Capricornus

Mythology

Capricornus the sea goat is in the area of sky that the ancients called the Sea. It has changed very little over the ages. The figure has the head of a goat and the tail of a fish. Capricornus is also a zodiac constellation and was called th "Southern Gate of the Sun." The Tropic of Capricorn, the line of latitude at 23.5° S marks the point farthest south where the Sun is directly overhead at noon. I also marked winter and the point, after which the Sun begins to climb higher in the sky in the northern hemisphere. Apparently the Greeks associated climbing high with goats, and thus Capricornus the goat found it's place in the sky. The fish tail on the goat represented the rains of winter. In Grecian mythology, Capricornus was also considered to be the "Gateway of the Gods" and through it the souls of men passed after death.

For the Observer

The Stars of Summer

Alpha Capricornus ( 20h 15m.3 -12° 42') is an optical double and both have yet another companion. The two brighter stars have magnitudes of 4 and 3.5. The fainter companions are both around magnitude 9.

Beta Capricornus, Dabih (20h 18m .2 -14° 56') is a beautiful pair with magnitudes of 3 and 6. The color contrast of the stars, one is orange and one blue is what makes them such a striking pair and a favorite in small telescopes.

M30 (NGC 7099) (21h 37m.5 -23° 25') is a globular cluster 40,000 light years distant. M30 has a diameter of about 75 light years and a visual magnitude of 8.1. In a small telescope the cluster is a bright fuzzy object, in larger scopes many stars are resolved.

M72 (NGC 6981) (20h 50m.7 -12° 44') Is a globular cluster , actually part of Aquarius, but easier to find starhopping from Capricornus. This cluster is 60,000 light years distant and has a diameter of 35 light years. It is quite dim at 10th magnitude. The cluster is rather loose, an 8 inch scope reveals hundreds of stars.


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Kathy Miles, Author, and Chuck Peters, Systems Administrator
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