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9 Constellations with 10 Famous Stars

9 Constellations with 10 Famous Stars

The northern hemisphere contains some of the brightest stars in the entire night sky, but do you know which constellations the brightest stars in the sky are associated with? Chances are you do, but for the benefit of readers who don’t, here is a brief rundown of the nine constellations in the northern sky that contain some of the brightest, and most famous stars in the sky for you to enjoy using telescopes or binoculars.

1. Canis Major, the Large Dog

Canis Major quick facts: Although Canis major is located in the southern hemisphere, it is visible from the UK between latitudes +60° and -90°, where it takes up an area of 380 square degrees, making it the 43rd largest constellation. Canis Major borders on the constellations Columba, Lepus, Monoceros, and Puppis.

Most famous star: Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris (Alp CMa)), the brightest star in Canis Major, and the most luminous in the entire sky. When the stars that make up the Sirius binary system started their lives between 200-, and 300 million years ago, both stars were blue, but the rapid evolution of the more massive component (Sirius B) has consumed its fuel and it is now a white dwarf, having shed its outer layers about 120 million years ago.

Sirius Key Facts:

  • Equinox J2000 equatorial coordinates: RA = 06h 45m 08.9s, Dec = -16° 42′ 58″
  • Apparent magnitude: -1.44
  • Absolute magnitude: 45
  • Spectral type: A1V
  • Surface temperature: 9 940°K
  • Luminosity: 25 times solar
  • Mass: 02 times solar
  • Diameter: 7 times solar
  • Distance: 6 light years

Other noteworthy objects in Canis Major: Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy, M41, an open star cluster, NGC 2359, an emission nebula known as “Thor’s Helmet, and NGC 2207 and IC 2163, a pair of colliding galaxies.

2. Carina, the Keel

Carina quick facts: Also in the southern hemisphere, but visible from the UK between latitudes +20° and -90°, where it takes up an area of 494 square degrees, making it the 34th biggest constellation. Carina borders on the constellations Centaurus, Chamaeleon, Musca, Pictor, Puppis, Vela, and Volans.

Most famous star: Canopus (Alpha Carinae (Alp Car)), the brightest star in Carina, and the 2nd most luminous in the entire sky. Canopus is the star with the highest intrinsic luminosity within 700 or so light years from earth, and if it were only 1 AU away, it would have an apparent visual magnitude of -37, as compared to the Sun’s apparent magnitude of “only” -27.5. The only reason Canopus is not the brightest star in the sky is because Sirius (which is much fainter), is much closer to us. Canopus is also a member of the Scorpius-Centaurus Association, a group of stars that have a common origin.

Canopus Key Facts:

  • Equinox J2000 equatorial coordinates: RA = 06h 23m 57.1s, Dec = -52° 41′ 45″
  • Apparent magnitude: -0.62
  • Absolute magnitude: -5.53
  • Spectral type: F0Ib
  • Surface temperature: 7 350°K
  • Luminosity: 13 600 times solar
  • Mass: 5 times solar
  • Diameter: 65 times solar
  • Distance: 313 light years

Other noteworthy objects in Carina: Carina Nebula that surrounds the massive star Eta Carinae, the Theta Carina Cluster also known as the “Southern Pleiades”, the Wishing Well Cluster, and NGC 3603, an open star cluster.

3. Bootes, the Herdsman

Bootes quick facts: Located in the northern hemisphere, between latitudes +90° and -50°, where it takes up an area of 907 square degrees, making it the 13th biggest constellation. Bootes borders on the constellations Canes Venatici, Coma Berenices, Corona Borealis, Draco, Hercules, Serpens Caput, Virgo, and Ursa Major.

Most famous star: Arcturus (Alpha Bootis (Alp Boo)), the brightest star in Bootes, and the 4th most luminous in the entire sky. Apart from its peculiar spectrum (hence its classification as a K2 IIIpe star), Arcturus is also notable for its very high proper motion of 122 km/sec, which will bring it a measurable fraction of a light year closer to the Sun when it reaches its point of closest approach to the Sun in about 4 000 years.

Arcturus Key Facts:

  • Equinox J2000 equatorial coordinates: RA = 14h 15m 39.7s / Dec = +19° 10′ 57″
  • Apparent magnitude: -0.05
  • Absolute magnitude: -0.31
  • Spectral type: K2IIIpe ( “pe” stands for “peculiar emission”, which in this case, is more peculiar than the already peculiar spectra of old, red giant stars)
  • Surface temperature: 4 300°K
  • Luminosity: 170 times solar (Total bolometric luminosity)
  • Mass: 1 times solar
  • Diameter: 26 times solar
  • Distance: 7 light years

Other noteworthy objects in Bootes: Bootes has no Messier objects, but it does have 10 stars that host 12 planets between them. The constellation is also the apparent point of origin of three meteor showers, the January Bootids, the June Bootids, and the Quadrantids.

