Constellations of Spring Help (page 2)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Sep 15, 2011


Just to the right of Gemini is the constellation Auriga . It has the shape of an irregular pentagon (Fig. 2-12) as you face west-northwest and look upward about 30 degrees from the horizon. Auriga contains the bright star Capella . In ancient mythology, this constellation represented the king of Athens driving a four-horse chariot. Presumably, Capella is the king, and the four lesser stars are the horses.

Stars and Constellations Constellations Of Spring Auriga

Figure 2-12. Auriga, the charioteer.


Turn around and look toward the east-northeast, just above the horizon. You will see a complex of stars, none of them bright, forming a trapezoid with limbs (Fig. 2-13). This is the constellation Hercules , representing a man of legendary strength and endurance. In the sky, he faces Draco, the dragon. These two cosmic beings are engaged in a battle that has been going on for millennia and will continue to rage for ages to come. Who will win? No one knows, but eventually, as the stars in our galaxy wander off in various directions, both these old warriors will fade away. Hercules contains one of the most well-known star clusters in the heavens, known as M13 (this is a catalog number).

Stars and Constellations Constellations Of Spring Hercules

Figure 2-13. Hercules, the warrior, is in a long, cosmic battle with Draco.

Corona Borealis

Looking slightly higher in the sky, just behind Hercules, you will see a group of several stars that form a backward C or horseshoe shape. These stars form the constellation Corona Borealis , the northern crown (Fig. 2-14). This is the head ornament that was worn by Ariadne, a princess of Crete. According to the legends, the Greek god Dionysis threw the crown up into the sky to immortalize the memory of Ariadne.

Stars and Constellations Constellations Of Spring Corona Borealis

Figure 2-14. Corona Borealis, the crown worn by Ariadne, princess of Crete.


Just above the northern crown you will see a bright star at an elevation of about 45 degrees, directly east or a little south of east. This is Arcturus . If you use your imagination, you might see that this star forms the point where a fish joins its tail; the fish appears to be swimming horizontally (Fig. 2-15). This constellation, Bootes , does not represent a fish but a herdsman. His job, in legend, is to drive Ursa Major, the great bear, forever around the north pole.

Stars and Constellations Constellations Of Spring Bootes

Figure 2-15. Bootes, the herdsman, and his hunting dogs, Canes Venatici.

Canes Venatici

Between Bootes and Ursa Major there is a group of three rather dim stars (shown in Fig. 2-15 along with their master). These are Bootes’ hunting dogs, Canes Venatici , who snap at the heels of Ursa Major and keep the big bear moving. One might argue that according to myth, our planet owes its rotation, at least in part, to a couple of cosmic hounds.

Stars and Constellations Constellations Of Spring Bootes

Figure 2-15. Bootes, the herdsman, and his hunting dogs, Canes Venatici.

Corvus, Crater, And Hydra

A large portion of the spring evening sky is occupied by three constellations consisting of relatively dim stars. These are Corvus , also known as the crow, Crater , also called the cup, and Hydra , the sea serpent or water snake (Fig. 2-16). It is not too hard to imagine how Hydra got its name, and one might with some effort strain to imagine Crater as a cup. But Corvus is a fine example of a constellation that looks nothing like the mythological creature or object it represents.

Stars and Constellations Constellations Of Spring Corvus, Crater, And Hydra

Figure 2-16. Corvus, the crow; Crater, the cup; and Hydra, the sea serpent.

Practice problems of this concept can be found at: Stars and Constellations Practice Problems

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