Canis Major - Downloadable article
This small constellation packs a pleasing blend of Milky Way treasures and distant galaxies.
March 3, 2009
|This downloadable article is from an Astronomy magazine 45-article series called "Celestial Portraits." The collection highlights all 88 constellations in the sky and explains how to observe each constellation's deep-sky targets. The articles feature star charts, stunning pictures, and constellation mythology. We've put together 11 digital packages. Each one contains four Celestial Portraits articles for you to purchase and download.|
"Canis Major" is one of four articles included in Celestial Portraits Package 7.
Ask most people to describe a perfect winter's evening and you'll hear tales of warm houses and cozy fireplaces. But deep-sky observers are a breed apart. To them, winter evenings conjure thoughts of crystal-clear nights spent gazing at the brilliant star patterns of the winter Milky Way. At this time of year, the familiar constellation Orion dominates the view to the south. If you draw a line through Orion's belt stars and extend it to the southeast, your gaze will ultimately land on the brightest star in the sky — Sirius — the focal point of the constellation Canis Major the Big Dog.
Despite its small size, Canis Major contains 30 stars shining at magnitude 5.0 or brighter. Sirius proves an anomaly among these generally distant stars: At a distance of just 8.6 lightyears, it ranks as the seventh closest star to the sun. That's why it appears so bright in our sky. In the grand scheme of things, the Dog Star turns out to be relatively modest, shining with the light of 22 suns. Contrast that with the luminaries that comprise the rest of the dog. Most lie several hundred light-years away and radiate hundreds or thousands of times more light than the sun. To read the complete article, purchase and download Celestial Portraits Package 7.
|Deep-sky objects in Canis Major|
NGC 2207, NGC 2217, NGC 2243, NGC 2280, Sirius, M41 (NGC 2287), IC 2177, W Canis Majoris, NGC 2345, Sharpless 2-301, NGC 2354, ADS 5951, NGC 2360, NGC 2359, NGC 2362