Aquarius

StarDate: October 21, 2009

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Ancient cultures often "saw" the same things in the sky that they saw on Earth. Rivers of stars mirrored rivers of water. Starry bulls, rams, and lions represented the animals they tended -- or avoided. And when rainclouds filled the daytime sky, they saw watery figures in the nighttime sky.

An example is Aquarius, the water bearer. It's well up in the southeast at nightfall, and floats across the southern sky into the wee hours of the morning.

Aquarius is one of several adjoining constellations that together form the celestial sea. The list includes Pisces, the fishes; Piscis Austrinis, the southern fish; Capricornus, the sea-goat; and Cetus, the whale or sea monster.

These constellations were first drawn thousands of years ago, by cultures around the Mediterranean Sea. At the time, the Sun passed by the stars that form these constellations during the rainy season. So it's not hard to see why these cultures associated Aquarius and the others with water.

Aquarius itself represents a man or boy pouring water from a vase. The water streams toward the bright star Fomalhaut, which is the mouth of the southern fish.

Aquarius is quite faint, though -- so faint that if it weren't part of the zodiac, it wouldn't get much attention at all. To see even its brightest stars, you need a dark sky, far from city lights. And a little luck wouldn't hurt, either -- especially since the stars have "lucky" names. More about that tomorrow.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

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