Capricorn Constellation

capricorn constellation   The constellation Capricorn represents the figure of either a goat or a sea-goat in the sky. Its name means “horned male goat” or “goat horn” in Latin. Capricorn is one of the most mysterious and ancient of all the constellations.

   Capricorn is the 40th biggest constellation in the sky, occupying an area of 414 square degrees. It is the second faintest Zodiac constellation.

LOCATING CAPRICORN

   Capricorn constellation is located in the southern sky. It lies in a region called the Sea or the Water, which is a part of the sky that contains many water-related constellations.

   It lies in the fourth quadrant of the southern hemisphere and can be seen at latitudes between +60° and -90°. Capricorn can be found between Aquarius (to the west) and Sagittarius (to the east). Other neighboring constellations are Aquarius, Aquila, Microscopium, and Piscis Austrinus.

NOTABLE STARS

   Three bright stars — Algiedi (Alpha Capricorni), Dabih (Beta Capricorni) and Baten Algiedi (Omega Capricorni) — form a triangle that makes it easier to pick out the constellation.

   Algiedi (Alpha Capricorni) is a multiple star that consists of two yellow and orange stars known as Prima Giedi (Alpha-1 Capricorni) and Secunda Giedi (Alpha-2 Capricorni). Prima Giedi is an orange G-type supergiant and is approximately 690 light years distant. Secunda Giedi is a yellow G-type giant and is about 109 light years distant.

   The second brightest star — Dabih (Beta Capricorni, — is a multiple-star system 328 light years distant. It consists of Dabih Major (Beta-1 Capricorni) and Dabih Minor (Beta-2 Capricorni), with Dabih Major being the brightest of the two. Both Dabih Major (Beta-1) and Dabih Minor (Beta-2) are composed of multiple stars. Dabih Major has at least three components. The brightest one is an orange bright giant and the second brighest component is a blue-white dwarf. The second component has an unseen companion that orbits it every 8.7 days. Dabih Minor is a binary star composed of an AO-class giant that is 40 times more luminous than the Sun, and a mercury-manganese star.

   The third brightest star is  Baten Algiedi (Omega Capricorni. Its name means “the belly of the goat” and it is a red giant star approximately 630 light years distant.

   The goat’s tail is formed by Deneb Algedi (Delta Capricorni), is the brightest star in the constellation. The star is located near the ecliptic and can be occulted by the Moon and, very rarely, by planets. Deneb Algedi is a four-star system 39 light years from Earth. The brightest star of the system, Delta Capricorni A, is a white giant that has the luminosity 8.5 times that of the Sun.

   Capricorn also contains a magnitude 8 globular cluster, Messier 30 or NGC 7099 which is approximately 28,000 light years distant and about 90 light years across in size. The star cluster is in the southern part of the constellation and it can be spotted near another of the constellation’s stars, Yen (Zeta Capricorni). M30 has undergone a core collapse and has a compressed center, with two short rays of stars appearing north-west and irregular streams of stars spiraling from the northern edge toward the east. The cluster is approaching us at the speed of 181.9 kilometers per second. Messier 30 is easy to observe even in small telescopes.

CAPRICORN CONSTELLATION MYTHOLOGY

   The Capricorn zodiac sign is often interpreted as being either a goat or a sea-goat, which is basically a creature with the front half of a goat and the tail of a fish. In actuality, both goat and sea-goat are appropriate symbols to represent Capricorn. There are many different myths about this dim constellation.       

   One story behind the Capricorn zodiac sign begins with the sea-goat Pricus. Pricus is the father of the race of sea-goats, who are known to be intelligent and honorable creatures who live in the sea near the shore. They can speak and think and are favored by the gods.

   Pricus is tied to Chronos, the god of time. Chronos is the creator of the immortal Pricus, who shares Chronos’s ability to manipulate time.

   The legend that ties Pricus to Capricorn mythology begins when the younger sea-goats, Pricus’s children, find their way onto the shore. The sea-goats seem to be naturally drawn to the shore. They can use their front goat legs to pull themselves onto the beach and lay in the sun.  The longer they stay on shore, though, the more they “evolve” from sea-goats into regular goats. Their fish tails become hind legs and they lose their ability to think and speak, essentially becoming the goats that we know today.

   This upsets Pricus a great deal. As the father of the sea-goat race, he is determined to make sure that his children never get to the shore. If they do, he fears they will become mindless animals who can never return to sea.

   After losing several of his children to the land, Pricus decides to use his ability to reverse time to force his children to return to the sea. During this time reversal, everything on earth, except Pricus, reverses itself to where it was previously, thus the goats revert back to the time to before they returned to land.

   Pricus, being unaffected by the time shift, is the only one who knows what is to become of the sea-goats. He tries to warn them, even forbid them from setting foot onto the shore, but no matter what he does, or how many times he reverses time, the sea-goats eventually still find their way onto land and become regular goats.

   The pivotal moment in Capricorn mythology occurs when Pricus finally realizes that he cannot control the destiny of his children, and that trying to keep them in the sea will never work, no matter how many times he tries to “start over”. He resigns himself to his loneliness, and chooses to no longer reverse time, instead letting his children live their lives out to their own destiny. 

   In his misery, Pricus begs Chronos to let him die, as he cannot bear to be the only sea-goat left. Chronos instead allows him to live out his immortality in the sky, as the constellation Capricorn. Now he can see his children even on the highest mountain tops from the stars.

   Another story behind the Capricorn constellation takes place during the attack of the abnormal supergiant, Typhon. The story involves the lusty god, Pan. Pan was a god who was notorious for his attempts to woo various females. He was also famous for his loud voice and love for music.

   During a picnic, Pan was feasting with the other gods when suddenly the monster Typhon appeared. Typhon was a fearsome fire-breathing creature, taller than mountains and with arms which possessed dragons’ heads in place of fingers. To escape certain death, all of the gods but Pan changed into a variety of different animals.

   As Typhon approached, Pan, in terror, couldn’t decide what to be. Finally, he jumped into the river, at which point he transformed. His lower half was in water, so it became a fish. However, his upper-half was still dry, so it stayed a goat. The transformation was so much to Zeus’s liking and amusement that he placed the “sea goat” into the sky as the constellation Capricorn. 

   According to another Greek legend, Cronus was told by the oracle that one day one of his sons would grow up to be stronger than he and would eventually kill him in battle.  In order to keep this from happening, Cronus had every baby boy born to him as a son killed.  Some legends say he would swallow them when they were born.

   Knowing of this curse, Zeus’ mother gave him to some sea nymphs with instructions to take him to a far-away place where Cronus could not find him and raise him there.  However, sea nymphs cannot produce milk, and so they brought a very special goat, Amalthea, to nurse him.

   As Zeus grew older, Amalthea also became his playmate.  One day, Zeus was playing with Amalthea and broke off one of her horns.  Zeus took this as a sign that he was supposed to break off his relationship with Amalthea and the sea nymphs and go fight his father, Cronus.

   Zeus gave the horn to the sea nymphs and Amalthea telling them that as they had always provided for his needs, so now this horn, which was now a magic horn, would always provide all the food and drink they would ever need.  Zeus then left them to go and fight Cronus, his cruel father.  Zeus defeated Cronus and, according to one legend, as Cronus fell to the ground, his head split open and out stepped the brothers of Zeus that Cronus had swallowed.

   Zeus was now the king of the gods and one of his first acts was to place the constellation Capricorn in the heavens in honor of Amalthea and the sea nymphs who had hidden and taken such good care of him.

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