Aquarius the Water Bearer

The constellation Aquarius is well placed this month and is at its highest point in the sky at about 11 p.m. locally. This is a fairly large constellation with almost 1,000 square degrees in size thus making it 10th in overall size. The brightest star (alpha) is named Sadamelik. It is a Sun-like G2 star located 523 light-years away with a magnitude of 2.95; it rivals the next brightest star named Sadalsuud (beta) in brightness and is about the same distance. It is believed these two suns, as well as the star Enif located in the constellation Pegasus, were formed together like the Pleiades cluster but in a looser association.

Chart 1

Chart 2

Another challenge is the globular cluster NGC 7492. It is an extremely distance target to which older large telescopes resolved it as a magnitude 11.5 comet and not a cluster. There are numerous galaxies within the borders of Aquarius. The brightest and easiest galaxy to locate is NGC 7606. At a distance of 108 million light-years, this galaxy is listed as magnitude 10.8 and can be found less than a degree north of the arc of three stars catalogued as Psi 1, 2 and 3. NGC 7492 is very elongated and possesses tight spiral arms. The planet Uranus is still in Aquarius and will be until May 2022. It then ventures into Pisces for a short period until it retrogrades back to Aquarius.

Chart 3

eNews date: 
Saturday, October 1, 2016