The Sagittarius Constellation :Arrows and Teapots
Why does the Sagittarius constellation include a bow and arrow? What did his neighbouring scorpion do to deserve this attack? Everything you ever wanted to know about the Sagittarius star constellation can be found here.
From teapots to signals of alien life, the Sagittarius constellation is nothing short of interesting.
The Mythology of the Sagittarius Star Constellation
Like most constellations, they have mythological figures attached to them from different periods and peoples. Greek mythology connects Sagittarius with a half-horse-half-human creature called a centaur. It has four horse legs but a man’s torso. Don’t make the common mistake of connecting Chiron the centaur with Sagittarius. Chiron is in fact represented by another constellation, Centaurus. The agglomeration of different animals is extended in Babylonian mythology where the constellation is said to depict Nergal. This god was like a centaur, but also had wings, a second panther head and a scorpion’s stinger. We wouldn’t like to get on his bad side!
Other mythologies that refer to Sagittarius include Sumerian mythology. It has been associated with a mythical creature named Crotus. This creature had a horse-like tail and two feet. He was the nurse to some of Zeus’s daughters, and it was suggested that because he was a good nurse to these daughters, they pleaded with Zeus to give him his own constellation.
The Sagittarius Constellation with the Naked Eye
No constellation looks exactly like the detailed images sometimes connected with them. We are asked to use our imagination just like ancient peoples did. The image you are supposed to get from the Sagittarius constellation is a centaur pulling back a bow and arrow. This arrow is aimed at a neighbouring constellation, Scorpio. Thus, the centaur is attacking the scorpion next to him. The reason for this attack has been debated. Some say that the centaur is getting revenge for Orion who the scorpion attacked in mythological stories. Others suggest that the centaur is just protecting Hercules.
The bright stars of Sagittarius create a common image known among most of the public who have been stargazing before. This is called an asterism. Sagittarius’s bright stars create a shape that looks like a teapot. If you have seen the teapot in the sky before, you were actually looking at Sagittarius!
What Is the Brightest Star in Sagittarius?
Epsilon Sagittarii is the brightest star within the Sagittarius star constellation. It is also one of the brightest stars we can see from Earth. Specifically, it is the 36th brightest star and has a luminosity 375 times more than our Sun. Other interesting trivia about Epsilon Sagittarii includes:
- Its name means southern bow in Arabic, relating to its symbolism and its position in the sky
- It combines with two other stars to create the bow image
- It has an apparent magnitude of 1.79
Where Is the Sagittarius Star Constellation?
Sagittarius lies in the Southern Hemisphere’s fourth quadrant covering 867 square degrees. Its size makes it the 15th biggest constellation in the sky. You can see the Sagittarius star constellation between +55 and -90 degrees.
It is one of the zodiac constellations, meaning the Sun and Moon enter its boundaries while orbiting along their paths. As mentioned, the centaur of Sagittarius is aiming his bow at the neighbouring Scorpius constellation, but other nearby constellations include Capricornus, Aquila, Scutum, Indus, Microscopium and the controversial Ophiuchus constellation.
How to Find the Sagittarius Constellation from the UK?
If you want to see Sagittarius in the sky from the UK, it is a good idea to look for the so-called teapot shape. This teapot is made up of Sagittarius’s brightest stars so will be the easiest part of the constellation to see. Because it is also located near the Milky Way, newcomers to stargazing have a better chance of finding Sagittarius compared to much fainter constellations.
The time of the year you should be looking for Sagittarius is in the month of August. Hopefully, the weather will still be good in August for you to make a camping trip out of your Sagittarius search. If you need help planning a stargazing trip, consider one of these top UK stargazing locations.
How Far Away Is the Sagittarius Constellation?
Constellations include many major stars and galaxies. It would be kind of spooky if all of these stars and deep objects within a constellation were the same distance from Earth, but they are not. Every star is a different distance away, meaning there is no single answer to the distance from us to the Sagittarius constellation.
To illustrate this best, take Sigma Sagittarii and Zeta Sagittarii for example, two of the constellation’s most interesting stars. The former star is 228 light years away from us, but the latter star is ‘just’ 89 light years from here. They may look like they are a similar distance away, but in reality, they are light years apart. Moreover, three of the Sagittarius constellation’s stars are within 32.6 light years of Earth, also known as 10 parsecs.
Sagittarius Star Constellation Extras!
Want to know more about the teapot and other cool Sagittarius constellation facts? Read on to impress your stargazing friends:
- Earlier you learned about Sagittarius’s teapot. Just above the teapot is the most dense section of the Milky Way, making the teapot look as though it is blowing steam from its spout.
- Ohio State University was searching for alien life and received a signal from space in 1997. This is now known as the WOW signal. The cause of the signal has yet to be identified but it did come from the direction of the Sagittarius constellation. Could there be life somewhere in Sagittarius?
- The density of the Milky Way is higher near the Sagittarius constellation. This is why Sagittarius includes lots of nebulae and star clusters.
Stars aren’t just fun to look for, they are also great to name. You can do just that at Star Name Registry by registering a name to a star. Want to know more? Read our FAQ page to learn how naming a star works!