Auriga And The Kids

Jan 30, 2020

 

 

Auriga carrying the goat and kids as depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards illustrated by Sidney Hall, London c. 1825.
Credit Sidney Hall


Back in November, I reported on the rising in the east of the constellation Auriga, a prominent winter constellation that can be seen in the evenings in the Northern Hemisphere. Auriga is a hexagon shaped constellation located just above the easy to spot constellation Orion.  

 

 

The earliest mention of Auriga comes from ancient Mesopotamia and Babylonia where the constellation represented a goat herd or a shepherd. Bedouin astronomers carried on this tradition. They saw the constellation as a herd of goats. This tradition lasted even through the Greeks who saw the constellation as a charioteer.   

 

Besides it’s hexagon shape, Auriga can be identified by its brightest star, Capella. Capella is the sixth brightest star in the night sky.  

 

Its name refers to its mythological position as Amalthea, the mythical she-goat of Greek mythology.  It’s Arabic name also translates to “the goat.” 

 

Once you find Capella, look nearby for a small triangle of stars called “the kids.” Auriga is often shown a carrying a goat and its kids.   

 

On the next clear night in January and February look almost due south to see Auriga and the kids. When you find this constellation, you are looking at an asterism that people have been describing for thousands of years.