Become a fan of h2g2
Camelopardalis | Cancer | Canes Venatici | Canis Major | Canis Minor | Capricornus | Carina | Cassiopeia | Centaurus
Cepheus | Cetus | Chamæleon | Circinus | Columba | Coma Berenices | Corona Australis | Corona Borealis | Corvus
Crater | Crux | Cygnus | Delphinus | Dorado | Draco | Equuleus | Eridanus | Fornax | Gemini | Grus | Hercules | Horologium
Hydra | Hydrus | Indus | Lacerta | Leo | Leo Minor | Lepus | Libra | Lupus | Lynx | Lyra | Mensa | Microscopium | Monoceros
Musca | Norma | Octans | Ophiuchus | Orion | Pavo | Pegasus | Perseus | Phoenix | Pictor | Pisces | Piscis Austrinus
Puppis | Pyxis | Reticulum | Sagitta | Sagittarius | Scorpius | Sculptor | Scutum | Serpens | Sextans | Taurus
Telescopium | Triangulum | Triangulum Australe | Tucana | Ursa Major | Ursa Minor | Vela | Virgo | Volans | Vulpecula
As it was in the days of Noah,
When men ignored the signs
It's that way again my friend;
Don't pay it any mind!
O Capricornus, thou with curly tail-
Can you see behind the veil?
- an h2g2 Researcher
|Name:||Capricornus (Latin: 'sea goat')|
|Area:||414 sq deg|
|Co-ordinates1:||Right Ascension 21h, Declination −20°|
In the autumn sky, to the upper right of Piscis Austrinus, between the constellations Aquarius and Sagittarius, stands Capricornus the Sea Goat - a male deity that was turned into a hybrid creature. Star names suggest that this goat was associated with one used as a sacrificial offering at the start of winter. Two thousand years ago, the sun was in this constellation during the winter solstice, so the southernmost point at which the sun can be directly overhead at noon is known as the Tropic of Capricorn2.
Neptune and Neptune Returns
In the mid-1800s, men like Jean-Baptiste Joseph Delambre (1749 - 1822) speculated about the position of an unknown planet causing slight deviations in the orbit of Uranus. Mathematicians John Couch Adams (1819 - 1892), and Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier (1811 - 1877) calculated where it should be. Le Verrier gave his calculations to a German astronomer, Johann Galle (1812 - 1910), and in September of 1846, Galle found the planet a short distance from Mu Capricorni, just to the left of where Le Verrier had predicted. One hundred and sixty-two years later, the 'new' planet, Neptune, is once again in the tail of Capricornus, not far from where it was first seen.
While Capricornus literally means 'male goat' or 'mountain goat', the constellation is usually depicted as a 'sea goat', with the upper body of a horned goat and the lower body of a fish. There are various explanations for this image and its connection with the asterism. Capricornus is associated with an area of the sky called the 'Sea', in which many of the more aquatic constellations, such as Aquarius and Pisces, can be found.
Greek myth suggests that Pan, a minor god, was on the banks of the Nile when the monster Typhon suddenly appeared. When Pan jumped into the water to hide, his lower half became a fish. The part of his body above the waterline became a horned goat - though his usual figure was that of a man above the waist and a goat below. This so amused Zeus, the king of the gods, that he created the constellation Capricornus to remember the event.
Another version states that Pan helped Zeus in his battle against the Titans by finding the Conchas, large shells that were the 'horns of the sea', whose trumpet-like noise caused the Titans to run away in fear. Zeus honoured him by placing Capricornus in the heavens, an image meant to represent both horns and water.
Aegipan or Goat-Pan is another Greek god who may or may not be identical with Pan in his fish-tailed goat form - or might be his father. Together with Hermes, the messenger of the gods, he helped Zeus fight Typhon by retrieving Zeus' stolen sinews through use of a plan involving a broken lyre, a prince, and a flock of sheep. Zeus recognised his efforts by placing an image of Aegipan in the heavens.
The constellation Capricornus also represented the Augaean Stables, accumulating all the sin and uncleanliness accumulated during the year which were to be 'washed out' at the solstice - perhaps by Aquarius pouring out his river, reflecting one of the Twelve Labours of Hercules.
