aquarius

Aquarius

By Jake Riley, SR Senior Editor

Fun Facts

1. Aquarius means ‘water-carrier’ in Latin
2. It is one of the oldest constellations recognized by the ancients
3. Its appearance was most associated with rain and water
4. Civilizations susceptible to damage from aquatic phenomenon viewed the appearance of the constellation as ‘the curse of rain’
5. The constellation lies in what is known as the ‘Sea’ of the sky, where other oceanic constellations such as Pisces and Capricornus reside

An overview

The constellation of Aquarius makes up a young male pouring water out of a vase, and this depiction is sometimes taken even further such that the water is being poured in a fish’s mouth, due to Pisces’ close proximity. The constellation consists of 22 main stars, with the brightest being Sadalsuud, which is a rare yellow supergiant 2,200 times more luminous than our sun.

It is one of the 12 Greek Zodiac constellations, though it is depicted by Egyptians as the god of the Nile, Hapi. The constellation is visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, appearing during fall in the former and during spring in the latter.

The myth

There was once an extremely handsome prince of Troy. His name was Ganymede, and his beauty was taken notice of by the great Zeus, who decided that Ganymede would make for a perfect cup-bearer. Zeus then sent Aquila, his pet eagle, to fetch Ganymede and bring him to Olympus.

Hera, wife of Zeus, did not look at this arrangement with favor. She thought it frustrating that her husband had such strong feelings for a mere boy and that Ganymede was allowed to occupy the favored position of Zeus’ cup-bearer that was previously held by Hebe, the goddess of youth and daughter of Hera.

To keep Ganymede safe, Zeus was sure to not leave the boy behind whenever he travelled the world, and Ganymede often followed along on his adventures, riding on Aquila and carrying Zeus’ golden cup. Zeus grew intensely fond of the young Ganymede, for the boy’s kindness was said to be radiant.

One day, when Ganymede noticed how in need the people on earth were for water to rain from the heavens, he pleaded with Zeus to allow him to help them. Zeus agreed, and Ganymede proceeded to send rain to those who needed them. Eventually, Ganymede was glorified as Aquarius, the god of rain, and immortalized by Zeus in the earth’s night sky.

The constellation

The Constellation of Aquarius is situated in the southern sky’s fourth quadrant, and is visible between latitudes -90 to +65 degrees. It neighbors the constellations of other aquatic constellations such as Eridanus, Cetus, Capricornus, and Pisces.

Of the 22 main stars it consists, there exists six celestial bodies of note: Sadalsuud, the brightest star in Aquarius and a rare yellow supergiant; Sadalmelik, another yellow supergiant; Skat, a member of the Ursa Major Moving Group; Sadachbia, which means ‘luck of the homes’; Sadaltager, a binary star at the center of the water jar asterism; and R Aquarii, a symbiotic star consisting of a white dwarf and a red giant.

Want to learn about other constellations aside from Aquarius? Find out more about Pisces or Aries. Alternatively, you can simply click here for a full list of constellations.

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