Celestial Sea

Even if you have cloudless evening skies at this time of year, a watery view awaits you — a stretch of constellations associated with water. Together, they’re known as the “celestial sea.” They stretch across the southeastern sky in early evening, and across the entire southern sky by midnight.

Much of the association with water comes from the time of year: Autumn was a rainy season for much of the Mediterranean, where the modern constellations were named.

As the sky gets dark, look about a third of the way up the southern sky for Capricornus, the sea-goat. Its stars aren’t especially bright. But they form a distinctive pattern. And under dark skies, it’s fairly easy to pick out — a triangle that’s often compared to the bottom of a bikini bathing suit.

Aquarius the water bearer wraps above and to the left of Capricornus. And the only really bright star in the entire “sea” is below them: Fomalhaut, which represents the mouth of Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish. And the other fish, Pisces, is in the east and southeast — a V-shaped pattern with a pentagon at the right point of the V.

By midnight, these constellations have rolled far to the west. The last two members of the sea climb up behind them — Cetus, the sea monster, and a long, ragged trail of stars known as Eridanus, the river.

These constellations will grace the evening sky for months — stars that sparkle through the cool nights of autumn and into the colder nights of winter.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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