Starwatch: Aquarius is one of the oldest named constellations

How to find the faint stars of the water bearer, identified by the Babylonians with their water god Ea

Aquarius, the water bearer, is one of the northern hemisphere’s autumnal constellations. It is a faint grouping of stars, found between Capricornus and Pisces, and must be viewed from a dark site. The chart shows the view looking south-south-west at midnight BST on 14 October. Fomalhaut (in Piscis Austrinus) is the brightest star in this section of the sky. Find it low down on the horizon and then, looking above it, begin to trace out the body of Aquarius, hopping from one faint star to the other. The constellation is one of the oldest to be identified. It appeared as GU.LA, meaning the great one, in Babylonian star catalogues dating to around 1,000 BC and was identified with their water god Ea. Aquarius took on its currently recognised western form in the classical Greek depiction of the heavens. He was shown up-ending a large jar, out of which water flowed down to form a river, in which Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish was swimming.

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