Getting to know Capricorn

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Welcome to winter and the season of Capricorn, our sky's very own sea-goat.

When your best friend says to you, "I'm totally a Capricorn," they are almost always referring to their "sun sign," or the sign in the zodiac where the sun was at the moment of their birth.

In astrology, the sun made its transit into Capricorn last week on the winter solstice (Dec. 21), also known as Yule. It marks the darkest time of the year before the sun begins its journey back to summer and longer, warmer days. In many ways, Capricorn sits on the edge - of seasons, energies and the calendar days of the new year.

Capricorn season will last until Jan. 19. Because of the Earth's wobble on its axis, (a cycle that takes over 10,000 years to come full circle), the astrological season of Capricorn no longer lines up with the position of the constellation Capricornus. The sun will move in front of Capricornus from the middle of January until the middle of February.

As far as astronomy is concerned, there are 88 modern constellations across the entire sky, and Capricornus is not the brightest or more interesting among them. Like Cancer, it's a dim constellation with no bright stars to speak of. And its shape is a humble triangle in the night sky's Sea of Water. Looking deeper into space, Capricornus has a little more going on: a study of 26 galaxy clusters in the constellation confirmed that the expansion of the universe really picked up about 6 billion years ago, according to Harvard's Chandra Observatory.

As with Sagittarius (half human, half horse), Capricorn is one of the hybrids of the Zodiac. As the sea-goat, Capricorn has the upper body of a goat and the bottom half of a fish.

Capricornus represents Aegipan, a satyr in Greek mythology, according to Edward Tripp's "Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology," (the hand-me-down reference sitting on my desk). One story says that Aegipan was trying to escape capture and transformed his body, so he could escape down the river.

In astrology, Capricorn is a cardinal sign, meaning it's at the start of the season, and thus the tradition of all those New Year's resolutions. As an earth sign, Capricorn has that signature grounded nature with the ability to steadily strive toward goals. Like the bighorn sheep of the Gorge and Sangre peaks, it can climb even the tallest ledge with enough effort.

Saturn, the planetary ruler of Capricorn, has only begun its transit through its home sign. The transit is a long one - about two and a half years. For those people born with Saturn in Capricorn, this is the start of their infamous "Saturn return," a period of learning our deepest and hardest lessons.

What's the best advice for a transit like that? Jump on, hold on and pay attention.

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