Auriga (constellation): Wikis


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List of stars in Auriga
Abbreviation Aur
Genitive Aurigae
Pronunciation /ɔːˈraɪɡə/ Auríga, genitive /ɔːˈraɪdʒiː/[1]
Symbolism the Charioteer
Right ascension 6 h
Declination +40°
Family Perseus
Quadrant NQ1
Area 657 sq. deg. (21st)
Main stars 5, 8
Stars with
known planets
Stars brighter than 3m 4
Stars within 10 pc (32.6 ly) 1
Brightest star Capella (α Aur) (0.08m)
Nearest star QY Aur
(20.74 ly, 6.36 pc)
Messier objects 3
Meteor showers Alpha Aurigids
Delta Aurigids
Visible at latitudes between +90° and −40°.
Best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of Late February to early March.

Auriga is a constellation in the northern sky. Its name is Latin for 'charioteer' and its stars form a shape that has been associated with the pointed helmet of a charioteer. It was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and is included among the 88 modern constellations. Its brightest star is Capella.


Notable features


See also: List of stars in Auriga

ε Aurigae and ζ Aurigae are peculiar binary stars. The orbital period of ε Aurigae is approximately 27 years, with an eclipse duration of about 18 months. The visible companion is a bright, older star (previously thought to be a bright F-class supergiant). The type of the other star is not known. ζ Aurigae has a period of 970 days, the primary is a K-class supergiant and the secondary is a B-class main sequence star. Both these systems present a rare stage of binary evolution, as the components are in a short and active evolutionary stage.

Named Stars

Bayer Name Origin Meaning
α Aur Capella Greek little female goat
β Aur Menkalinan Arabic shoulder
"γ Aur" = β Tau El Nath Arabic what butts (i.e. the bull's horn)
δ Aur Praja Hindi lord
ε Aur Al Maz Arabic the billy goat
ζ Aur Saclateni Arabic second arm
ζ Aur Hoedus I Latin the (1st) goat kid
θ Aur Manus Latin hand
η Aur Hoedus II Latin the (2nd) goat kid
ι Aur Hasseleh Greek the hoof
λ Aur Al Hurr Arabic the fawn

Deep sky objects

The galactic anticenter is located about 3.5° to the east of β Aurigae. This marks the point on the celestial sphere opposite the location of the galactic core. Hence this region marks a less extensive and less luminous part of the dust band that forms the spiral arms of the Milky Way.[2]

Auriga has many open clusters and other objects because the Milky Way runs through it. The three brightest open clusters are M36, M37 and M38, all of which are visible in binoculars or a small telescope in suburban skies. A larger telescope resolves individual stars. The clusters are about 4100, 4400, and 4200 light years distant, respectively. Their apparent visual magnitudes are 6.3, 6.2, and 7.4, respectively.

Three other open clusters are NGC 2281, lying close to ψ7 Aurigae, NGC 1664, which is close to ε Aurigae, and IC 410 (or NGC 1893), a cluster with nebulosity next to IC 405, the Flaming Star Nebula, found about mid-way between M38 and ι Aurigae. AE Aurigae, a runaway star, is a bright variable star currently located within the Flaming Star Nebula.


According to one Greek myth, Auriga represents Hephaestus, the blacksmith god, who was lame and invented the chariot so as to easily travel wherever he wanted. In another Greek myth, Auriga is said to represent Myrtilus, the charioteer of King Oenomaus, and who sabotaged the king's chariot.

More conventionally, Auriga is also identified as the mythological Greek hero Erichthonius of Athens, the chthonic son of Hephaestus that was raised by the goddess Athena. According to the anonymous writer of the composition Catasterisimi, Erichthonius was generally credited to be the inventor of the quadriga, the four-horse chariot, which he used in the battle against the usurper Amphictyon that made Erichthonius the king of Athens. Erichthonius then dedicated himself to Athena and soon after, Zeus raised the Athenian hero into the night sky in honor of his ingeniuity and heroic deeds[3]

Capella is associated with the mythological she-goat Amalthea. It forms an asterism with the stars ζ Aurigae and η Aurigae, which are known as the Haedi (the Kids).


Auriga carrying the goat and kids depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c.1825

Traditionally, illustrations of Auriga represent it as a chariot and its driver. The driver is often represented as a shepherd, usually with a goat flung over his left shoulder (due to the resemblance of that area to a lump), with two kids (represented by the two bright stars of that name) nearby.

Diagram of H.A. Rey's alternate way to connect the stars of the constellation Auriga.

H.A. Rey has suggested an alternative way to connect the stars, which graphically shows the charioteer's head wearing a pointy cap and facing towards Perseus. Stars α Aur (Capella), β Aur, θ Aur, ι Aur, and ε Aur form the charioteer's head: with α Aur being of magnitude zero, β Aur being of magnitude two, and the rest of the stars being of magnitude three. Star α Aur may be taken to represent the charioteer's eye, whereas star ι Aur represents the charioteer's chin. Stars β Aur, δ Aur, and α Aur form the charioteer's pointy cap, with δ Aur being the top of the cap. Finally, the stars α Aur, ε Aur, ζ Aur, and η Aur form the charioteer's nose: η Aur being of the third magnitude.

The Chinese constellation Wǔ Chē / the Five Chariots is largely analogous to Auriga, and to the asterism of the pentagon within it.

See also


  1. ^ OED
  2. ^ Crossen, Craig; Rhemann, Gerald (2004). Sky vistas: astronomy for binoculars and richest-field telescopes. Springer. p. 177. ISBN 3211008519.  
  3. ^ "Skys & Telescope: May 2007", Rambling through the stars: Designated driver by E.C Krupp – p39&40
  • H. A. Rey, . Enlarged World-Wide Edition. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1997. ISBN 0-395-24830-2.
  • Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion (2007). Stars and Planets Guide, Collins, London. ISBN 978-0007251209. Princeton University Press, Princeton. ISBN 978-0691135564.
  • Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, New York, Dover.

External links

Coordinates: Sky map 06h 00m 00s, +40° 00′ 00″

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