Episode 326 – Spring Stars You Should Know with Dave Chapman Show Notes

Stars You Should Know—Spring

(Dave Chapman, 2023)

Coming up:

Summer (July)

Fall (September)

South Polar (November)

Focussing on classic Greek-Roman names with occasional indigenous references. The classic

names are used in some GoTo telescope software for sky alignment (e.g. Sky-Watcher SynScan

and Celestron).

Spectral classes O B A F G K M — Annie Jump Cannon


Star Tales (2018) Ian Ridpath

Star Names (1963) Richard Hinckley Allen

Sky Safari 7 Pro (star lore by Jim Kaler)

A Concise Dictionary of Astronomy (1991) Jacqueline MItton

Stars You Should Know—Spring

12 bright stars —from mag. 0 to mag. 6 (9 OK to find, even in the city)

—9 are used for celestial navigation (58 in all)

—the first 5 are Sky-Watcher SynScan and Celestron alignment stars

LEO (Leo) “The Lion” ZODIAC

– Find Leo from the Pointers in the Big Dipper going south instead of north

Regulus – alpha Leonis “The Little King”

– mag. 1.4, variable double star, blue-white B8 star

– classic navigation star and sky alignment star

– the closest bright star to the ecliptic—lunar occultations and close conjunctions

– close conjunctions with planets

– binocular companion (mag. 8)

– actually a multiple-star system including a white dwarf

Denebola – beta Leonis “Tail of the Lion”

– there are 5 other stars in the sky named “Deneb…” (homework assignment)

– mag. 2.1, slightly variable star, white A3 star

– classic navigation star plus sky alignment star

HYDRA (Hyd) “The Water Snake”

– largest constellation, but very dim stars

– spans nearly 6 h of RA, ran along the celestial equator ~3500 BC (homework)

Alphard – alpha Hydrae “The Solitary One”

– heart of the Snake

– mag. 2.0 variable double star, orange giant K3

– classic navigation star plus sky alignment star

BOOTES (Boo) “The Herdsman”

Arcturus – alpha Bootis “Bear Watcher” (arctos)

– following curve of the handle of the Big Dipper, “arc to Arcturus”

– mag. 0, variable star, brightest in northern hemisphere

– visibly orange K1 giant

– represents the Barred Owl in Mi’kmaw sky lore

VIRGO (Vir) “The Maiden” ZODIAC

Spica – alpha Virginis “Virgo’s Ear of Wheat”

– arc to Arcturus, spike to Spica

– rotating variable double star, mag. 1.0, dual blue B1/B2 stars, 4-day orbit

– classic navigations and sky alignment star

– close to ecliptic—frequent lunar occultations and nearby conjunctions

CORVUS (Crv) “The Crow”

– one of 9 celestial birds (6 of those only visible from the southern hemisphere)

– between Virgo and Hydra, next to Crater (cup)

Gienah Corvi – gamma Corvi “The Wing of the Crow”

– mag 2.6 slightly variable double star, blue-white B8 giant

– not to be confused with another Gienah, which is eps Cygni

– classic navigation star and Sky-watcher alignment star

LIBRA (Lib) “The Scales” ZODIAC

– at one time was the claws of the Scorpion (not sure of the history)

– balance: autumnal equinox was in Libra at the time of the Babylonians


– alpha Librae “Southern Claw”

– mag 2.8 multiple star system, primary is a white A3 star

– classic navigation star

– nearby stars Zubenelschemali and others starting with “Zuben”

CENTAURUS (Cen) “The Centaur”

– usually considered a southern constellation

– in ancient times Centaurus and Crux were visible from northern temperate latitudes

Menkent – theta Centauri “Shoulder of Kentaurus”

– mag. 2.1 double star in Centuarus, orange K0 giant star

– classic navigation star, Celestron sky align star

CORONA BOREALIS (CrB) “The Northern Crown”

– Muin’s winter den in Mi’kmaw sky lore

Alphecca – alpha Coronae Borealis “The Broken” also Gemma “The Jewel”

– 17.4-day eclipsing variable star, mag. 2.2, white A0 star

– classic navigation star, Celestron sky align star

Variabilis Coronae – R Coronae Borealis “Variable Star in Corona”

– variable mag. 5.9 star, irregularly fades to mag. 14, yellow G0 supergiant

– worth keeping an eye on in binoculars

URSA MAJOR (UMa) “The Great Bear”

Alula Australis – chi Ursa Majoris “The First Leap of the Gazelle” – south

– slightly variable multiple star system, mag. 3.8, yellow F8.5 star

– first star discovered to be binary (William Herschel) and have the orbit computed

– 1.5 degrees away is Alula Borealis

CANES VENETACI (CVn) “The Hunting Dogs”

– found between Big Dipper, Leo, and Bootes

Cor Caroli – alpha Canum Venaticorum “Charles’ Heart”

– double star, mag. 2.9, yellow-white F0 star

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