In the night sky, when everyone goes down in slumber, a mighty constellation wakes up and illuminates the sky. This is the mighty collection of the powerful stars, the constellation called Centaurus. The name must say it all. The shape of the constellation resembles a centaur– which is a half human and half horse creature. This must remind you of the zodiac sign as well. Don’t confuse it with the constellation of Sagittarius, which is also named after the creature, centaur. The series of stars that make it up are also the house of some of the prominent stars that we have ever found in the sky.
The Centaurus constellation
The Centaurus system has the Alpha Centauri star, which is said to be the closest star to the Sun. Beta Centauri along with V766 is a part of this family. V776 Centauri is one of the largest stars ever discovered till date. The brightest globular collection visible in the sky from the Earth is the Omega Centauri, which again is a member of this constellation. This constellation was discovered by Ptolemy in the 2nd century and is today one of the 88 known constellations. This makes the star network one of the most prominent in human history.
The features of Centaurus
This constellation is home to many bright stars. The beta and alpha stars of this constellation have been used as pointer stars for centuries for navigation and also to find another constellation, named Crux. There are 281 stars in the Centaurus constellation that are having a magnitude of above 6.5, which implies that they can be viewed from the Earth with an unaided eye. You will be amazed to know that Alpha Centauri has a proper motion and it will be just half a degree from the Beta Centauri in almost 4000 light years.
The stars within Centaurus
The stars of the constellation are the most notable ones. The Alpha Centauri is a triple-star system. It contains thee Proxima Centauri, which is also called “Tollman,” meaning foot of centaur. The magnitude of the system is -0.28 and the constellation lie around 4.4 light years from the Earth. Inside the Alpha Centauri system, the secondary and the primary stars are yellow-hued stars. However, Proxima is a tertiary star and is just a red-dwarf with a magnitude of 11.0.
Beta Centauri is a double-star system and has a primary star which is a blue-hued giant. The bright and elegant binary star of the Centaurus constellation is the Gamma Centauri, and it can be viewed with the naked eye too.
The myth behind the centaur goes back to Babylonian civilization which had the mention of Bison-man. One form depicted it as a four-legged bison with a human head. Another version depicted it as a man’s torso attached to a bison’s 4-legged body. The creature has been closely associated to the Sun god.
If you are enthralled by the enigma of the centaur and want to experience the beauty of Centaurus constellation, then go out right now with your telescope and view this wonder with your own eyes.