Shop Windows to the Universe

The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
The Constellation Centaurus, the Centaur
Click on image for full size

Centaurus - The Centaur

Below the stars of Hydra, the sea serpent, and Scorpius, the acorpion, you can find the half-man, half-horse creature, Centaurus. He faces east holding a lance-like pole which he is using to kill Lupus, the wolf standing in front of him.

Centaurus' brightest star (Alpha Centauri), is called Toliman or Rigel Kentaurus. It's the third brightest star in the sky and the closest star to the Sun. Alpha Centauri is really a triple star: two components form a double star. The third component is a red dwarf, more than 2 degrees away from the bright pair. It is called Proxima Centauri (closest in Centaurus) because, of the three components, it is the closest to Earth, only a little more than 4 light-years away.

Centaurus is home to Omega Centauri (NGC 5139), the brightest and largest globular cluster in the sky. It is visible to the naked eye as a hazy spot of 4 minutes of arc. It is one of the closest globular clusters, at only 17,000 light-years away.

According to Greek mythology, it was Centaurus who first fashioned the constellations and taught humans how to read the sky. He placed a picture of himself in the sky to guide the Argonauts on their search for the Golden Fleece.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Ready, Set, SCIENCE!: Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms

What types of instructional experiences help K-8 students learn science with understanding? What do science educators teachers, teacher leaders, science specialists, professional development staff, curriculum designers, school administrators need to know to create and support such experiences?...more

Hydra

Hydra is the longest constellation in the sky (>90 degrees) and is also the largest in terms of area. It is so long that it takes more than six hours to rise completely. Along its northern side are the...more

Scorpius

More than any other constellation, Scorpius resembles its given name. It is located low in the south for northern latitudes, but passes high in the sky for viewers in the southern hemisphere. The bright...more

Ophiuchus

The constellation Ophiuchus represents the Serpent Bearer. This large constellation can be seen in the night sky from June through October. Although most of the stars are dim, Ophiuchus' teapot shape...more

Gemini

Gemini is one of the more famous constellations. The Twins are best seen during the winter and early spring in the Northern Hemisphere. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, look for Gemini in the summer....more

Sagittarius

Sagittarius is a centaur, with the torso of a man atop the body of a horse. Unlike the wise and peaceful centaur Chiron (Centaurus), Sagittarius is aiming his giant bow at his neighbor, Scorpius. While...more

Bootes

Bootes, the herdsman, rides through the sky during the late Spring and early Summer. While he may have appeared as a shepherd to the ancients, modern star-gazers like us can easily recognize the shape...more

Leo

Leo, the Lion, is a very majestic feline. Leo's head and mane are formed by an asterism known as the Sickle which looks like a backward question mark. One of the brightest spring stars, Regulus (Latin...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF