Capricornus

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This article is about the astronomical constellation. For the astrological sign, see Capricorn (astrology).
Capricornus
Constellation
Capricornus
Abbreviation Cap
Genitive Capricorni
Pronunciation /ˌkæprɨˈkɔrnəs/, genitive /ˌkæprɨˈkɔrn/
Symbolism the Sea Goat
Right ascension 20h 06m 46.4871s–21h 59m 04.8693s[1]
Declination −8.4043999°–−27.6914144°[1]
Family Zodiac
Area 414 sq. deg. (40th)
Main stars 9, 13,23
Bayer/Flamsteed
stars
49
Stars with planets 5
Stars brighter than 3.00m 1
Stars within 10.00 pc (32.62 ly) 3
Brightest star δ Cap (Deneb Algedi) (2.85m)
Nearest star LP 816-60
(17.91 ly, 5.49 pc)
Messier objects 1
Meteor showers Alpha Capricornids
Chi Capricornids
Sigma Capricornids
Tau Capricornids
Capricorniden-Sagittariids
Bordering
constellations
Aquarius
Aquila
Sagittarius
Microscopium
Piscis Austrinus
Visible at latitudes between +60° and −90°.
Best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of September.

Capricornus /ˌkæprɨˈkɔrnəs/ is one of the constellations of the zodiac; it is often called Capricorn, especially when referring to the corresponding astrological sign. Its name is Latin for "horned goat" or "goat horn", and it is commonly represented in the form of a sea-goat: a mythical creature that is half goat, half fish. Its symbol is Capricorn symbol 2.png (Unicode ♑).

Capricornus is one of the 88 modern constellations, and was also one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. Under its modern boundaries it is bordered by Aquila, Sagittarius, Microscopium, Piscis Austrinus, and Aquarius. The constellation is located in an area of sky called the Sea or the Water, consisting of many water-related constellations such as Aquarius, Pisces and Eridanus. It is the second faintest constellation in the zodiac after Cancer, and it is the smallest constellation in the zodiac.

Notable features[edit]

The constellation Capricornus as it can be seen with the naked eye.[2]
Capricornus (right) and Aquarius (left). The brightest object of the picture is Jupiter.

Deep-sky objects[edit]

Several galaxies and star clusters are contained within Capricornus. Messier 30 is a globular cluster located 1 degree south of the galaxy group NGC 7103. The constellation also harbors the wide spiral galaxy NGC 6907.

M30 (NGC 7099) is a centrally-condensed globular cluster of magnitude 7.5. At a distance of 30,000 light-years, it has chains of stars extending to the north that are resolvable in small amateur telescopes.[3]

One galaxy group located in Capricornus is HCG 87, a group of at least three galaxies located 400 million light-years from Earth (redshift 0.0296). It contains a large elliptical galaxy, a face-on spiral galaxy, and an edge-on spiral galaxy. The face-on spiral galaxy is experiencing abnormally high rates of star formation, indicating that it is interacting with one or both members of the group. Furthermore, the large elliptical galaxy and the edge-on spiral galaxy, both of which have active nuclei, are connected by a stream of stars and dust, indicating that they too are interacting. Astronomers predict that the three galaxies may merge millions of years in the future to form a giant elliptical galaxy.[4]

Stars[edit]

Capricorn is a faint constellation, with only one star above magnitude 3; its alpha star has a magnitude of only 3.6.

The brightest star in Capricornus is δ Capricorni, also called Deneb Algedi, with a magnitude of 2.9, 39 light-years from Earth. Like several other stars such as Denebola and Deneb, it is named for the Arabic word for "tail" (deneb); its traditional name means "the tail of the goat". Deneb Algedi is a Beta Lyrae variable star (a type of eclipsing binary). It ranges by about 0.2 magnitudes with a period of 24.5 hours.[3]

The other bright stars in Capricornus range in magnitude from 3.1 to 5.1. α Capricorni is a multiple star also known as Algedi or Giedi. The primary (α2 Cap), 109 light-years from Earth, is a yellow-hued giant star of magnitude 3.6.; the secondary (α1 Cap), 690 light-years from Earth, is a yellow-hued supergiant star of magnitude 4.3. The two stars are distinguishable by the naked eye, and both are themselves multiple stars. α1 Capricorni is accompanied by a star of magnitude 9.2; α2 Capricornus is accompanied by a star of magnitude 11.0; this faint star is itself a binary star with two components of magnitude 11. The traditional names of α Capricorni come from the Arabic word for "the kid", which references the constellation's mythology.[3]

β Capricorni is a double star also known as Dabih. It is a yellow-hued giant star of magnitude 3.1, 340 light-years from Earth. The secondary is a blue-white hued star of magnitude 6.1. The two stars are distinguishable in binoculars. β Capricorni's traditional name comes from the Arabic phrase for "the lucky stars of the slaughterer," a reference to ritual sacrifices performed by ancient Arabs at the heliacal rising of Capricornus.[5] Another star visible to the naked eye is γ Capricorni, sometimes called Nashira ("bringing good tidings"); it is a white-hued giant star of magnitude 3.7, 139 light-years from Earth. π Capricorni is a double star with a blue-white hued primary of magnitude 5.1 and a white-hued secondary of magnitude 8.3. It is 670 light-years from Earth and the components are distinguishable in a small telescope.[3]

