Intro and Visual description
Locate Canopus by drawing a line from the easternmost star of Orion’s belt down through Rigel, Orion’s left foot. Canopus lies about twice as far from Orion’s belt as Sirius.
Between Canopus and the south pole lies the Large Magellenic Cloud (LMC), located in the constellation Dorado the Swordfish.
Between Canopus and Crux are the False Cross (nearer Canopus, shared by Carina and Vela) and the Diamond Cross (nearer Crux, in Carina). These are fainter than Crux and were once part of Argo Navis.
Canopus is the second brightest nighttime star. Distance: 1200 LY. Magnitude: -0.7. Canopus is 200,000 times brighter than the Sun. Although it appears slightly less bright than Sirius, it is 7,500 times as bright as Sirius. Declination: -52 degrees 42 minutes south. Canopus is visible from Alexandria, Egypt, but not Greece, a fact often cited to show that the Earth is spherical. Canopus was named by Eratosthenes ca. 250 B.C, working in Alexandria. Some people claim to see a trace of yellow in Canopus.
In 1843, Eta-Carina was brighter than Canopus! It is a nova-like irregular variable star found within a diffuse interstellar gas cloud known as NGC 3372. A 3-D photo is available on the Internet from NASA. Glowing clouds of gas make this nebula one of the most spectacular sights in the Milky Way. The Eta Carinae nebula is believed to be a stellar nursery, where stars are forming from the obscuring clouds of dust and the luminous gaseous material.
Origin and History
One of 17 constellations created by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1756. Originally part of Argo Navis, which was included in the ancient star catalogs of Eudoxos of Knidos, Aratos of Soli, and Ptolemy.