Star Names:

Canes Venatici


Map of The Constellation of Canes Venatici
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Canes Venatici is a constellation in the northern hemisphere, formed by Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius in the 17th century. In Latin, Canes Venatici means "hunting dogs." In mythology, the constellation is usually identified with the dogs Asterion and Chara, held on a leash by Bootes as he hunts for the bears (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor).

Before Hevelius created Canes Venatici as a constellation in its own right, the stars that belong to it were treated as part of the constellation Bootes, with some of the stars taken to represent Bootes' cudgel (club). The association with Bootes' dogs was a result of a mistranslation. The Greek word for cudgel in Ptolemy's original text, Almagest, was translated to Arabic to mean "the spearshaft having a hook." When it was later translated to Latin, the translator mistook the word "al-kullab" for "kilab," and the "spearshaft having a hook" became "spearshaft having dogs." Hevelius eventually named the dogs Asterion ("little star") and Chara ("joy") and defined their presence in the sky.

The Canes Venatici constellation occupies an area of 465 square degrees and does not contain any stars with known planets. It can be seen at latitudes between +90° and -40° and is best visible at 9 p.m. during the month of May.

The brightest star in Canes Venatici is [1321] Cor Caroli, alpha Canum Venaticorum. It is a binary star with a magnitude of 2.81, approximately 110 light-years distant. The brighter of the two components, alpha-2 Canum Venaticorum, has a magnetic field about 5,000 times as strong as the Earth's and shows an overabundance of certain elements, such as mercury, silicon and europium. The star was given its name, originally Cor Caroli Regis Martyris, by Sir Charles Scarborough, English mathematician and physician to Charles II. He named the star in memory of King Charles I, 17th century monarch who was deposed and executed for treason. "Cor Caroli" means "Charles' heart."

Other sources suggest that the star was named by Edmund Halley after Charles II after the restoration of the monarchy. Cor Caroli is part of the Great Diamond asterism, together with [4807] Denebola in Leo, [8774] Spica in Virgo and [876] Arcturus in Bootes. A number of stars and galaxies can be observed within the asterism, some of them even with amateur telescopes.

The second brightest star is [1322] beta Canum Venaticorum, also known as Chara, a G-type main sequence dwarf very similar to our Sun. Together with Cor Caroli, the star forms the "southern dog." The name Chara originally referred to the "southern dog," but later began to refer to beta Canum Venaticorum specifically. Astrobiologists singled it out as one of the most interesting stars in the sky and, in 2006, astronomer Margaret Turnbull called it the top candidate to search for extraterrestrial life.

Another interesting star in Canes Venatici is [1330] La Superba (Y Canum Venaticorum), a semi-regular variable star best known for its striking red appearance. It is one of the brightest of the giant red carbon stars and the brightest J-star in the sky. (J-stars are a category of carbon stars with huge amounts of carbon-13.) With its temperature estimated at 2800 K, it is one of the coldest stars known. It is surrounded by a shell of ejected material 2.5 light-years wide. La Superba was named by Italian astronomer Angelo Secchi in the 19th century.

Two other notable stars in the constellation are AM Canum Venaticorum and [1324] 20 Canum venaticorum. The first one is a very blue magnitude 14 star, classified as a cataclysmic variable star, which means that its brightness increases irregularly by a large factor and then drops down again. The second one is a yellow-white F-type giant about 286 light-years distant from Earth, classified as a Delta Scuti type variable star.

Canes Venaticorum is notable for its deep sky objects. These include globular cluster M3 or NGC 5272, a large cluster that is one of the brightest of its class, lying near the border with Bootes and Coma Berenices, M51 or the Whirlpool Nebula, which is in fact a pair of spiral galaxies, the much larger NGC 5194 and its companion galaxy NGC 5195, the spiral galaxy M63 or the Sunflower Galaxy, a very bright, elongated galaxy with a very condensed centre, lying between M51 and [1321] Cor Caroli, M94 or the SAB galaxy, a spiral galaxy seen head-on and appearing comet-like, and finally M106, another bright spiral galaxy near [1322] beta Canum Venaticorum.

Canes Venatici belongs to the Ursa Major family of constellations, along with Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Bootes, Coma Berenices, Corona Borealis, Camelopardalis, Leo Minor and Lynx.

Constellations directly bordering Canes Venatici are Ursa Major, Bootes and Coma Berenices.

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