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Constellation Canis Major, The Great Dog

Canis Major Constellation

Canis Major Constellation

Canis Major Constellation with Outline

Canis Major Constellation with Outline

Constellation Canis Major, The Great Dog:

The constellation of the Great Dog is better known by its Latin name Canis Major. The constellation isn’t difficult to spot since it is dominated by Sirius (or alpha Canis Major), which is the brightest star in the sky with an apparent magnitude of –1.4. Sirius is a white star and only 8.7 light-years from the Earth which is considered to be relatively close. It has a small companion that can only be seen through a large telescope. Sirius will appear over the horizon about half an hour after the constellation Orion has risen.

Sirius forms the most southerly point of a giant hexagon that dominates the winter sky and is considerably larger than the Summer Triangle. The other apexes of the hexagon starting from Sirius and going clockwise are Procyon of the constellation Canis Minor (the Little Dog), Pollus of Gemini the Twin, Capella of Auriga, Aldebran of Taurus and finally Rigel of Orion. The band of the Milky Way runs straight through the middle of the hexagon.

Canis Major Mythology

The ancient Egyptians were fascinated with Sirius and even worshipped it. In fact, when Sirius appeared in the night sky, it was a warning that the Nile River was about to overflow its banks. As such, Sirius was essentially a watchdog that revealed the most important annual event in ancient Egypt.

According to the Greeks legends, Zeus placed Sirius in the sky as a reward for its swiftness. Sometimes Sirius is referred to as “Orion’s dog” because they are close to one another.

Messier Objects

Canis Major contains only one Messier object, the star cluster Messier 41 (NGC 2287), and it has four stars with known planets.

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Good Beginner Telescopes

Orion AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor TelescopeOrion AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope Orion XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope & Beginner Barlow KitOrion XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope & Beginner Barlow Kit Orion StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector TelescopeOrion StarBlast 6i IntelliScope Reflector Telescope