Starlit Sky: 7. Canis Minor

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continued from Starlit Sky: 6. Sirius, the brightest


 

We saw the Canis Major or the Greater Dog last week.

Now you wouldn’t call a constellation “Greater Dog” unless there was another dog out there, would you? You would simply call it “Dog”!

So yes, there is another constellation that looks like a small dog. It is very near the Canis Major too. It is called Canis Minor. Today we will look at that constellation in detail.

In our imagination, the hunter (Orion) hunts the bull (Taurus) with two dogs in tow, the Canis Major and Canis Minor.

Lets now find it, shall we?

You know where to find Sirius in the sky. Now proceed northwards from it, you will reach another bright star that is near the Betelgeuse star from the Orion constellation.

canis_minorcanis_minor2

Canis Minor is one of the smallest constellations there are. It has 2 brightly visible stars, Procyon and Gomeisa. The cluster of stars near Gomeisa are visible through binoculars. Joining these two stars, we imagine a shape of a small dog and these two form its belly and chest respectively.

Procyon:

Procyon shines with apparent brightness of 0.37 making it the 8th brightest in the night sky. It looks like a single star to the naked eye but is a binary star like Sirius. The main star is Procyon A and its white dwarf binary star is Procyon B. Procyon B has a apparent brightness of 10.7. It is more difficult to spot Procyon B because of the difference in the apparent magnitudes of the two stars.

Gomeisa:

This one is easily visible by naked eye. It has an apparent brightness of 2.89. Gomeisa is about 3.5 times the size of our Sun!

Now lets do something fun.

Look at the three constellations that we have been studying, the Orion, Canis Major and Canis Minor.

Quick quiz: Identify the brightest stars of each of these constellations.

That’s right!

Betelgeuse of Orion, Sirius of Canis Major and Procyon of Canis Minor.

Draw an imaginary lines joining all three. You will get an equilateral (all sides equal) triangle in the sky. This triangle is called the Winter triangle.

winter triangle

This is seen high up in the night sky for most of the winter in the northern hemisphere. In the southern  hemisphere, it is appears upside down and on the lower side during their summer months. It is one of the most beautiful sights to see the three most bright objects in the sky to form a triangle in the sky.


to be continued……………………..

 

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