Canis Major Lives A Sirius Dog's Life

Canis Major is a bright constellation south of the ecliptic near the celestial border.

Known as the place to find the night's brightest star, Sirius, the constellation is called the “great dog”.

Sirius is thus known as the “dog star”.

Easily located in the night sky close to the Orion constellation, Canis contains five stars of 3rd magnitude or brighter.

The “lesser dog” Canis Minor with its bright star Procyon is nearby.

Along with Orion's Betelgeuse, Sirius and Procyon form the Winter Triangle asterism(known as the Summer Triangle in the southern hemisphere).

Sirius and Procyon are also part of the Winter Circle, sometimes called the Winter Hexagon.

The Winter Circle is found by following the base of the Winter Triangle...

Follow from Sirius>Procyon>Pollux>Capella>Aldebaran>Rigel.

canis major
canis major outline

Hunting With The Big Dog

Right Ascension: 7 hours

Declination: -20 degrees

Visible between latitudes +60 and -90 degrees

Best seen in February at 9:00 PM local time

Named Stars: Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris) Mirzam (Beta Canis Majoris)

Wezen (Delta Canis Majoris) Adhara (Epsilon Canis Majoris) Aludra (Eta Canis Majoris)

Sirius is a bright variable star of magnitude -1.44. The brightest star in the night sky. Close to Earth about 8.5 light-years away Sirius is a double star.

The companion star, known as Sirius B is of magnitude 8.4.

Adhara is actually the second brightest star in the constellation at an apparent magnitude of 1.5. This blue-white giant is the 23rd brightest star in the night sky.

Mirzam is a bluish variable star of the 2nd magnitude about 500 light-years from Earth.

Wezen is a white super-giant with a magnitude of 1.8. The Delta star is about 1800 light-years away from us.

Aludra is another blue super-giant 3200 light-years away with a magnitude of 2.4.

Mu CMajoris is a yellow giant with a magnitude of 5.0. This is a double star with a blue-white companion of 7th magnitude. Mu CMajoris is 900 light-years away.

Nu CMajoris is also a yellow giant 280 light-years away with a magnitude of 5.7. Right on the edge of naked-eye visibility.

Deep-Sky

Don't go hunting for deep-sky objects with this dog.

M41 an open cluster with an apparent magnitude of 4.5 is naked-eye visible. With binoculars or a telescope some of the stars within become visible as well. There are orange giants to see some reach a magnitude of 7.0.

Open cluster NGC2362 is a compact cluster of stars about 5200 light-years from Earth. It contains a magnitude 4.4 blue giant.

The Duck Nebula, NGC2359, is a bright nebula of 10th magnitude.

Look Up In The Sky...

No it's not Superman but it is a giant red sun.

VY Canis Majoris is a hyper-giant red star about 3900 light-years from Earth with an apparent magnitude of 7.5.

It is a variable star and the magnitude ranges from about 6.5 to 10.

One of the largest stars in the galaxy. Stars of this size are rare and the galaxy only contains about 10 of this type. This star is very big and very bright for its kind.

Estimates are that if you placed this star in our Solar System in place of the Sun it would reach beyond Jupiter's orbit. Some believe it would actually go beyond the orbit of Saturn.

Mythology

The mythology of is varied and simple...

a Greek myth has the god Zeus giving the dog Laelaps as a gift to Europa.

There is a Roman variation that has the dog guarding Europa but not succeeding in preventing Jupiter(Zeus) from abducting her. Jupiter was able to abduct Europa by assuming the form of a bull and perhaps this leads to its use as a hunting dog with Orion as he fights the bull Taurus.

Sharing borders with Monoceros to the north Puppis runs east and southeast Columba is southwest and Lepus is west.

Orion is prominent nearby to the northwest and Canis Minor is just above Monoceros in the north.

› Canis Major
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