Capricorn Man Secrets
The Sun, Moon, and planets pass through Capricornus (kap-rih-KORN-us) as they travel around the sky, making it a constellation of the zodiac. Capricornus is best visible in the early autumn. A sea-goat, also called a goat-fish, is an odd creature you will not find at the zoo. It is a goat with a fish's tail. In Sumerian times about 5,000 years ago, the Sumerians created imaginary new animals by combining familiar animals in strange ways. Sagittarius, half-man and half-horse, and Pegasus, a horse with wings, are two other examples. Capricornus has no bright stars.
Autumn's bright constellations pass high in the north. A vast area of the southern and southeastern skies on autumn evenings is filled with dim constellations that all have a connection to water. Therefore, this region is sometimes called the Water (or, much less often, the Great Celestial Sea ). It includes three constellations in a row of the zodiac that are dim Capricornus the Sea Goat (front-half goat, back-half fish), Aquarius the Water Bearer, and Pisces the (two) Fish. All these have a few sights of interest for naked-eye observers with very dark skies but especially for telescopic observers (for
First on our hook is Messier 30 in southeastern Capricornus. Some 26,000 light-years away, M30 is a globular star cluster whose diameter (11 arc minutes) and visual magnitude (7.2) place it well behind the best globular clusters. But M30 is alluring in its own way, as we shall see. The route I take to M30 is easy using the telescope's finder. I begin at 2.9-magni-tude delta (6) Capricorni, which marks the northeast corner of the constellation. Eight degrees southwest of delta is 3.8-magnitude zeta (t). At zeta, I turn sharply east for nearly four degrees until my finderscope picks up 5.2-magnitude 41 Capricorni. At that point, I insert a low-magnification (44x) eyepiece in my 10-inch Dobsonian.
The ecliptic is the circular path of Earth's orbit around the Sun. During this movement classically 12 (actually 13) constellations that are in the background beyond the Sun are sequentially hidden from view by the Sun. These constellations comprise the Zodiac. They are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, Ophiuchus, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius and Pisces. This line-up of constellations was recognized in ancient times. The early Greeks visualized animals moving among the constellations of the Zodiac. Each constellation is depicted as an animal except for Libra. 'Zodiac' means animal in Greek.
Since ancient times, people have identified regions on the Earth based on the apparent location of the Sun in the heavens. When looking at the sky throughout the year at a given time each day (say, noon), the Sun appears to gradually increase in elevation day by day to a certain height, then decrease day by day to a certain depth, and so on. We now know that this apparent rising and falling is due to the fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun in a year, and because the Earth's axis is tilted some 23 degrees to the plane of its orbit, this affects the height of the Sun in the sky. In the summer, the Sun most directly beams its rays to people in the Northern Hemisphere hence, it appears higher in the sky (left image in Figure 1.3), and the hours of daylight are the longest. If we project a direct line from this highest elevation of the Sun onto the Earth's surface, a circle of latitude is defined which is called the Tropic of Cancer. Alternatively, in the winter the Sun most...
Paralleling this development was the creation of 18 constellations that were easily observed at night to be in the path of the Moon. These included not only star groups more or less similar to our own, but also some asterisms that we do not recognize as constellations. Historian Nicholas Campion (2000) gives a list of these 18 groups from the Mul Apin, and this list includes a number of familiar names the bull (Taurus), the twins (Gemini), the crab (Cancer), the lion (Leo), the scales (Libra), the scorpion (Scorpius), and the goat fish (Capricornus). Thus, a lunar zodiac was created that was based primarily on star groupings, and this soon took on astrological meaning. For example, the Enuma Anu Enlil contains omens whereby the positions of the planets are described in relation to some of these constellations. It was perhaps inevitable that this 18-constellation lunar zodiac would evolve into a 12-constellation solar zodiac more similar to our own by the 5th Century bc. Although the...
Rising in the southeast this week around 7 o'clock, and well up by 8 30, is a faint wallflower of a constellation, but one that offers a big smile if you can find it. In fact, it is often referred to as the 'smile in the sky' Capricornus the Seagoat. This constellation has come down through the ages unaltered in form. In the ancient star atlases, Capricornus was depicted as a goat with the tail of a fish. The constellation resides in a region once known as 'the Sea.' But more on that later. According to astronomer-mythologist Elijah Burritt, Capricornus is associated with the god Pan. One day, while Pan was feasting with Jupiter and some other deities near the banks of the Nile River, the giant monster Typhon suddenly emerged from the underworld and attacked them, scattering the assemblage in all directions. In an attempt to hide themselves, each deity assumed a different shape. Pan, who had leapt into the river, turned his head and upper torso into a goat and his lower body, which...
In the east-southeast sky, to the right and slightly above Capricornus, you will see a constellation whose outline resembles a teapot (Fig. 2-18). This is Sagittarius, the centaur. What, you might ask, is a centaur You ought to know if you have read mythology or seen a lot of movies or television it is a creature with the lower body of a horse and the chest, head, and arms of a human being. The centaur carries a bow and arrow with which to stun evil or obnoxious creatures. Sagittarius lies in the direction of the densest part of the Milky Way, the spiral galaxy in which our Solar System resides.
To the south of the Square lies a circlet of stars marking the head of Pisces the Fishes. Cetus the Whale is beginning to make his appearance, too, though he won't be fully above the eastern horizon for another hour. Further south, dim Aquarius the Water Bearer is reaching out toward equally faint Capricornus, now nearing the meridian in the south.
Just south of Aquarius and to the east of Capricornus lies the constellation of Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish. This small constellation is dominated by the brilliant blue-white star Alpha Piscis Austrini, or Fomalhaut (mag. 1.2), which in Arabic means fish's mouth. Since there is no other star of similar brightness in that part of the sky, we will not find it difficult to locate. From north India, Fomalhaut is seen rather low over the southern horizon, but it can be seen quite high up in the sky from southern parts of the country. Fomalhaut culminates at around 9.00 p.m. during the third week of October.
Elsewhere in the heavens, we see a number of other stars with Deneb in their name Denebola (tail of Leo, the Lion), Deneb Kaitos (tail of Cetus, the Whale), Deneb Algiedi (tail of Capricornus, the Sea-Goat) and several stars whose Deneb-including names are rarely used. But Deneb is the Deneb the most important star marking the tail of a constellation figure, the beautiful swan. Or at least that's the way things stand today Deneb was known to the later medieval Arabs as dhanab al-dajaja the tail of the Hen. Most of us today much prefer to think of this lovely star as being the tail of a graceful swan.