All About The Canis Minor Constellation
Did you know that one of the most prominent constellations in Ptolemy's 48 Greek Constellations is Canis Minor? He first noted it in his Almagest back in the 2nd century C.E (common era), which European and Islamic scholars used for thousands of years. In Latin, Canis Minor means the 'lesser dog' or the 'smaller dog,' in contrast to the Canis Major constellation, which refers to the 'greater dog
Like the 12 zodiac signs, the Canis Minor constellation holds great importance in Greek mythology with Canis Major. Still, they don't play the same role in astrology as these zodiac signs do. Even to this day, it is recognized by the International Astronomical Union as one of the 88 constellations present.
Canis Minor Constellation Location
Canis Minor is usually depicted alongside Canis Major, following the constellation of Orion. It is named after one of the most famous hunters in Greek Mythology.
This constellation is the 78th most prominent constellation in the sky and lies in the northern celestial hemisphere. It's clearly visible during the winters in the evening sky from January to March. Moreover, It is bordered by some well-known zodiac signs such as Cancer to its northeast, Gemini to its north, and by other constellations like Monoceros to its south and Hydra to its east.
By Till Credner - Own work: AlltheSky.com
Stars That Make Up the Canis Minor Constellation
There are only two notable stars present in the constellation, Procyon and Gomeisa. Both of these have a magnitude greater than 4.
Procyon is the 8th brightest star in the sky and the most shining star in Canis Minor. It has a magnitude of 0.34 and thus is 6.39 times brighter than the sun. What makes this star all that more interesting is the fact that it's a binary star system which consists of a primary star Procyon A, a white hues star, and a companion star called Procyon B, which is a lighter dwarf.
This is the second brightest star in the constellation, with a magnitude of 2.84. It is also 160 light-years away and around 195 times brighter than the sun!
Gamma Canis Minoris
Just like Procyon, Gamma Canis Minoris is also a binary star system containing evolved K-Type stars. The primary star is around 3225 times brighter than the sun, and the secondary star is only about 25 times brighter than the sun. This star also has a magnitude of +4.33 and is 320 light-years away from us.
This is a red dwarf star in the constellation, which has a magnitude of 9.8. It only makes up about 26% of the sun's mass and is 12.36 light-years away.
Another interesting fact about Luyten’s star is that four planets orbit around it. From these four planets, two of them are still being observed for their properties!
Deep Sky Objects
Similar to Canis Major constellation, the Milky Way passes through Canis Minor. But regardless of that, it has very few deep sky objects. The deep sky objects that are present are challenging to observe and very faint.
Some of these deep sky objects are star groups, such as NGC 2459 and NGC 2394. Others are lenticular galaxies and spiral galaxies named NGC 2508 and NGC 2485, respectively. And yes, these are more numbers than words.
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11 Canis Minorids (or sometimes known as Beta Canis Minorids) is the only meteor shower associated with Canis Minor. Not only does it just peak around the few days of December, the 10th and 11th, it only lasts a few days too, 4th to 5th December.
Myths Surrounding Canis Minor
There are many myths in Greek mythology that follow the Canis Minor constellation. Such as the one with Orion Hunter or the dog Maera.
Orion The Hunter
One of the most famous associations that the Canis Minor constellation has in Greek history is that it is one of the dogs following Orion. He was a giant Greek hunter who was killed and placed among the stars by Zeus. The other dog that followed Orion in this myth was Canis Major.
Canis Minor is also sometimes referred to as Teumessian Fox. This was a beast that could never be hunted. Another creature called Laelaps was sent to chase him. The problem? He was the beast that could hurt anyone.
This created a paradox, an endless cycle for both of them. Once Zeus realized that there was no way of stopping this cycle, he turned both of them into stone and placed them in the sky. The fox was Canis Minor, and the other beast was Canis Major. The cruel irony is that to this day, as stars, the endless cycle continues as Canis Minor comes out an hour before Canis Major.
The Dog Names Maera
This sad tale follows the story of Icarius, a famous winemaker, Maera, his loyal dog, and Erigone, his daughter. Icarius was accidentally killed by his friend as he got him too drunk. When Maera found his owner's body, he immediately took it to his daughter. Both of them were so saddened by his death that they killed themselves. Unable to take the pain. Then Zeus placed them in the night sky.
In this story, Maera was the Canis Minor. The daughter was placed as Virgo and Icarius as Boötes.
This constellation has relations to other myths as well, apart from Greek. The ancient Egyptians thought of it as their jackal God, Anubis.
Whether it's the countless stories of Greek or the firm belief of ancient Egyptians, Canis Minor constellation holds great importance. Not only in the world that was present before but now as well.