The sky looks beautiful in the night, isn’t it? A large number of stars, galaxies, planets, comets and constellations have contributed to its composed beauty to a great extent. Out of these, the constellations are an important and an ancient part of the Solar System. They are a group of stars that reflect these celestial bodies. One of the oldest documented constellations of the Zodiac is the Aquarius. There is a region in the sky which is considered as the sea because it contains various constellations with names which are synonymous to water. Aquarius is one such constellation. In Latin, Aquarius means ‘cup bearer’ or ‘water bearer’. It lies within this sea and since there are no specific bright stars in the constellation, it is not visible from the naked eye.

Which stars comprise the constellation?

Aquarius comprises of 18 stars. Some prominent ones are:

  • Sadalmelik–Aquarii (Alpha Aquarii): It is a G–type star and belongs to a Supergiant class of stars. It has a visual magnitude of about 2.950 and is about 3000 times more luminous. It is derived from the Arabic phrase sa’d al–malik meaning ‘luck of the king’. The star is about 800 light years distant from the earth.
  • Sadalsuud-Aquarii (Beta Acquarii):  It is the brightest star in Aquarius and belongs to Supergiants, a rare class of stars. With an apparent magnitude of about 2.91, it is approximately 610 light years distant from the earth. It derives its name from the Arabic term sa’d al–suud which means ‘luck of lucks’. Also sometimes, it is referred to as Lucida Fortunae Fortunarum meaning ‘the brightest luck of lucks’.
  • Sadachbia–Aquarii (Gamma Aquarii): It is a spectroscopic binary star and is derived from the Arabic phrase sa’d al–axbiyah meaning ‘luck of the homes’. Its magnitude is about 3.84 and it is about 158 light years distant from the earth.
  • Skat–Aquarii (Delta Aquarii): It derives its name from the Arabic term as–saq which means ‘leg or skin’. The third brightest star in Aquarius, it has an apparent magnitude of 3.269 and is approximately 160 light years distant.
  • R Aquarii: It is notably a symbiotic star and is usually believed to consist of a white dwarf and a red giant. It has a magnitude of about 7.69 and is about 600 light years distant from the earth. 
Who invented it and why?

Aquarius is an ancient constellation and was recognized by the Babylonians as a man pouring water from a jar. Following this thought, an astronomer named Ptolemy named this cluster of stars as Aquarius.

Does it have any deep objects or galaxy?

Aquarius contains three deep objects, they are:

  • Messier 2 (M2, NGC 7089): It is a globular cluster located about five degrees to the north of Sa’d al–suud and is about 13 billion years old. It contains 1, 50,000 stars and its diameter spans to around 175 light years. It is approximately 37,500 light years distant and has a magnitude of about 6.3.
  • Messier 72 (M72, NGC 6981):  It lies beyond the Galatic Centre and is about 106 light years in diameter. With an apparent magnitude of 9.3, it is considered as the young cluster.
  • Messier 73 (NGC 6994):  It is an asterism of four stars that appear close to each other in the night sky, but are really not connected.  It also consists of two Nebulae namely the Saturn Nebula and the Helix Nebula. It is located at 1.5 degrees to the east of M72 and the cluster is approximately 2,500 light years distant from the earth. 
What is its position in the galaxy?

Aquarius is located in the fourth quadrant of the Southern hemisphere. It can be seen at latitudes between +65° and -90°.

What is its distance from the earth?

Aquarius lies about 619 square miles from the earth.  However, the fact that the central star of the water jar of this constellation is only 103 square miles away from the earth makes Aquarius the closest constellation to the earth. 

How much space does it occupy in the sky?

Aquarius occupies over 980 square degrees of space making it the 10th largest constellation in the sky. 

Which family does it belong to?

Aquarius belongs to the family of the Zodiacs and is the 11th sign in this family, representing those born between January 20th and February 18th

When can one see the constellation in the night sky?

Aquarius is one of the most difficult constellations to be seen as it does not contain any bright stars.  If you wish to see it, you need to look in the north late evening and search for a “Y”–shaped group of stars that represent the jar. 

What are the myths associated to Aquarius?

Aquarius is associated to Ganymede, a good–looking young man who was the cup bearer to the Gods.  It is said that Ganymede was brought to Mount Olympus by Zeus, the king of the Gods as he was his “object of affection” because he fell in love with him. Zeus took the form of an eagle and flew Ganymede to Mount Olympus as a cup bearer. Zeus granted Ganymede eternal youth. 

Which constellations border Aquarius?

Constellations such as Aquila, Capricornus, Cetus, Delphinus, Equuleus, Pegasus, Pisces, Piscis Austrinus and Sculptor border Aquarius.

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