Starwatch: Jupiter and Saturn form a guard of honour for ancient Aquarius

The venerable constellation, first recorded by the Babylonians, will be framed by the two planets in the southern sky

Aquarius, the water bearer, is one of the fainter zodiacal constellations – the constellations bisected by the plane of our solar system, and as such the ones through which the planets, the moon and the sun all move. Aquarius sits between Capricornus and Pisces and is best seen from the northern hemisphere in the autumn.

This week, Aquarius is framed by Jupiter and Saturn. The two planets straddle the constellation and can be used to find the right patch of sky. The chart shows the view looking south from London at 6pm GMT on Monday 21 November. Those with a good southern horizon may also be able to catch sight of the relatively bright star Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish. The placement of this constellation is no accident. In classical Greek depictions, Aquarius is seen upending a jar of water that spills out into a river in which the southern fish is swimming. But Aquarius dates back further than that, to Babylonian star lore of around 1000BC, when it was associated with the water god Ea.

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