Meet The Neighbors
The Stars Of The
Centaurus Constellation

Our "next-door" neighbors reside in the Centaurus constellation. The closest star to our own sun is Proxima Centauri.

Proxima and our next closest neighbor Rigel Kentaurus form the triple star system Alpha centauri.Combined they form the fourth brightest "star" in the sky. Although Arcturus is brighter than Rigel Kentaurus.

Alpha centauri is a bright binary star system with the faint red dwarf star Proxima bound to them by gravity.

Beta Centauri known as Hader is also a bright star in the southern sky. It is a first magnitude star.

Together, to viewers in the south, alpha and beta centauri are known as the pointers.

These two stars point to the southern cross constellation Crux.

The mythology of Centaurus is debateable. Centaurs are half man half horse beings. They are regarded as wild and uncouth.

One exception was Chiron. He was well cultured and intelligent.

As tutor to Jason and his Argonauts and Hercules Chiron was placed in the sky as a constellation.

However some believe that the constellation Sagittarius represents Chiron. If this is true then Centaurus represents another centaur.

Pholus with the constellation Lupus- which along with Crux was a part of Centaurus long ago, could form the myth of the Erymanthian boar one of the "12 labour of Hercules."

centaurus constellation stars

centaurus constellation with outlines

The Beauty Of The Centaur

Right Ascension: 13 hours

Declination: -50 degrees

Visible between latitudes 30 and -90 degrees

Best seen in May (at 9:00 PM)

named stars: rigel kentaurus (Alpha 1 Cen) hadar [aka agena](Beta Cen) menkent (Theta Cen)

The beauty of the centaur is in the many viewable objects for the backyard stargazer.

NGC5139 is the brightest globular cluster and the largest in the Milky way.

Small telescopes will show stars and larger scopes will show even more.

Planetary nebula NGC3918 has a small blue-green disk similar in color to

Open star clusters: NGC5460, NGC3766, NGC5316, NGC5617.

Elliptical galaxy NGC4945

NGC5128 contains the radio source Centaurus A.

Gamma Centauri is a binary star system with stars of 3.1 and 3.2 magnitude.

A telescope with an aperture of 300mm(12in) is needed to split the pair and resolve into seperate stars.

Kappa Centauri is a pair of blue-white stars with a wide separation and can be split and resolved in smaller scopes.

These stars are fainter than a lot of Centaurus constellation stars at only five and six magnitude.

Centaurus is a large constellation bordered by Hydra to the north

Antlia, Vela and Carina in the west. looking from north to south.

The southern border finds Musca and Crux.

Circinus, visible in the above pictures, is southeast, and east is Lupus and the Libra constellation

Centaurus constellation to constellation list homepage

constellations and backyard stargazing