To the ancient Sumerians and Babylonians, Capricornus was associated with the god Enki or Ea, who brought civilisation from the sea and was symbolised by a goat and a fish, later combined to make the 'sea goat'.
About 400 years ago, Johann Bayer (1572 – 1625) first started putting Greek letters to the brighter stars. Below, you will find Bayer designations, the lowercase Greek letters associated with the stars. Following Bayer's system, the brightest star would be designated as alpha, but here, delta is brightest - this may be due to inaccurate measurements, or to variations in the stars' light intensity.
|Name||Catalogue No||Brightness (m)||Distance
|δ Cap||delta||Deneb Algiedi||HR 8322||+2.87||39||Mainly A53|
|β Cap||beta||Dahib||HR 7776||+3.08||328||A5|
|α2 Cap||alpha2||Secunda Geidi||HR 7754||+3.57||109||G3|
|α1 Cap||alpha1||Prima Geidi||HR 7747||+4.24||663||G8|
|γ Cap||gamma||Nashira||HR 8278||+3.68||139||F2|
|θ Cap||theta||Dorsum||HR 8075||+4.19||156||F0|
|ε Cap||epsilon||Castra||HR 8260||+4.68||663||B5|
|ν Cap||nu||Al Shat||HR 7773||+4.76||272||F0|
|ρ Cap||rho||Bos||HR 7822||+4.78||99||F1|
|μ Cap||mu||mu Cap||HR 8351||+5.08||90||F1|
|π Cap||pi||Oculus||HR 7814||+5.25||665||B8|
Charles Messier (1730 – 1817) wrote the Messier Tables, a first attempt at cataloguing astronomical objects, which contained a total of 110 entries. The New General Catalogue, compiled by John Louis Emil Dreyer (1852 - 1926), was first published by the Royal Astronomical Society in the late 19th Century. It was expanded to include two Index Catalogues. This list of star clusters, nebulae and galaxies was revised again in 1973, and is continually updated by the NGC/IC Project. Below is a list of the deep space objects within Capricornus with their Messier (M), New General Catalogue (NGC) and Index Catalogue (IC) designations.
|Catalogue No||Type||Brightness (m)||Distance|
Long Ago and Far Away
Since light does not reach us instantly, just travels very fast, scientists using tools like the Chandra telescope look far back into the past of the universe. One galactic cluster labelled MS2173.3-2353 is being observed with light that has travelled 3.5×109 years to reach us. Using such information, workers on the Einstein Medium Sensitivity Survey are making new estimates of the total mass and energy (including dark energy) of the cosmos, and their effect on the expansion of the Universe.
Two planetary systems have been found in this constellation. The first, 151 light years from Earth, orbits the star HD 202206. The innermost planet, HD 202206 b, circles at a distance of 0.83 AU7 and has a mass 17.4 times that of Jupiter which leads to the suspicion that it is not a planet at all but rather a brown dwarf8 star. The outermost, HD 202206 c, circles at a distance of 2.4 AU and has a mass of 2.44 times that of Jupiter. Neither planet is remotely Earth-like, so the chance of extraterrestrial life there is considered slim. The other star with an attendant is yellow dwarf HD 204313; its planet HD 204313 b, a gas giant, takes over five years to orbit the star, and it was detected in August 2009.
Meteor showers are caused by very small objects (often just specks of dust) which burn up from friction with the air in the upper reaches of the Earth's atmosphere. They usually result from the trails of comets that have crossed the Earth's orbit, leaving debris behind them. Several of them cross Earth's orbit in the constellation Capricornus, and are thus associated with the constellation.
|Alpha Capricornids||3 July - 15 August||1 August|
|Chi Capricornids||29 January - 28 February||13 February|
|Sigma Capricornids||18 June - 30 July||(23 June) 10 July|
|Tau Capricornids||2 June - 29 July||12 July|
|October Capricornids||20 September - 14 October||3 October|
|Capricornids-Sagittariids||13 January - 28 February||2 February|