Categories: Astronomy ListsStar Constellations

Interesting Facts About The Constellation Aquarius

A Zodiacal Constellation

Aquarius means ‘water-bearer’ in Latin and it is a zodiacal constellation, meaning the Sun, Moon and planets regularly pass within its boundaries. From the Earth’s perspective, the Sun passes in front of Aquarius from February 17th to March 11th, although it is important to note that these dates refer to the constellation and not the astrology sign of Aquarius (January 20th to February 19th).

Associated With The Rainy Season

Aquarius is one of the oldest constellation known to the ancients, and its appearance was almost universally associated  with water and the rainy season. It lies in the region of the sky  referred to by the ancients as the Sea, as it contains numerous constellations with names related to water. These include Pisces (the fish), Eridanus (the river), Cetus (the whale), Capricornus (the Sea-goat), Delphinus (the Dolphin), and Hydra (the Water serpent).

Held Great Importance For Ancient Cultures

Aquarius occupied significant importance in their lives and culture of ancient civilizations, especially those susceptible to the influence of the sea or great rivers. To the Sumerians, for instance, Aquarius held the vessel from which a great flood flowed from the heavens onto the earth to ravage the entire planet, while the Babylonians called Aquarius’ appearance in the night sky as ‘the curse of rain. The Egyptians, however, had a kindlier view of the  constellation, which they thought helpfully created the rainy season and caused the Nile’s annual floods, thus resulting in the replenishment of their farming soil.

Represents Zeus’ Cup-Bearer Ganymede

In Greek mythology, Aquarius is associated with a beautiful Trojan youth called Ganymede, whom Zeus carried off to Olympus disguised as as eagle, to become cup-bearer to the gods. Alternatively, the ancient Greeks believed Aquarius caused a great flood which inundated the Earth, of which just Deucalion and Pyrrha survived by building a great boat stocked with provisions.

Notable Stars and Objects

The brightest star in Aquarius is the yellow supergiant Sadalsuud (Beta Aquarii) which is 537 light-years distant. Other astronomical deep-sky objects (DSOs) of note in this constellation include globular clusters, the Aquarius Dwarf Galaxy and Atoms for Peace Galaxy. Aquarius also contains the Saturn Nebula and the Helix Nebula, at 400 light-years distant the closest of all planetary nebulae to Earth.

Home To 4 Meteor Showers

Aquarius is home to 4 meteor showers which occur throughout the year, the most prolific of which is the Delta Aquarid Meteor shower (July 14 to August 18) which produce around 20 meteors per hour at its peak. The others are the March Aquariids, Eta Aquariids and Iota Aquariids.

Age of Aquarius To Begin in Year 2597

In astrological terms, an age last roughly 2200 years and is identified by the name of the constellation in which the Sun appears in on the first day of spring  (the vernal equinox). In 68 BC, the ‘Age of Aries’ moved into the  ‘Age of Pisces’ and therefore the “Age of Aquarius” isn’t due to begin until the year 2597 based upon astronomical calculations.

Peter Christoforou :