History and mythology[edit]

Despite its faintness, Capricornus has one of the oldest mythological associations, having been consistently represented as a hybrid of a goat and a fish since the Middle Bronze Age. First attested in depictions on a cylinder-seal from around the 21st century BC,[6] it was explicitly recorded in the Babylonian star catalogues as MULSUḪUR.MAŠ "The Goat-Fish" before 1000 BC. The constellation was a symbol of the god Ea and in the Early Bronze Age marked the winter solstice.[7]

Due to the precession of the equinoxes the December solstice no longer takes place while the sun is in the constellation Capricornus, as it did until 130 BCE, but the astrological sign called Capricorn begins with the solstice. The solstice now takes place when the Sun is in Sagittarius. The sun's most southerly position, which is attained at the northern hemisphere's winter solstice, is now called the Tropic of Capricorn, a term which also applies to the line on the Earth at which the sun is directly overhead at noon on that solstice. The Sun is now in Capricorn from late January through mid-February.[3]

In Greek mythology, the constellation is sometimes identified as Amalthea, the goat that suckled the infant Zeus after his mother Rhea saved him from being devoured by his father Cronos. The goat's broken horn was transformed into the cornucopia or horn of plenty.[citation needed] Capricornus is also sometimes identified as Pan, the god with a goat's head, who saved himself from the monster Typhon by giving himself a fish's tail and diving into a river.[3]

The planet Neptune was discovered in Capricornus by German astronomer Johann Galle, near Deneb Algedi (δ Capricorni) on September 23, 1846, which is appropriate as Capricornus can be seen best from Europe at 4:00am in September.

Visualizations[edit]

Capricornus as a sea-goat from Urania's Mirror (1825).

Capricornus's brighter stars are found on a triangle whose vertices are α2 Capricorni (Giedi), δ Capricorni (Deneb Algiedi), and ω Capricorni. Ptolemy's method of connecting the stars of Capricornus has been influential.[8] Capricornus is usually drawn as a goat with the tail of a fish.[3]

Diagram of H.A. Rey's alternative way to connect the stars of the Capricornus constellation.

H. A. Rey has suggested an alternative visualization, which graphically shows a goat.[9] The goat's head is formed by the triangle of stars ι Cap, θ Cap, and ζ Cap. The goat's horn sticks out with stars γ Cap and δ Cap. Star δ Cap, at the tip of the horn, is of the third magnitude. The goat's tail consists of stars β Cap and α2 Cap: star β Cap being of the third magnitude. The goat's hind foot consists of stars ψ Cap and ω Cap. Both of these stars are of the fourth magnitude.

Equivalents[edit]

In Chinese astronomy, constellation Capricornus lies in The Black Tortoise of the North (北方玄武, Běi Fāng Xuán Wǔ).

The Nakh peoples called this constellation Roofing Towers (Chechen: Neģara Bjovnaš).

In the Society Islands, the figure of Capricornus was called Rua-o-Mere, "Cavern of parental yearnings".[10]

Astrology[edit]

Main article: Capricorn (astrology)

As of 2002, the Sun appears in the constellation Capricornus from January 19 to February 15. In tropical astrology, the Sun is considered to be in the sign Capricorn from December 22 to January 20, and in sidereal astrology, from January 15 to February 15.

Namesakes[edit]

The USS Capricornus (AKA-57/LKA-57), an Andromeda-class attack cargo ship, was named after the constellation.[11]

Citations[edit]

Citations
  1. ^ a b "Camelopardalis, constellation boundary". The Constellations (International Astronomical Union). Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  2. ^ "Capricornus, the Goat - Constellations - Digital Images of the Sky". Allthesky.com. Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Ridpath & Tirion 2001, pp. 102-103.
  4. ^ Wilkins & Dunn 2006
  5. ^ Mark R. Chartrand III (1983) Skyguide: A Field Guide for Amateur Astronomers, p. 126 (ISBN 0-307-13667-1).
  6. ^ Espak, Peeter (2006), Master's Thesis, p. 104 
  7. ^ Rogers,, John H. (1998). "Origins of the ancient contellations: I. The Mesopotamian traditions". Journal of the British Astronomical Association 108: 9–28. Bibcode:1998JBAA..108....9R. 
  8. ^ "Capricornus". Jebrown.us. Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  9. ^ Rey 1997
  10. ^ Makemson 1941, p. 251.
  11. ^ "Capricornus". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Dept. of the Navy-Navy Historical Center. Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
References
  • Makemson, Maud Worcester (1941). The Morning Star Rises: an account of Polynesian astronomy. Yale University Press. 
  • Rey, H. A. (1997), The Stars — A New Way To See Them, Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-24830-2 
  • Ridpath, Ian; Tirion, Wil (2001), Stars and Planets Guide, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-08913-2 
  • Ridpath, Ian; Tirion, Wil (2007), Stars and Planets Guide, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-13556-4 
  • Wilkins, Jamie; Dunn, Robert (2006), 300 Astronomical Objects: A Visual Reference to the Universe (1st ed.), Firefly Books, ISBN 978-1-55407-175-3 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: Sky map 21h 00m 00s, −20° 00′ 00″