Saturn and Aquarius

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Saturn and Aquarius

It’s easy to see pictures in the night sky. Just pick out some stars and connect them to make a pattern. The skywatchers of ancient Babylon linked some stars to show a man pouring water from a jar. Today, that picture is known as Aquarius, the water bearer. The constellation is in the east-southeast before dawn.

Near the left side of the constellation, you’ll find a much smaller star picture: a bowling ball scattering some pins. The ball is the planet Saturn, which looks like a bright star. And the pins are represented by five stars of Aquarius. The stars are faint, so you need dark skies to see them, and binoculars will enhance the view.

The brightest of the five stars is to the upper left of Saturn by less than the width of a pencil held at arm’s length. Phi Aquarii consists of two stars. The brighter one is about as massive as the Sun, but many times larger. That’s because it’s billions of years older than the Sun, so it’s moved from the prime life into the next phase.

About the same distance to the lower right of Saturn is Chi Aquarii. It’s a giant as well, but even bigger and brighter. That makes it visible across 600 light-years of space.

Finally, three stars are a little farther along that line —Psi 1, 2, and 3 Aquarii. The brightest is number one — a triple star 150 light-years away.

Saturn will roll past the stars over the coming days — leaving some faint “bowling pins” behind.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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