Aquarius Constellation

aquarius constellation

   The Aquarius constellation is of specific importance as it is the oldest constellation known to people. The references and information about this constellation can be found in the works of Ptolemy. Its name means “cup-bearer” or “water-bearer” in Latin.

   Aquarius is the 10th largest constellation in the sky, occupying an area of 980 square degrees.

LOCATING AQUARIUS

   Aquarius lies in the region of the sky sometimes referred to as the Sea, because it contains a number of constellations with names related to water.

   Aquarius is located in the fourth quadrant of the southern hemisphere and can be seen at latitudes between +65° and -90°. Two of its neighbor constellations are Capricorn (to the south-west) and Pisces (to the north-east). Other neighboring constellations are Aquila,  Cetus, Delphinus, Equuleus, Pegasus, Piscis Austrinus, and Sculptor.

   Aquarius can be seen in the spring in the Southern Hemisphere and the fall in the Northern Hemisphere. The autumn or the month of October is considered as the best time in the year to view this constellation. It is difficult to view the constellation of Aquarius with your naked eye as it is one of the faintest constellations in the sky. It can only be viewed with the help of a powerful horoscope.

NOTABLE STARS

   The brightest star in the Aquarius constellation is Sadalsuud (Beta Aquarii). Its name means “the luck of lucks.” Sadalsuud has also been referred to as Lucida Fortunae Fortunarum, which is Latin for the “brightest luck of lucks.” The star is associated with the spring and the good fortune brought by the Sun when it rises after winter has passed.

   Sadalsuud belongs to a rare class of stars called the yellow supergiants. It is approximately 610 light years distant and has a mass that is six times greater than the Sun and is 2,200 times more luminous. It is a triple or multiple star, with its primary component being Beta Aquarii A.

   The second brightest star in the constellation is Sadalmelik (Alpha Aquarii). Its name is derived from the Arabic phrase sa’d al-malik, which means “luck of the king.” It is a G-type yellow supergiant, approximately 800 light years distant. Sadalmelik has a diameter 60 times that of our Sun and is 3000 times more luminous.

   Skat (Delta Aquarii) is the third brightest star in the constellation. The name is derived from the Arabic as-saq, which means leg or shin. It is approximately 160 light years distant. Delta Aquarii is believed to be a member of the Ursa Major Moving Group (Collinder 285), an association of stars that includes the most prominent stars of Ursa Major, with a core 80 light years away, that share common velocities and are believed to have a common origin. 

   Another notable star is Sadachbia (Gamma Aquarii) which is located 158 light-years from earth. Its name is derived from the Arabic phrase sa’d al-axbiyah, which means “luck of the homes.”

   Sadaltager (Zeta Aquarii) is the central star of the Y-shaped config-uration that forms Aquarius’ water jar. Its name comes from the Arabic expression sa’d al-tajir, which means “luck of the merchant.” It is approximately 103 light years distant. Zeta Aquarii is a binary star composed of the brighter component Zeta-2 Aquarii, a yellow-white F-type dwarf and its companion Zeta-1 Aquarii is a yellow-white F-type subgiant. 

   R Aquarii, is another interesting star in the Aquarius constellation. It is notable for being a symbiotic star. It is a binary star, believed to consist of a white dwarf and a red giant. The white dwarf’s gravitational pull draws in material from the red giant and sometimes ejects the surplus, which forms a nebula around the system. The nebula is known as Cederblad 211, which has never been observed visually and is believed to be a remnant of a nova-like explosion. R Aquarii is approximately 600 light years distant.

   Aquarius includes a number of deep sky objects or planetary nebulae, including Messier 2, Messier 72, Messier 73, NGC 7009 and NGC 7293.

   Messier 2 is a globular cluster 13 billion years old and contains about 150,000 stars. With a diameter spanning 175 light years, it is one of the largest globular clusters known. It is approximately 37,500 light years distant. The brightest stars in the cluster are mostly red and yellow giants. Messier 2 can be seen with the naked eye on a dark sky.

   Messier 72 is also a globular cluster, approximately 53,000 light years distant and about 106 light years in diameter. It contains several blue giant stars and is considered to be a young cluster. Messier 72 is not an easy one to observe, it appears as a small hazy area when observed with a small telescope.

