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CANES VENATICI

The Hunting Dogs

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Canes Venatici - Celestial Atlas by Alexander Jamieson - 1822

In the northern sky there is a small constellation that is too often overlooked. The stars that make up the constellation may be dim, but it contains some of the finest objects in the sky for viewing through a small telescope. The constellation is Canes Venatici, Latin for hunting dogs. They are the dogs of Bootes, the herdsman. The southern dog is named Chara, taken from the Greek word for joy. The northern dog is named Asterion, meaning little star, and is indeed made up of a smattering of little, dim stars. The dogs are found between Bootes and Ursa Major, straining at their leashes and nipping at the heels of the great bear.

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Canes Venatici - June 1, 10:00 PM - Latitude 60° North, Longitude 95° West




Stars of Canes Venatici

Cor Caroli (RA: 12h56m01.358s DE:+3819'06.99")

The brightest star in the constellation, Alpha Canum Venaticorum, is named Cor Caroli, the heart of Charles, memorializing the deposed British monarch King Charles I. It is a binary star system 110 light years away with a combined magnitude of 2.9. The two stars are estimated to be 63 billion miles apart, far enough to resolve through a small scope. Numbering from east to west the dimmer star is Alpha-1 Canum Venaticorum, an F0V yellow main sequence star, magnitude 5.6.

The primary star, Alpha-2 Canum Venaticorum, is an A0V blue/white main sequence star, much hotter and brighter with a magnitude that varies from 2.84 to 2.98. The star's variability is thought to be due to enormous "starspots" caused by its unusually powerful magnetic field, estimated to be 20 times more powerful than the Sun. This star has now become the prototype for a new class of super magnetic stars called Alpha CV Stars.

Chara (RA: 12h33m43.579s DE:+4121'31.44")

At a magnitude of 4.2, the second brightest star in Canes Venatici, Beta Canum Venaticorum, is named Chara, the name of the southern dog. It is a G0V yellow main sequence star, very similar to our Sun. That and the fact that it is only 27 light years away - virtually right next door - makes it a prime target in the search for extraterrestrial life.

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HD 110914 - La Superba (RA: 12h45m07.827s DE:+4526'25.12")

One more star of special note is named La Superba (HD 110914), for its glorious red colour. Its magnitude is not overly impressive at 4.8, but it stands out well because of its dazzling colour. Robert Burnham describes it as "... one of the reddest of all the naked eye stars, and shows a truly odd and vivid tint in large telescopes." It is a star nearing the end of its life, a C7I red supergiant, a special class of variable red supergiant known as a Carbon Star, with a magnitude that changes between 4.8 and 6.3. The star is very far away, at a distance of 1,052 light years. The reason we can see it at such a distance is because it is true behemoth, about 200 million miles in diameter, compared to our Sun's diameter of 1 million miles. It is also one of the coolest stars known with a surface temperature around 2,500 degrees K.

Planets of Canes Venatici

Two stars have been found to have gas giant planets, Hat-P-12, and Hat-P-36, but they are both extremely distant and well beyond naked eye visibilty. For more information on these and other extrasolar planets, visit NASA's New Worlds Atlas, and The Open Exoplanets Catalogue.



Deep Skies of Canes Venatici

M3 (RA: 13h42m 12.0s DE:+2823'00")

The first deep sky object to point your telescope at is M3 (NGC 5272), the third of over 100 mysterious nebulous objects catalogued by the famous Charles Messier in the 18th century. The only thing Messier knew about it at the time was that it was not a comet, because it didn't move. Now we know that M3 is a globular star cluster, over 100,000 light years away, one of about two hundred mini galaxies that surround the Milky Way. M3 is one of the biggest and brightest of these clusters, containing over 500,000 stars, making it a splendid sight in a small telescope. At magnitude 6.2, it is at the very edge of naked eye visibility.

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M3 - Globular Cluster - Robert J. Vanderbei

M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy (RA: 13h29m 54.0s DE:+4712'00")

The next object to look at is M51, the famous Whirlpool Galaxy. M51 is 35 million light years away with a magnitude of 8.4. The fact that it is tilted 90 degrees to our line of sight makes it one of the best galaxies to view in a small scope. M51 is interacting with the smaller galaxy NGC 5195 right beside it.

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M51 (NGC 5194, NGC 5195) - The Whirlpool Galaxy - Hubble Space Telescope - April, 2005

M63 - The Sunflower Galaxy (RA: 13h15m 48.0s DE:+4202'00")

M63 (NGC 5055), also known as the Sunflower Galaxy, is another relatively bright spiral galaxy with a magnitude of 8.6. It is 37 million light years away.

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M63 (NGC 5055) - The Sunflower Galaxy - Infrared - Spitzer Space Telescope - March 2011

M94 (RA: 12h50m 54.0s DE:+4107'00")

M94 (NGC 4736) is another nice, bright, face-on spiral galaxy to target with a backyard telescope. It has a magnitude of 8.2, and is 16 million light years away.

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M94 - Spiral Galaxy - R. Jay Gabany

M106 (RA: 12h19m00.0s DE:+4718'00")

M106 (NGC 4258) was captured in stunning detail by the Hubble Space Telescope below. The galaxy is 23 million light years away with a magnitude of 8.4.

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M106 (NGC 4258) - Hubble Space Telescope - February, 2013

NGC 4183 (RA: 12h13m 18.0s DE:+4342'00")

Moving out to 55 million light years and into the realm of larger telescopes, we find spiral galaxy NGC 4183 at magnitude 12.4. About 80,000 light years across, it is slightly smaller than our Milky Way.

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NGC 4183 - Spiral Galaxy - Hubble Space Telescope - September, 2012







Winter: Orion   Canis Major   Canis Minor   Monoceros   Lepus   Eridanus   Taurus   Auriga   Camelopardalis   Lynx   Gemini   Cancer  
Spring: Hydra   Sextans   Crater   Corvus   Leo   Leo Minor   Ursa Major   Ursa Minor   Canes Venatici   Coma Berenices   Virgo   Bootes  
Summer: Draco   Corona Borealis   Hercules   Ophiuchus   Serpens   Libra   Scorpius   Sagittarius   Scutum   Aquila   Sagitta   Vulpecula   Lyra   Cygnus  
Autumn: Andromeda   Perseus   Pegasus   Cassiopeia   Cepheus   Cetus   Lacerta   Delphinus   Equuleus   Capricornus   Aquarius   Pisces   Aries   Triangulum  
Southern Skies: Centaurus   Crux   Lupus   Corona Australis   Piscis Australis   Sculptor   Tucana   Fornax   Dorado   Columba   Puppis   Carina   Vela  

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