All about the CAPRICORNUS constellation

By Jake Riley, SR Senior Editor

Fun Facts

1. Capricornus means ‘horned goat’ in Latin
2. Often referred to as the Sea-Goat
3. It is more widely known as Capricorn
4. It hosts five named meteor showers that occur on an annual basis: The Alpha, Chi, Sigma, and Tau Capricornids, as well the Capricorniden-Sagittarids
5. The constellation lies in what is known as the ‘Sea’ of the sky, where other oceanic constellations such as Pisces and Aquarius reside

An overview

The constellation of Capricorn makes up a bent-up pattern, with its more visible stars forming a pattern reminiscent of the goat’s horns. The constellation consists of 23 main stars, with the brightest being Deneb Algedi, which is Arabic for ‘the tail of the goat’.

It is one of the 12 Greek Zodiac constellations, and is visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The constellation appears from the months of July to November in the former and from early winter to spring’s end in the latter.

The myth

In Greek mythology, the Capricornus constellation is most associated with the tale of the Olympian gods quest for refuge in Egypt. After their great victory over the Titans, a monster called Typhon, the son of Titan Tartarus and Earth, sought vengeance for his fallen kin.

Typhon was a fire-breathing monster that was taller than the mountains. Dragon heads sprouted forth from its hands in place of fingers, and even the gods feared its wrath. As such, they planned to escape Typhon’s search for them by disguising themselves in various forms.

Zeus took on the form of a ram, Hera a white cow, and Pan a goat. But they had not left early enough, and Typhon descended upon them as they tried to make their escape. Seeing this, Pan threw himself into the Nile, and in his panic only managed to shapeshift part of his body, and ended up with the tail of a fish but retaining the torso of a goat.

On the other hand, Zeus was caught by the monstrous Typhon, and was being dismembered by the monster before Pan took action. With a screeching yell, Pan distracted Typhon long enough for the god Hermes to piece Zeus back together and restore him.

After they successfully made their escape, Zeus then transferred Pan to be immortalized in the night sky, birthing the constellation of Capricorn.

The constellation

The Constellation of Capricorn is situated in the southern sky’s fourth quadrant, and is visible between latitudes -90 to +60 degrees. It neighbors the constellations of other aquatic constellations such as Pisces and Eridanus.

Of the 23 main stars it consists, there exists four celestial bodies of note: Denub Algedi, a binary system just 40 lightyears from earth; Nashira, a white giant; Prima and Secunda Giedi, collectively known as Alpha Capricorni due to their nature as optical doubles; and Dabih, an extremely complex system made up of several stars split into two distinct components of a binary system.

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