Aquarius is known as the eleventh constellation in the zodiac. When speaking of Aquarius, many jump to the image of the “water carrier”, the image for which the Aquarius constellation represents. This “water carrier” image dates all the way back to ancient Greek mythology and the story of Ganymede. The story of Ganymede is a difficult one, as it may appear strange to the ideals of today. However, in ancient Greek mythology, anything goes.

The story of Ganymede is as follows: Ganymede was a young boy who caught the eye of the powerful god Zeus, who lusted after the young boy. Zeus being…well, Zeus, transformed himself into an eagle and abducted the boy by grabbing him with his talons and carrying him off to be his slave/lover atop Mount Olympus. Romance at its finest. How does this translate to the Aquarius image of a water carrier, you might ask? Well, in his servitude, Ganymede’s role sure enough became that of a servant who would carry drinks around for Zeus, as a servant does.

One day, Ganymede, external image Aquarius.jpg?1380790342seeing the terrible situation he is in, decides enough is enough. He decides to pour out all of the water and wine that he carries in a final act of rebellion against his oppressor. Legend has it that the waters then fell from the heavens, flooding the earth below. However, instead of punishing Ganymede, Zeus (for once) saw the err in his ways, and decided to let this one slide. Thus, Ganymede is immortalized as the “water carrier” that is portrayed in the constellation of Aquarius ("The Aquarius Myth - The Story Behind the Constellation Aquarius.").

In a separate ancient civilization, astronomers from Babylonian culture identified Aquarius as "The Great One" or Ea. Similar to the image of the Greek's water-bearer, Ea is often portrayed with an overflowing cup, of sorts. The image of an overflowing vessel is repeated throughout cultures – the Chinese explained that the stream coming from the cup were soldiers, whereas the Egyptians would blame the overflowing vessel for the flooding of the Nile River.
Aquarius is a prominent constellation in ancient cultures, arguably because of its size. It is a massive constellation; it is the 10th largest in the sky. Although a very large constellation, Aquarius has few stars that are notably bright or easily visible with a naked eye. There are, however, a wide array of interesting objects that make up the constellation of Aquarius. The brightest star in Aquarius is not a common one; it is a yellow supergiant known as “beta Aquarii” or Sadalsuud which translates from an Arabic phrase meaning “luck of lucks” or eventually “brightest luck of lucks”. Sadalsuud is odd in other ways as it is actually part of a multiple star system, another rarity. The way in which astronomers can identify this star as a supergiant is due to its luminosity and distance away, causing its mass to be about 6 times that of the Sun (Zimmerman, 2013). Stars of this magnitude typically become supergiants. Also among the constellation of Aquarius are many planetary nebulae, one of which is the brightest known planetary nebulae in the sky. This planetary nebula is NGC 7009 and was discovered by British astronomer William Herschel. This nebula is occasionally referred to as the Saturn Nebula due to a ring around it, causing it to resemble Saturn. Aside from one of the brightest planetary nebulae, Aquarius also contains the closest planetary nebula to the Earth – NGC 7293, also called the Helix Nebula, which is a mere 400 light-years away (Zimmerman, 2013). Another notable fact of Aquarius is that seven of the stars that compose of the constellation are known to have planets. Other deep space objects found amid Aquarius are various globular clusters, some of which are Messier Objects (objects first observed and catalogued by French astronomer Charles Messier). One such cluster M2, located just 5 degrees north of Sadalsuud ("Aquarius Constellation"). This cluster is believed to be roughly 13 billion years old. M2 is widely considered one of the largest known globular clusters, spanning over 175 light-years across. Like many of the Messier Objects, it was first catalogued as a nebula but was eventually identified as a globular cluster years later by William Herschel. Truthfully, there are dozens and dozens of interesting objects found in the constellation of Aquarius – from nebulae to moving galaxies to supergiants, Aquarius is a vast and diverse portion of the sky that has been observed by civilizations for thousands of years.