4. Lyra, the Harp

Lyre quick facts: Located in the northern hemisphere, between latitudes +90° and -40°, where it takes up an area of 286 square degrees, making it the 52 biggest constellation. Lyra borders on the constellations Cygnus, Draco, Hercules, and Vulpecula.

Most famous star: Vega (Alpha Lyrae (Alp Lyr)), the brightest star in Lyra, and the 5th most luminous in the entire sky. With an estimated age of only 455 million years, Vega is about ten times younger than the Sun, but being slightly more than twice as massive as the Sun its life expectancy is estimated to be only 10% of that of the Sun. Vega is also noteworthy for the facts that is has an abnormally low abundance of heavy elements, and that it rotates fast enough for its rotation (274 km/s at its equator) to cause variations in its temperature and therefore, its luminosity.

Vega Key Facts:

  • Equinox J2000 equatorial coordinates: RA = 18h 36m 56.3s, Dec = +38° 47′ 01″
  • Apparent magnitude: 03
  • Absolute magnitude: 58
  • Spectral type: A0V
  • Surface temperature: 9 600°K
  • Luminosity: 37 times solar
  • Mass: 1 times solar
  • Diameter: 3 times solar
  • Distance: 3 light years

Other noteworthy objects in Lyra: M56 (NGC 6779) and M57, the famous Ring Nebula. Lyra also has 54 stars that share 94 planets between them. Three meteor showers are associated with Lyra- the Lyrids, (peaking on April 21/22), the June Lyrids, and the Alpha Lyrids.

5. Auriga, the Charioteer

Auriga quick facts: Located in the northern hemisphere, between latitudes +90° and -40°, where it takes up an area of 657 square degrees, making it the 21st biggest constellation. Auriga borders on the constellations Camelopardalis, Gemini, Lynx, Perseus, and Taurus.

Most famous star: Capella (Alpha Aurigae (Alp Aur)), the brightest star in Auriga, and the 6th most luminous in the entire sky. Capella is actually a multiple star system, consisting of four stars in two binary systems that orbit each other. The component stars in the more massive pair are both G-type stars thought to be about 10 times as massive as the Sun.

Capella Key Facts:

  • Equinox J2000 equatorial coordinates: RA = 05h 16m 41.4s / Dec = +45° 59′ 53″
  • Apparent magnitude: 08
  • Absolute magnitude: -0.48
  • Spectral type: G5III (Primary pair)
  • Surface temperature: 4 9000K / 5 7000K (Primary pair)
  • Luminosity: 78, and 79 times solar respectively for the primary pair
  • Mass: 7, and 2.6 times solar respectively for the primary pair
  • Diameter: 9, and 12 times respectively for the primary pair
  • Distance: 2 light years

Other noteworthy objects in Auriga: Auriga has two Messier objects- M36 (NGC1960), and M38 (NGC1912), as well as 7 stars with one planet each. Two meteor showers are associated with Auriga- the Alpha-, and Delta Aurigids.

6. Orion, the Hunter

Orion quick facts: Located on the equator, between latitudes +85° and -75°, where it takes up an area of 594 square degrees, making it the 26th biggest constellation. Orion borders on the constellations Eridanus, Gemini, Lepus, Monoceros, and Taurus.

Most famous star #1: Rigel (Beta Orionis (Bet Ori)), the brightest star in Orion, and the 7th most luminous in the entire sky. Rigel is also the brightest star in our immediate vicinity: it is so bright that if we could see it from a distance of 1AU, it would be 35 degrees in diameter, and so bright (magnitude -38) that its energy flux would be the same as that of a welding arc from just a few millimeters away. From this distance, Rigel would vaporize the earth and blow away its ashes with its powerful solar wind.

Rigel Key Facts:

  • Equinox J2000 equatorial coordinates: RA = 05h 14m 32.3s / Dec = -08° 12′ 06″.
  • Apparent magnitude: 18
  • Absolute magnitude: -6.69
  • Spectral type: B8Ia
  • Surface temperature: 11 000°K
  • Luminosity: 66 000 times solar
  • Mass: 17 times solar
  • Diameter: 78 times solar
  • Distance: 773 light years

Most famous star #2: Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis (Alp Ori)), the 2nd brightest star in Orion, and the 9th most luminous in the entire sky. Betelgeuse is so big that if it were placed in the Sun’s location, its enormous bulk would engulf the entire solar system past the asteroid belt, and quite possibly all the way to the orbit of Jupiter. However, due to the large uncertainty factor in the star’s diameter, it could conceivably engulf Jupiter and all of its moons as well.

