Jeopardy! category: ZODIAC CONSTELLATIONS (12-3-2015)
$1200 clue: His water jug is pouring a stream of about 30 faint stars toward the brighter star Fomalhaut
The gist: It’s a good thing he’s there, or the nearby Fish, Whale, River, Sea Horse, and more watery figures would be left high and dry. Aquarius the water-carrier (January 20-February 18) can be found in “the Sea,” a region of the sky notable for having lots of aquatic constellations around. It’s traditionally depicted as a man pouring water out of jug. To the Babylonians, he was no less than the god Ea or Enki, one of that pantheon’s creator gods as well as a god of intelligence and, naturally, water. Not always benevolent, he was capable of great destruction when he caused the floods that punctuated life in Mesopotamia at the time. Similarly, the Egyptians saw the flooding of the Nile as the emptying of Aquarius’ jar into the river. In Greece, it may have been associated with Ganymede (who became, 1500 years later, one of Jupiter’s moons), the beautiful young Trojan boy stolen away from his father by Zeus to become his heavenly cupbearer.
Although none of its stars are particularly striking to Earth-bound eyes (with the exception of Fomalhaut, mentioned in the clue, which is the sky’s 18th brightest), recent research into exoplanets has found twelve planetary systems around stars in the constellation, including Gliese 876, the first star besides the Sun found to have at least one planet – to date, four have been found. 91 Aquarii has a so-called “hot Jupiter,” a large gas giant (almost three times the mass of Jupiter) orbiting its star in an orbit smaller than that of Mercury, its year lasting 182 Earth days. Gliese 849, on the other hand, has a much colder gas giant with a year of 1852 Earth days, the first long-period Jupiter-like planet exoplanet discovered. (By the way, Jupiter’s year is 4332 Earth days long, or just under twelve Earth years.)
Many people will also know of Aquarius from its flakier associations, particularly the New Age concept of the Age of Aquarius as featured in the hippie musical Hair‘s opening number “Aquarius,” released by The Fifth Dimension as the medley single “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In,” which hit number one on the charts in 1969. If you read Wednesday’s post, however, you’ll know that our current age, Pisces (as defined by the constellation in which the sun rises on the equinox), will end just before the end of the 26th century. Claude, Sheila, Berger, and their counter-culture buddies were just 628 years early.
The clue: Water jug: that’s all the clue’s giving to anyone but dedicated stargazers who can identify Fomalhaut by name. Still, that ought to be more than enough. A straight iconography clue like this one, especially when it mentions water and the constellation’s name has “aqua” right in it, is almost certainly easier than the $800 clue about equinoxes. And this one got a correct response, unlike that one.
In Jeopardy!: One of the more popular constellations, the water-bearer is in 56 regular clues and one FJ! clue in the J!Archive. 18 of them mention water, and several more mention his jug or jar or pitcher or what-have-you. Its eponymous Age comes in at 20 clues, including both astrological and theatrical references, and Hair gets seven, plus the FJ!. And as with all the Zodiac signs, there are plenty of questions about people born under them.