9 Equatorial Constellations Every Amateur Astronomer Should Know

Equatorial constellations are among the most well-known types of constellations.

They’re essentially groups of constellations that intersect the celestial equator.

You can view these constellations from most locations on Earth for at least part of the year.

However, equatorial constellations aren’t circumpolar, which means they rise and set daily.

In this article, we’ll explore nine equatorial constellations that you can spot from the night sky. So, be sure to stick around!

9 Equatorial Constellations Every Amateur Astronomer Should Know

1.  Aquarius

One of the most well-known equilateral constellations is Aquarius.

The constellation is the tenth biggest constellation and encompasses several other water-related constellations, including Pisces and Eridanus.

If you look closely, you can see that it resembles a man who is pouring water from a jug.

Later, the imagery was expanded to include the Pisces constellation, which is located next to Aquarius, because it appears that the man is pouring water into the mouth of a fish.

Because there are no bright stars in Aquarius, it can be challenging to see with your bare eyes. 

However, due to its vastness, Aquarius is a visible constellation in the sky.

The best time to observe it is during fall and spring in the Northern or Southern Hemispheres.

2.  Aquila

Aquila, the mid-sized constellation, is located in the Northern Hemisphere and ranks 22nd in the night sky.

The star system represents the eagle that carried Zeus’ lightning bolts.

Altair, the 12th brightest star in the sky, is one of Aquila’s most recognizable objects.

Aquila also contains Gamma Aquilae, which is an orange-colored luminous giant.

When dust or debris from asteroids enter the atmosphere quickly, it can cause meteor showers. Aquila is no stranger to such a phenomenon.

In fact, two different meteor showers can occur within the constellation: the June Aquilids and the Epsilon Aquilids.

This constellation is noticeable in the Northern Hemisphere from July through October.

You can locate it at latitudes of 90 to -75 degrees.

3.  Canis Minor

Canis Minor is considered to be a small constellation that takes the shape of a dog.

It symbolizes one of the hounds that follows Orion, the hunter from Greek mythology.

The constellation has many well-known stars.

Procyon, one of the brightest stars in the night sky, is one of the stars in Canis Minor.

Additionally, one of the closest stars to Earth, Luyten’s Star, is also part of this constellation.

Because Canis Minor is a small constellation, it might be tricky to spot.

You can spot it at night in the middle of February.

From then on, it can be seen after sunset and just before daybreak.

4.  Cetus

Cetus is the fourth largest constellation that we know of, with a total area of 1,231 square degrees in the sky.

The constellation represents the sea monster that Poseidon sent after Cassiopeia’s kingdom in the Greek tale of the princess Andromeda.

The ancient Greeks believed that this constellation looked like Cetus, so they named it after the sea monster.

The constellation Cetus is in the area of the sky known as the Sea.

It’s close to the constellations of Aquarius and Pisces.

In the fall and winter, Cetus is best seen rising slightly above the Eastern Hemisphere.

Since it’s a large constellation, you won’t be able to miss it.

5.  Eridanus

The Eridanus constellation lies in the Southern Hemisphere.

It symbolizes the celestial river that flows from Cursa, which is close to Rigel in Orion.

It’s frequently depicted as a river flowing from Aquarius’s waters all the way down to Achernar in the very southern sky.

There are a number of popular stars in the constellation of Eridanus.

The ninth-brightest star in the sky, Achernar, is among them.

It also features Cursa, a white giant that represents Orion’s footstool.

In the months around November, you can observe the constellation on the southern horizon.

6.  Hydra

The Hydra constellation is the largest constellation on record, covering 1303 square degrees of the southern sky.

It’s usually associated with the Lernaean Hydra from the Twelve Labors of Hercules myth in Greek mythology.

The constellation is also associated with Hydra, the water snake that Apollo turned into a constellation to keep the crow, Corvus, from drinking from the cup, Crater.

This recurring association with Hydras from different myths is what led ancient Greeks to name the constellation after the creature.

Despite its vastness, the constellation Hydra is dim, with only one star that’s brighter than a third magnitude.

However, if you look for the constellation from the Southern Hemisphere in April during spring, at 9 p.m., you should be able to spot it.

On the other hand, between January and May, you should be able to see it in the north.

Look south of the constellation Cancer for the head of the Hydra.

As for the Hydra’s tail, it’s between Centaurus and Libra.

7.  Leo

The Leo constellation is one of the first recognized constellations, as it dates back to ancient history.

It belongs to the Zodiac constellations and is the 12th largest constellation in terms of size.

The constellation symbolizes the Nemean Lion, which Hercules slain to stop it from terrorizing the people.

Around March, the constellation becomes visible in the Northern Hemisphere.

You should be able to see it clearly from March through May.

Just in case, you can look for other constellations to help you locate it, as it’s between Cancer to the west and Virgo to the east.

8.  Monoceros

Due to its relative faintness, the Monoceros constellation is frequently overshadowed by nearby constellations, like Orion and Canis Major.

It resembles a unicorn, a creature that the ancient Greeks were unfamiliar with at the time.

Based on findings made by Dutch navigators in the 17th century, it was first named by Petrus Plancius.

Its purpose was to close a vast space between the constellations of Orion and Hydra.

Then, in his 1624 star chart, German astronomer Jakob Bartsch gave it the name Unicornu.

Eventually, it was named Monoceros, which translates to “unicorn” in Greek.

You can see Monoceros in the evening sky directly east of Orion in the months around December.

9.  Ophiuchus

Ophiuchus is a large equatorial constellation.

It contains Barnard’s Star, which is around six light-years away and is the second-closest star to Earth.

It also includes the red dwarf star, which is difficult to locate with the human eye due to its brightness of 9.5.

Rasalhague has a brightness magnitude of 2.08, which makes it the most luminous star in the constellation.

What’s more, the star has gravity darkening due to its shape and velocity.

This occurs as the quick spin and geometrical shape of the star cause the poles to shine brighter than the equator.

The constellation is on the northwest of the Milky Way’s center.

It’s located opposite Orion and close to the constellations Serpens, Aquila, and Hercules.

If you look at the constellation, you may find that it resembles a person holding a snake.

That’s the shape you should look for around 9 p.m. in July.

Wrap Up

Equatorial constellations are unique in that they can be seen from anywhere on Earth. They aren’t, however, obscure constellations with numbers for names.

Many equatorial constellations are quite popular, such as Leo, Aquila, and Hydra.

What’s more interesting is that these constellations all have intriguing mythologies and allegories attached to them, which sets them apart from other constellations.

Even though some are dim, you can still see a few of these constellations with the naked eye.

Whichever constellation you’ll see, make sure to enjoy the breathtaking view!

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equatorial constellations

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