Aquarius – the water bearer

February 11, 2018

Astronomy

No no that's funny, you taking away our dignity like that.Aquarius is a constellation in the zodiac, the field of stars the sun plows through on its yearly trek. Here we have a constellation that is an excellent example of how a group of stars gets a name without connecting the dots. It was named by the Babylonians.

In ancient Babylon, which is essentially Iraq, there between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, when the Sun entered this part of the sky back then, it was their monsoon.

The rain came down hard for a whole month and those rivers flooded. So they named this part of the sky The Bringer of Water. Much later people tried to make it into some dude with a big jug of water. So now days it’s the water dude. In the upper part of it there are four dim stars forming a little “Y” shape that we now call the water jug.

Aquarius has no bright stars. So far.When Aquarius rises high you can see the lonely star Fomalhaut down underneath it to the south. We call it “The Lonely One” because it is the only bright star for quite a ways in all directions. It is on the western edge of the Cetus Void which is a large oval area which only has rather dim stars. Down that dark scary hole is where the kraken lives. Try not to release him.

M2 is simply lovely.The Sun is in the east side of Aquarius during the Messier Marathon in March, where it doesn’t block any objects. So it has some objects, a couple of globulars and an open cluster, that you can see just before dawn during that event. M2 isn’t too shabby to look at but M73 is kind of stupid.

The topic of Aquarius brings up the issue of the equinox. The spring equinox has always been a big deal going way back to caveman days. Spring is when the sun god beats some monster’s ass and starts to make stuff grow again. So zodiac lovers especially love whichever constellation the sun is in on that day. But the position of the equinox slowly changes over thousands of years, it precesses around in a big circle.

Thousands of years ago when the equinox was in Aries folks would take a ram and barbecue it for the sun god. That time is known as the Age of Aries. Before that, in the Age of Taurus, the meat of choice was a bull. But because of precession of the equinox, technically the slow wobbling of the Earth in space, the position of the Sun on the equinox has now moved all the way over to Pisces. So bring on the salmon.

The spring equinox has actually moved all the way across Pisces and has almost made it to the border with Aquarius, but not quite. Now you know the meaning behind the words to the song, “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, the Age of Aquarius, Aquariuuuuuuuuuus.” The dawn is going to last several hundred more years for sure, but eventually it will happen, and finally there will be an era of peace and understanding. So there’s that.

People born under the sign of Aquarius are mostly made of water.

Carpe Noctem

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