About a week ago, the world enjoyed one of the closest Full Moons of the year. Traversing the constellation Capricornus in early April, the Moon will sweep by brilliant gas giants — Saturn and Jupiter. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the brilliant astronomical trio gracing the predawn sky.
The trio of the Moon, Saturn, and Jupiter
On April 6, 2021, at 04:30 a.m. EDT (08:30 GMT), the conjunction of the 24-days-old Moon and Saturn will occur: our natural satellite will pass 3°57′ to the south of the ringed planet. The Moon and Saturn will shine among the stars of the constellation Capricornus at magnitudes of -11.3 and 0.5, respectively.
The next day, the other gas giant, Jupiter, will join the brilliant duo: the conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter will take place on April 7 at 03:18 a.m. EDT (07:18) GMT. At the moment of their conjunction, the distance between the waning crescent Moon and the Solar System’s largest planet will be 4°23′.
Although we mention the exact time of the conjunctions, it doesn’t mean that you can see the grouping of the celestial bodies in question at these moments only. Early risers can enjoy the beautiful gathering of the Moon, Saturn, and Jupiter on the mornings of April 5–8.
The Moon is the easiest celestial body to find in the skydome; you’ll see the gas giants shining in the vicinity of our natural satellite these days. To identify the bright planets in the sky above you, use the stargazing guide Star Walk 2: simply put “Jupiter” or “Saturn” in the search field, tap on the corresponding search result and the app will show you the exact position of the sky object.
The constellation Capricornus
The Moon will leave the constellation Capricornus and start its journey through Aquarius in a few days. However, Jupiter will remain in Capricornus until the end of the month: it will move into the constellation Aquarius on April 25. The ringed planet Saturn will shine in front of Capricornus for the rest of the year.
Capricornus is the smallest member constellation of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for “horned goat”; Capricornus is commonly represented as a mythical creature that is half goat, half fish — the Sea-goat. Although the constellation is rather faint, it has one of the oldest mythological associations: the Babylonians used the Sea-goat as a symbol of Ea, the god of water, knowledge, and creation. In Greek mythology, Capricornus was associated with Pan, the god of the wild with a goat’s horns and legs, who turned into fish and dove into a river to save himself from the monster Typhon.
Capricornus’s stars are rather faint: its brightest star Delta (δ) Capricorni or Deneb Algedi (Arabic for “the tail of the goat”) has a magnitude of 2.9. The other prominent stars in the constellation range in magnitude from 3.1 to 5.1.
Algedi or Alpha (α) Capricorni is an optical double star. Despite being only the third brightest star in the constellation Capricornus, Algedi is still the Alpha star. The reason behind this might be the westernmost position of the star within the classical figure of the Sea-goat. Its both components, Prima Giedi and Secunda Giedi, shine at magnitudes of 3.6 and 4.3, respectively, and are likely multiple stars. The traditional names of Alpha Capricorni and its components derive from the Arabic word meaning “the kid”.
Dabih or Beta (β) Capricorni is a yellow giant star with a magnitude of 3.1. In fact, it’s a star system, which is thought to include 5 components. As the star lies near the ecliptic, it can be occulted by the Moon and even by the planets. The traditional name of the star, “Dabih”, derives from the Arabic word for “the butcher”.
Another prominent star of the constellation is Nashira or Gamma (γ) Capricorni. Its traditional name means “the lucky one”. Nashira is a white-hued giant star shining at a magnitude of 3.7.
The Star Walk 2 app will help you to locate the constellation Capricornus and its brilliant stars in the sky above you. These days you can try to spot Deneb Algedi and Nashira sitting close to Jupiter, while Algedi (designated Prima Giedi and Secunda Giedi in the app) and Dabih will be located in the vicinity of Saturn.
Wishing you clear skies and happy stargazing!