Betelgeuse Key Facts:

  • Equinox J2000 equatorial coordinates: RA = 05h 55m 10.3s / Dec = +07° 24′ 25“.
  • Apparent magnitude: 45
  • Absolute magnitude: -5.14
  • Spectral type: B3V
  • Surface temperature: 3500°K
  • Luminosity: 140 000 times solar (Estimated)
  • Mass: 18 times solar (Estimated)
  • Diameter: 1 180 times solar (Estimated)
  • Distance: Distance estimates vary from 180 light years, to as much as 1 300 light years.

Other noteworthy objects in Orion: Orion contains several famous deep sky objects, among which are M42 (Orion Nebula), M43 (De Mairan’s Nebula), and M87 (NGC 2068), and 10 stars with 13 planets between them. Two meteor showers are associated with Orion- the Orionids that peak on October 21, and the Chi Orionids.

7. Canis Minor, the Little (Lesser) Dog

Canis Minor quick facts: Located in the northern hemisphere, between latitudes +90° and -75°, where it takes up an area of 183 square degrees, making the 71st biggest constellation. Canis Minor borders on the constellations Cancer, Gemini, Hydra, and Monoceros.

Most famous star: Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris (Alp CMi)), the brightest star in Canis Minor, and the 8th most luminous in the entire sky. Procyon is in fact a binary system in which the primary component, Procyon A, is a suspected subgiant that is expected to start evolving off of the main sequence in the next 10-, to 100 million years.

Procyon Key Facts:

  • Equinox J2000 equatorial coordinates: RA = 07h 39m 18.1s / Dec = +05° 13′ 30″.
  • Apparent magnitude:4
  • Absolute magnitude:68
  • Spectral type: F5IV
  • Surface temperature: 6 650°K
  • Luminosity: 9 times solar
  • Mass: 4 times solar
  • Diameter: 2 times solar
  • Distance:46 light years

Other noteworthy objects in Canis Minor: Canis Minor is not known for its deep sky objects. In fact, this tiny constellation has only one notable object- one star with one planet. One rather unspectacular meteor shower, the Canis-Minorids, is associated with the constellation.

8. Aquila, the Eagle

Aquila quick facts: Located in the northern hemisphere, close to the celestial equator between latitudes +90° and -75°, where it takes up an area of 652 square degrees, making it the 22nd biggest constellation. Aquila borders on the constellations Aquarius, Capricornus, Delphinus, Hercules, Ophiuchus, Sagitta, Sagittarius, Scutum, and Serpens Cauda.

Most famous star: Altair (Alpha Aquilae (Alp Aql)), the brightest star in Aquila, and the 12th most luminous in the entire sky. Along with Beta-, and Gamma Aquilae, Altair forms a famous lineup of stars known as the “Family of Aquila”, or sometimes the “Shaft of Aquila.” Altair is also one of the corners of the famous Summer Triangle; Deneb and Vega, two other famous stars, mark the other two vertices of the Triangle.

Altair Key Facts:

  • Equinox J2000 equatorial coordinates: RA = 19h 50m 47.0s / Dec = +08° 52′ 06″.
  • Apparent magnitude: 76
  • Absolute magnitude: 2
  • Spectral type: A7V
  • Surface temperature: 7 500°K
  • Luminosity: 6 solar
  • Mass: 79 solar
  • Diameter: 8 solar
  • Distance: 8 light years.

Other noteworthy objects in Aquila: NGC 6803, NGC 6804, and NGC 6781, all planetary nebulae, and the Phantom Streak Nebula (NGC 6741), as well as the open clusters NGC 6709 and NGC 6755, and B143-4, a dark nebula. Aquila also has 10 stars with 12 planets between them, and two meteor showers, the June-, and Epsilon Aquilids.

9. Taurus, the Bull

Taurus quick facts: Located in the northern hemisphere, between latitudes +90° and -65°, where it takes up an area of 797 square degrees, making it the 17th biggest constellation. Taurus is one of the oldest constellations, dating back to ancient Babylonian and Sumerian times. The Bull borders on the famous constellations Aries, Auriga, Cetus, Eridanus, Gemini, Orion, and Perseus.

Most famous star: Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri (Alp Tau)), the brightest star in Taurus, and the 14th most luminous in the entire sky.

Aldebaran Key Facts:

  • Equinox J2000 equatorial coordinates: RA = 04h 35m 55.2s / Dec = +16° 30′ 33″.
  • Apparent magnitude: 87
  • Absolute magnitude: -0.63
  • Spectral type: K5III
  • Surface temperature: 4 010°K
  • Luminosity: 425 times solar
  • Mass: 7 solar
  • Diameter: 2 solar
  • Distance: 65 light years

Other noteworthy objects in Taurus: Taurus is best known for the famous two star clusters it contains- M45, the hauntingly beautiful Pleiades, and the equally spectacular M1, the Crab Nebula. The bull also has 10 stars with 12 planets between them, and two meteor showers, the Taurids, and the Beta Taurids that peak in November and June/July respectively.