The Alpha Capricornid meteor shower peaks next week, so it’s a great time for Unistellar users to observe the constellation Capricornus! This zodiacal constellation has deep roots in mythology, and conceals a number of deep-sky objects among its stars. Can you find them?
Quick facts about Capricornus:
- Capricornus comes from the Latin for horned goat, combining “capra” for goat, and “cornus” for horns.
- In mythology, the capricornus is a sea goat, or half goat, half fish. In ancient Greece she was Amalthea, the goat who suckled Zeus and whose broken horn gave us the first cornucopia, or the horn of plenty.
- Capricornus is a faint constellation, and the smallest of the zodiacs. It’s been recognized for thousands of years, with the earliest known depictions from around 2100 B.C.
- It’s easiest to spot Capricornus in summer and fall, and the constellation is visible for observers all over the world. Northerners should look south toward the equator; southerners should look north.
Stars in Capricornus
Capricornus has many interesting stars to observe:
- Deneb Algedi (δ Cap): a multiple star system, and brightest point in the constellation, that includes a white giant
- Dabih (β Cap): another multiple star system with an easily visible binary pair
- Algedi (α Cap): a triple star system, sits opposite Deneb Algedi
- Nashira (γ Cap): a giant star that is drifting towards us at 31 km/s or 69,345 mph
- Marakk (ζ Cap): a binary star system including a white dwarf and a yellow supergiant star
- Dorsum (θ Cap): a white star on the goat’s back—it’s “dorsal” side
- Baten Algiedi (ω Cap): an orange star, considered a possible runaway star
- Pazhan (ψ Cap): a yellow-white star visible to the naked eye
- Castra (ε Cap): a quadruple star system whose name means “fort” in Latin
Deep-Sky Objects in Capricornus
In addition to the stars that make up the constellation, don’t forget to spot two deep sky objects in Capricornus: NGC 6907 and Messier 30
NGC 6907 is a two-armed grand design spiral galaxy with an asymmetric disk that’s about 120 million light years from Earth, and 115,000 light years across.
M30 is a globular cluster visible in the southeast of the constellation. It’s orbiting in the opposite direction as the rest of our galaxy, so astronomers think the Milky Way acquired it from a satellite galaxy, rather than it coming from within.
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Clear skies! 🔭