Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
The water bearer, the southern fish and the flying horse.

In last month’s featured constellations, we talked about Sagittarius, Capricorn, and Delfino.

In our September issue, we talk about Pegasus the flying horse (elk or baseball diamond), Aquarius the water bearer, and Pisces Austrinus the southern fish.

September constellation diagram.

The flying horse (elk or baseball diamond)

As we move into autumn, we see a very large and prominent constellation officially known as Pegasus, the flying horse.

To the Anishinaabe people, this region was known as the elk. Moose are incredibly strong animals, well adapted to their environment and highly appreciated.

Diagram of the Pegasus constellation.

Our heavenly moose is well displayed, even including the noticeable fur under his chin. Faint stars mark the front of the antlers, and other stars mark the body and legs.

Having a moose in this section of the sky fits our aquatic theme (along with the water bearer and the fish). To learn more about Anishinaabe sky stories, one can consult books such as Ojibwe Sky Star Map by Annette Sharon Lee and William Peter Wilson.

Diagram of the baseball diamond constellation.

Pegasus can also be seen as a baseball diamond. In this case, we have two stars for the pitcher and ball, two stars for the batter and bat, and one star for the catcher. Another three stars mark the bases.

During an astronomy night at one of our provincial parks, visitors were delighted to see a home run hit from this baseball diamond. A meteor shot out of the “home base” star just as the presenter finished describing the constellation.

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The classic form of Pegasus is that of a flying horse. This is one of the few constellations that actually looks like a horse, even if that horse is upside down.

While this horse does not have wings, the ancient Greeks associated it with Pegasus, the flying horse that was born from the body of Medusa.

Diagram of the constellation of Elks.

Interestingly, in keeping with this month’s water theme, “pegai“In Greek it can mean “the waters.” It is said that the horse made water gush after hitting the ground with its hoof.

Above and to the right of the horse’s snout, we find a globular star cluster: M15. This is perhaps one of the best groups found in autumn skies.

the water bearer

The next constellation on our tour of the night sky this month is Aquarius, the water bearer. This is one of those constellations that is really difficult to see if a person is carrying water.

Diagram of the Aquarius constellation.

Aquarius represents the young Ganymede, who was assigned to provide the “nectar of the gods” to the Olympians. Off his left shoulder is the globular star cluster M2.

the southern fish

The last of our September constellations is Piscis Austrinus, or the southern fish.

In this case, the constellation does not show two fish, as in the much more popular Pisces. Instead, he is a solitary fish, which may be the father of the two Pisces fish.

Diagram of the southern fish constellation.

What gives Pisces Austrinus some distinction is the star Fomalhaut, the brightest of the autumn stars. Fomalhaut is a star that is 25 light years away from us and is somewhat more powerful than our sun. Fomalhaut has several disks of debris left over from its formation.

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In 2008, an image taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope of the Fomalhaut System provided the first view of an extrasolar planet, that is, a planet beyond our solar system (see image below).

Diagram of the Fomalhaut system showing an extrasolar planet.

Do you want to know more about what to look for in our night skies? Check out our “Eyes in the Sky” series!