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Aries Constellation: Facts About the Ram

Aries the Ram is a mid-size constellation, ranking 39th in size among the 88 modern-day constellations. While it is a respectable size at 441 square degrees, it is not very luminous and has only three stars that could be called "bright."

Aires doesn't represent the ram to every culture. The Chinese see the constellation as twin inspectors, and it's a porpoise in the Marshall Islands.

Aries is an ancient constellation but it was not officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union until 1922 and its boundaries were not defined until 1930 when they were outlined by astronomer Eugène Delporte.

Aries constellation
Aries is a mid-size constellation in the Northern Hemisphere.
Credit: Till Credner, allthesky.com

Locating Aries

Aries is located in the Northern Hemisphere between Pisces to its west and Taurus to its east.

  • Right Ascension: 3 hours
  • Declination: 20 degrees
  • Visible between latitudes 90 degrees and minus 60 degrees
  • Best viewed in December at 9 p.m.

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Notable stars

Aries contains several stars with known planets. Alpha Arietis has an orbiting planet with a mass greater than Jupiter. HIP 14810 is orbited by three giant planets more than 10 times the mass of Earth. HD 12661 has two planets that are larger than Jupiter. HD 20367 has one planet about the same mass as Jupiter.

Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Arietis, the constellation's three brightest stars, were identified by astronomer Johann Bayer. The brightest star is Alpha Arietis, an orange giant (66 light-years from Earth), also called Hamal, which is the Arabic word for "lamb" or "head of the ram." The star Beta Arietis, also known as Sheratan, is a blue-white star (59 light-years away). Gamma Arietis, with a common name of Mesartim, is a binary star with two white-hued components. The primary star has a magnitude of 4.59; the secondary star 4.68.

The constellation has few significant nebulae or galaxies, but the galaxies consist of several scientifically interesting spiral, elliptical and interacting galaxies.

Mythology

In Greek mythology, Aries represents the ram whose fleece was sought by Jason and the Argonauts. When King Athamus of Boetia took a second wife, Ino, she was resentful of his existing children, especially his son, Phrixus, and she wanted him sacrificed. Zeus responded to the pleadings of Phrixus' mother, Nephele, by sending a golden ram to save Phrixus and his sister Helle. Helle did not survive but Phrixus did and sacrificed the ram to Zeus and gave its golden fleece to King Aettes. The fleece was eventually stolen by Jason.

In astrology, which is not a science, Aries is the first sign of the Zodiac, marking the beginning of the astrological year and representing those born between March 21 and April 19. It is a sun sign and traits of those born under the sign include leadership and assertiveness.

— Kim Ann Zimmermann

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