars in Fornax, including the location of its stars in the sky and nearby galaxies.

In ancient Rome, the festival Fornacalia was held in honor of the goddess of bread and baking, Fornax. During the festival, which was held in the Forum and led by the Curia Maximus, the leader of the ancient unions of kinsmen, corn was baked in ovens of the ancient fashion.

Fornax is also part of the scientific name of a species of butterflies found in the souther hemisphere, from northern Argentina to Mexico: the Hamadryas fornax. There are two subspecies; the Hamadryas fornax fornax is generally found in mainland South America, and Hamadryas fornax fornacalia is mostly located in Mexico and parts of Central America. These butterflies, part of the Nymphalidae family, are brightly colored (think orange, like fire) and are strong fliers. As you can see, there is a clear linguistic connection between the species' names and the original Latin word. If you are interested in learning more about the etymology of the word fornax, take a look here.