Sailing Along

The Moon is sailing across the “celestial sea” — a group of constellations that are related to water. And it’s a lengthy cruise: The Moon won’t climb out of the sea until Friday.

Most of the sea is in view at nightfall. And by about 11 o’clock, it will span the entire southern sky. It incorporates the sea-goat, the water bearer, the fishes, the southern fish, the sea monster, and the celestial river.

These constellations were associated with water for a couple of reasons. First, they inhabit a relatively dark region of the sky, with only one bright star — Fomalhaut, the mouth of the southern fish. And second, they appeared in the sky during the rainy season in the eastern Mediterranean, where the constellations were drawn and their stories written.

Tonight, the Moon is just passing into the edge of Aquarius, the water bearer. Although it’s perhaps the most famous member of the sea, it’s not much to look at. It depicts a man or boy carrying a jug of water, which is pouring toward Fomalhaut.

That picture appears to trace back to ancient Babylon. The stars represented one of the most important gods, who was shown as a man carrying an urn filled with water. And in ancient Egypt, the stars were associated with the annual flooding of the Nile River.

The Moon will sail across Aquarius and Pisces over the next few nights, flanked by some of the other watery contellations. It won’t stand against the stars of a more earthy constellation until Friday.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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