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Man must rise above the Earth, to the top of the atmosphere and beyond, for only then will he fully understand the world in which he lives.
Socrates, 469 - 399 BC

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LYNX

The Cat

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Lynx - Celestial Atlas by Alexander Jamieson - 1822

Lynx is a moderately sized constellation that does not, at first glance, look very much like a lynx. Upon further study however, a lynx does emerge from the darkness. It all started back in the seventeenth century, when famed astronomer Johannes Hevelius was busily adding seven new constellations into the heavens: Leo Minor, Canes Venatici, Lacerta, Lynx, Scutum, Sextans and Vulpecula. When he began to study the faint stars between Ursa Major and Auriga he apparently declared, "anyone who wants to study the stars here should have eyes like a lynx," and the name proved to be more than appropriate.

If you look closely on a dark enough night, the zig zag pattern of the faint stars could in fact represent the leaping form of a wild cat, just as Jamieson depicts in his illustration above. The lynx hides in the shadows of the heavens just as it hides in the shadows of the forest, dappled and dark, blending into its surroundings, and difficult to see. And in keeping with the grand mythological tradition of the constellations, the name can be traced back to the Greek hero Lynceus, who purportedly could see in the dark.

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Stars of Lynx

Alpha Lyncis (RA: 09h21m03.032s DE:+3423'33.47")

The brightest star in the constellation has no name, but at least it bears the Alpha Lyncis designation, the only star in the constellation to be assigned a Bayer Greek letter nomenclature. It is a K6III orange giant with a magnitude of 3.14, located 220 light years away.

Alsciaukat (RA: 08h22m50.076s DE:+4311'15.78")

The fourth brightest star in the constellation, with the Flamsteed number "31 Lyncis", is named Alsciaukat, from the Arabic for the thorn. It is the only named star in the constellation, and harkens back to a time when it was considered part of the constellation Ursa Major. The faint zig zag line of stars that form the lynx was thought of as a hedge or barrier, keeping the great bear from escaping its eternal circling of the pole star Polaris. To dissuade the bear, a small red thorn was placed directly under his front paw. The thorn is a K4III orange giant, almost identical to its neighbour Alpha Lyncis, except much dimmer at magnitude 4.25, because it is much farther away at a distance of 384 light years.

Planets of Lynx

6 Lyncis (RA: 06h30m47.054s DE:+5809'40.32")

There are seven stars in Lynx with confirmed planetary systems. The brightest of these stars is 6 Lyncis, its magnitude of 5.88 putting it at the very limit of naked eye visibility. It is a K0III orange giant, 182 light years away. The planet, 6 Lyncis b, is twice the size of Jupiter, taking 900 days to orbit its sun at about twice the distance Earth does.

The other planet hosting stars in Lynx are all very dim and far away, and all the planets discovered so far are all gas giants. For more information on these and other extrasolar planets, visit NASA's New Worlds Atlas, and The Open Exoplanets Catalogue.



Deep Skies of Lynx

NGC 2419 (RA: 07h38m06.0s DE:+3853'00")

There is a very unique globular cluster in Lynx, named NGC 2419. Unlike all the other globular clusters that surround our galaxy in a spherical cloud extending out to about 65,000 light years, NGC 2419 is all by itself, floating in intergalactic space about 250,000 light years away. Because it is so far outside the bounds of our galaxy, it is known as The Intergalactic Wanderer, and sometimes classified as an extragalactic object. It does, however, appear to be gravitationally bound to our Milky Way Galaxy, although the very great size of its elliptical orbit means it takes about 3 billion years to complete one trip around the galactic centre. Despite its great distance, NGC 2419 has an apparent magnitude of 9.06, making it accessible to small telescopes.

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NGC 2419 - The Intergalactic Wanderer - Doug Matthews and Charles Betts/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

NGC 2527 - The Bear Paw Galaxy (RA: 08h13m 12.0s DE:+4559'00")

Some like to see the constellation Lynx as a trail of little paw prints across the sky, like the tracks of a lynx in the snow, and as it turns out, there is an irregular galaxy within the constellation, NGC 2537, that does resemble a paw print. And it just happens to be very close to the thorn (Alsciaukat), and the paw of Ursa Major, the big bear, poised above it. Naturally, it was named The Bear Paw Galaxy. It is classified as a blue compact dwarf galaxy, residing at a distance of about 20 million light years, with an apparent magnitude of 12.3.

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NGC 2537 - The Bear Paw Galaxy - NASA's GALEX Telescope







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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