   Messier 73 is a small asterism that consists of four stars that appear close to each other in the night sky, but are really not connected. The cluster is approximately 2,500 light years distant.

   NGC 7009 is one of the brightest planetary nebulae in the sky. It is also known as the Saturn Nebula because it has a ring that resembles Saturn. It is a planetary nebula that formed when a low-mass star evolved into a bright white dwarf. The central star has a luminosity of about 20 Suns and its temperature is about 55,000° K (Kelvin) or 8540.33° F (Farenheit). The star emits strong ultraviolet radiation, which is believed to create the nebula’s fluorescent green tint.

   NGC 7293, or the Helix Nebula, is a large planetary nebula, the closest to Earth, only 400 light-years away. It is approximately 700 light years distant. The nebula is 2.5 light years in span. The remnant stellar core at the nebula’s center will eventually become a white dwarf star. Because of its appearance, the nebula has earned the nickname the Eye of God.

AQUARIUS CONSTELLATION MYTHOLOGY

   Aquarius is depicted in Greek astronomy as a young man pouring water from a vase or urn. There are a couple of different myths regarding the constellation of Aquarius.

   In Greek mythology, the Aquarius myth follows the story of Ganymede, a young prince, and supposedly the most beautiful young man of Troy.

   Ganymede lived on the island of Crete, and tended sheep there on the slopes of Mount Ida. One day Zeus caught a glimpse of the young boy and was over-whelmed with a desire to bring Ganymede to Olympus to serve as the cup bearer of the gods.

   Zeus transformed himself into the shape of a giant eagle and swooped down and carried the boy off to the home of the gods. He grabbed Ganymede in his talons and carried him back to Mount Olympus to serve as cup-bearer of the gods. 

   Now it so happens that this position was already filled by Hebe, the daughter of Zeus. Once Ganymede arrived at the royal court a competition began between Hebe and Ganymede for the honor of serving the gods. Eventually Ganymede won the post, and stayed on also as the favored companion to Zeus.

   Once there, Ganymede faced the wrath of Hera, the wife of Zeus, who was angry and very likely jealous that her husband had taken such a fancy for a young boy. In addition to this, she was also angry that Zeus intended for Ganymede to replace Hebe, Hera’s daughter as the cup-bearer after an incident where Hebe had accidentally spilled some nectar of the gods.

   When Ganymede’s father, King Tros of Troy found out about Ganymede’s disappearance, he grieved so hard that Zeus sent Hermes on his behalf to give Tros two storm footed horses. Hermes was also ordered to assure the bereaved father that Ganymede was and would be immortal. 

   One day Ganymede had had enough, and he decides to pour out all of the wine, ambrosia, and water of the gods, refusing to stay Zeus’s cup-bearer any longer. The legend goes that the water all fell to Earth, causing inundating rains for days upon days, which created a massive flood that flooded the entire world.

   At first Zeus wants to punish Ganymede, but in a rare moment of self-reflection, Zeus realizes that he has been a bit unkind to the boy, so he makes him immortal as the constellation of Aquarius.

   Another story tells of a man and his wife known as Deucalion and Pyrrha. It is said that Aquarius poured water from the heavens for days on end and caused a great flood to wash over Earth. Deucalion had been told by his father, Prometheus in some versions of this story, to build a boat and to fill it with provisions. The two did and they floated in the boat over the sea for nine days and nights before coming to ground on Mount Parnassus.

   Afterwards, two sole survivors of the great flood, Deucalion and Pyrrha, walked about as the waters became lower and exposed more and more land. Safe now, the two found that they were the only survivors and began to wander more as the flood waters receded. What were the two to do? They appealed to an oracle and were told to “… throw over your shoulders the bones of your mother.”  Deucalion and his wife couldn’t have been the only survivors of this flood if they were able to consult an oracle who told them to “throw over your shoulders the bones of your mother.”

   Deucalion guessed, “The bones of Mother Earth must be stones.” So as the two walked along they picked up stones and kept tossing them over their shoulders. After a bit of this, they looked back and saw that there were now people. The stones thrown by Deucalion had become men and the stones thrown by Pyrrha had become women. Therefore, Aquarius became known as the taker of life and the giver of life.

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