Centaurus - The Centaur

Below the stars of Hydra, the sea serpent and Scorpius, the scorpion, you can find Centaurus. Centaurus is a half-man, half-horse creature. He faces east holding a lance which he is using to defend himself from Lupus, the wolf.

Centaurus' brightest star is called Toliman or Rigel Kentaurus. Toliman is the third brightest star in the sky and is the closest star to the Sun. The largest and brightest globular cluster in the sky is in Centaurus. The cluster's name is Omega Centauri. To your eye, it will look like a fuzzy ball, but it is really made up of more than a million stars.

According to a Greek myth, it was Centaurus who first grouped the stars into constellations. He also taught humans how to read the sky. Centaurus placed a picture of himself in the sky to guide a group of sailors called the Argonauts.

The Constellation Centaurus, the Centaur
Click on image for full size (130K JPEG)

Centaurus - The Centaur

Below the stars of Hydra, the sea serpent, and Scorpius, the scorpion, 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, about 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 faint smudge. It is one of the closest globular clusters to Earth and contains more than a million stars.

According to a Greek myth, it was Centaurus who first grouped the stars into constellations. He also taught humans how to read the sky. Centaurus placed a picture of himself in the sky to guide a group of sailors called the Argonauts.

The Constellation Centaurus, the Centaur
Click on image for full size (130K JPEG)

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.

The Constellation Centaurus, the Centaur
Click on image for full size (130K JPEG)

>

The source of this material is Windows to the Universe, at http://www.windows.ucar.edu/ at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). ©1995-1999, 2000 The Regents of the University of Michigan; ©2000-01 University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. All Rights Reserved. Site policies and disclaimer