Star Names:

Centaurus


Map of The Constellation of Centaurus
Please hover over any star to get more information
Centaurus is a constellation in the southern hemisphere, first listed by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century. It has traditionally been identified with a centaur, half man, half horse. In Greek mythology, the constellation is identified with Chiron, the centaur who mentored Heracles, Jason, and Theseus among other Greek heroes and was said to have been the first to identify the constellations. Another myth identifies Centaurus with Pholus, the wise centaur who accidentally wounded himself with one of Heracles' poisoned arrows and died. The constellation Centaurus is quite bright and also one of the largest constellations in the sky.

Centaurus occupies an area of 1060 square degrees and contains eight stars with known planets. It can be seen at latitudes between +25° and -90° and is best visible at 9 p.m. during the month of May.

The most notable feature in the constellation is [2040] alpha Centauri, a triple star system composed of a binary star, alpha Centauri AB, and a red dwarf, Proxima Centauri. Alpha Centauri is also known as Rigil Kentaurus ("foot of the Centaur"), Rigil Kent or Toliman. It is believed to be the closest star system to our own solar system, lying only 4.37 light-years away from the Sun. Proxima Centauri, or alpha Centauri C, is the closest star to our Sun.

Another magnitude 1 star, [2041] beta Centauri, also known as Agena ("knee") and Hadar ("ground"), can be found in the constellation. It is a blue-white giant approximately 525 light-years distant from Earth. Hadar is really a triple star and also the tenth brightest star in the sky.

[2043] theta Centauri or Menkent ("shoulder of the Centaur") is the third brightest star in Centaurus. It is an orange giant with a magnitude of 2.06 approximately 61 light-.years distant from Earth.

Another notable star is BPM 37093, a variable white dwarf nicknamed Lucy, after the song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." The star’s carbon atoms are believed to have formed a crystalline lattice, similar to that of a diamond, which is how it got its nickname.

There are several interesting deep sky objects in the Centaurus constellation. Omega Centauri or NGC 5139 is a well-known globular star cluster. Orbiting the Milky Way, it is the brightest and largest star cluster in the sky associated with our galaxy. It contains several million Population II stars, oldest stars to be observed. The stars in the center of the cluster appear so close to each other than the distance between them is believed to be only 0.1 light-years. Omega Centauri is one of the closest clusters to Earth. Ptolemy originally catalogued it as a star. In the 17th century, Edmond Halley listed it as a nebula. It was the English astronomer John William Herschel who first called it a globular cluster in the 1830s. Kapteyn’s Star in the constellation Pictor, a red dwarf 13 light-years distant, is believed to have originated in the Omega Centauri cluster.

Centaurus A or NGC 5128 is a lenticular galaxy (intermediate between an elliptical and spiral galaxy), with very little star formation occurring in it. Most of the stars in Centaurus A are evolved red stars. However, the dusty disk surrounding the galaxy has been identified as a site of more recent star formation. Centaurus A is the fifth brightest galaxy in the sky, but only visible from the southern hemisphere and low northern latitudes. Approximately 14 light-years distant, it is one of the closest radio galaxies (active galaxies that are very luminous at radio wavelengths) to Earth. It is believed that a supermassive black hole at the centre of Centaurus A is responsible for emissions in the X-ray and radio wavelengths. The galaxy is currently going through a collision with another galaxy, which it is swallowing.

Blue Planetary or NGC 3918 is a bright blue planetary nebula discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1834. It lies 2.5° northwest of [3023] delta Crucis. In a telescope, it appears as a small blue disk not unlike that of Neptune. It is also known as "The Southerner."

The Centaurus constellation belongs to the Hercules family of constellations, along with Hercules, Sagitta, Aquila, Lyra, Cygnus, Vulpecula, Hydra, Sextans, Crater, Corvus, Ophiuchus, Serpens, Scutum, Lupus, Corona Australis, Ara, Triangulum Australe and Crux.

Constellations directly bordering Centaurus are Antlia, Carina, Circinus, Crux, Hydra, Libra, Lupus, Musca and Vela.




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