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Watery Skies

October 22, 2013

Even if you have cloudless evening skies at this time of year, a watery view awaits you — a stretch of constellations associated with water. Together, they’re known as the Celestial Sea. They stretch across the southeastern quadrant of the sky in early evening, and across the entire southern sky by midnight.

Much of the association with water comes from the time of year: Autumn was a rainy season for much of the Mediterranean, where the constellations were named.

As the sky gets fully dark, look about a third of the way up the southern sky for Capricornus, the sea-goat. Its stars aren’t especially bright, but they form a distinctive pattern that’s fairly easy to pick out under dark skies — a triangle that’s often compared to the bottom of a bikini bathing suit.

Aquarius, the water bearer, wraps above and to the left of Capricornus. And the only really bright star in the entire sea is below them. Fomalhaut represents the mouth of Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish. And the other fish, Pisces, is in the east and southeast — a V-shaped pattern with a pentagon at the right point of the V.

By midnight, these constellations have rolled westward, revealing the last two members of the Celestial Sea — Cetus, the sea monster, and a long, scraggly trail of stars that forms Eridanus, the river.

These six constellations will grace the evening sky for several more months — icy stars sparkling through the cold nights of winter.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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