Our "next-door" neighbors reside in the Centaurus constellation. The closest star to our own sun is Proxima Centauri.
Proxima and our next closest neighbor Rigel Kentaurus form the triple star system Alpha Centauri. Mostly anyone who follows science fiction will have heard of Alpha Centauri. Combined they form the fourth brightest "star" in the sky. Although Arcturus is brighter than Rigel Kentaurus.
Alpha Centauri is a bright binary star system with the faint red dwarf star Proxima bound to them by gravity.
Beta Centauri known as Hadar is also a bright star in the southern sky. It is a first magnitude star.
Together, to viewers in the south, Alpha and Beta Centauri are known as the pointers.
These two stars point to Crux commonly known as “The Southern Cross”. Use these pointers to make sure you are viewing Crux and not the “False Cross” asterism.
Unfortunately living as far north as I do I've never seen Centaurus but for those of you living farther south and in the southern hemisphere, go out and meet the neighbors.
A close up of the"pointers". Alpha and Beta Centauri with the companion Proxima.
Open cluster NGC5617 is noted at center.
Right Ascension: 13 hours
Declination: -50 degrees
Visible between latitudes +30 and -90 degrees
Best seen in May at 9:00 PM local time
named stars: Rigel Kentaurus (Alpha 1 Centauri) Hadar(Beta Centauri) Menkent (Theta Centauri)
The beauty of this centaur is in the many viewable objects for the backyard stargazer.
NGC5139 is the brightest globular cluster, and the largest, in the Milky way.
Small telescopes will show stars and larger scopes will show even more.
Planetary nebula NGC3918 has a small blue-green disk similar in color to Neptune.
Open star clusters: NGC5460, NGC3766, NGC5316, NGC5617.
Elliptical galaxy NGC4945
NGC5128 contains the radio source Centaurus A.
Gamma Centauri is a binary star system with stars of 3.1 and 3.2 magnitude.
A telescope with an aperture of 300mm(12in) is needed to split the pair and resolve into separate stars.
Kappa Centauri is a pair of blue-white stars with a wide separation and can be split and resolved in smaller scopes.
These stars are fainter than a lot of Centaurus constellation stars at only five and six magnitude.
Centaurus is a large constellation bordered by Hydra to the north
Antlia, Vela and Carina in the west.
The southern border finds Musca and Crux. Circinus, visible in the above pictures, is southeast, and east is Lupus and the Libra constellation.
The above pictures are centered on to two brightest stars, but the Centaurus constellation is quite large. It actually envelopes Crux.
The mythology of Centaurus is debatable. Centaurs are half man half horse beings. They are regarded as wild and uncouth.
One exception was Chiron. He was well cultured and intelligent.
As tutor to Jason and his Argonauts and Hercules, Chiron was placed in the sky as a constellation.
However some believe that the Sagittarius constellation represents Chiron. If this is true then Centaurus represents another centaur.
Pholus was also a centaur of higher breeding and culture. Hercules was visiting Pholus in his cave when the battle with the centaurs occurred. Both Chiron and Pholus died from this battle.
Chiron was immortal and couldn't be killed, but asked for death when the pain from the poisoned arrow became to much to stand.
Pholus was killed accidentally when after the battle he cut himself while handling a poisoned arrow. Always of curious mind, he was wondering how such a small weapon could fell a mighty centaur.
The arrows were coated with the poisonous blood of the Hydra which Hercules killed during one of “The 12 Labors”.