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This webpage reproduces a section of
Star Names
Their Lore and Meaning

Richard Hinckley Allen

as reprinted
in the Dover edition, 1963

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Boötes hath unleash'd his fiery hounds.

Owen Meredith's Clytemnestra.

Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs,

are the French Chiens de Chasse, Hunting Dogs, or Levriers; Greyhound, the German Jagdhunde, Hunting Dogs, and the Italian Levrieri, lying between Boötes and Ursa Major. Ptolemy entered their stars among the ἀμόρφοτοι of the latter constellation, and the  p115 modern forms first appear in the Prodromus of their inventor Hevelius. The more northern one is Asterion, Starry, from the little stars marking the body; and the other, which contains the two brightest stars, is Chara, as Dear to the heart of her master. Flamsteed followed in the use of these names, and the Hounds are now well established in the recognition of astronomers, as is the case with most of the stellar creations of Hevelius, which were generally placed where needed.

Proctor, in his attempt to simplify constellation nomenclature, called them Catuli, the Puppies; but the usual illustration is of two Greyhounds held by a leash in the hand of Boötes, ready for pursuit of the Bear around the pole; their inventor thus reviving the idea that Boötes was a hunter.

Hevelius counted 23 stars here Argelander, 54; and Heis, 88.

The Chinese designated three stars in or near the head of Asterion as San Kung, the Three Honorary Guardians of the Heir Apparent.

Assemani alluded to a quadrate figure on the Borgian globe, below the tail of the Greater Bear, as Al Karb al Ibl, the Camel's Burden, that can be no other than stars in the heads of the Hunting Dogs.

Bartschius drew on his map of this part of the sky the River Jordan, his Jordanis and Jordanus, not now recognized, indeed hardly remembered. Its course was from Cor Caroli, under the Bears and above Leo, Cancer, and Gemini, through the stars from which Hevelius afterwards formed Leo Minor and the Lynx, ending at Camelopardalis. But the outlines of his stream were left somewhat undetermined, much like those of Central African waters when guessed at by map-makers thirty years or more ago. This river, however, had already existed before his day on French star-maps and -globes.

α, Double, 3.2 and 5.7, flushed white and pale lilac.

This star, the 12 of Flamsteed's list of the Hounds, stands alone, marking Chara's collar; but was set apart in 1725 by Halley, when Astronomer Royal, as the distinct figure Cor Caroli, not Cor Caroli II as many have it, in honor of Charles II. This was done at the suggestion of the court physician, Sir Charles Scarborough, who said that it had shone with special brilliancy on the eve of the king's return to London on the 29th of May, 1660. It has occasionally been seen on maps as the centre of a Heart-shaped figure surmounted by a crown, and its name occurs in popular lists; but Flamsteed did not insert it on his plate of the Hounds, although he distinctly wrote of it in his manuscript under this title; and the Heart perhaps is shown in the tail-piece to the preface of the Atlas Coelestis.

 p116  It is the French Coeur de Charles; the Italian Cuor di Carlo; and the garden Herz Karls.

With Ulug Beg it was Al Kabd al Asad, the Liver of the Lion, — here a technical term indicating the highest position of any star within the compass of a figure reckoned from the equator.

In China it was Chang Chen, a Seat.

This is a favorite object with amateur observers, the components being about 20″ apart. Espin says, in Webb's Celestial Objects of 1893, that they have been relatively fixed for seventy-three years, yet show considerable proper motion, and probably are unequal stars at nearly equal distances from us; and he gives various opinions of observers as to their colors. Miss Clerke calls them pale yellow and fawn. Their present position angle is about 230°, but is slowly changing.

Cor Caroli culminates on the 20th of May.

On the line from Cor Caroli to Arcturus, and somewhat nearer the latter, in a triangle of small stars, is a beauti­ful globular cluster concentrated into a central blaze. This is NGC 5272, 3 M., long a well-known object, but recently rendered specially notable by Bailey's discovery in 1895, on photographs taken by Harvard astronomers at Arequipa, Peru, of no less than ninety-six variable stars within its boundaries, — nearly ten per cent of the whole number in the cluster distinctly photographed: the usual proportion of variables among the naked-eye stars is not quite one per cent. The stars near the centre run together and cannot be counted, but the total number in the cluster probably is many thousands.

β, 4.3, is Chara, the 8 of Flamsteed, and, after Cor Caroli, the brightest member of the Southern Hound.

152 Schjellerup, 5.5, brilliant red.

La Superba was so named by Father Secchi from the superbly flashing brilliancy of its prismatic rays. It is the brightest of its class of stars with spectra of the 4th type, of which only about 120 are known from our latitude, and but seven or eight of these visible to the naked eye. Variability in its light is also suspected.

It lies about 7° north and 2½° west of Cor Caroli.

A misty spot in this constellation can be seen with a low-power 3° southwest from Al Kaid (η Ursae Majoris). This is the Spiral Nebula of Lord Rosse, or the Whirlpool Nebula, NGC 5194, 51 M., our long-established ideas of which have recently been somewhat modified by a photograph taken by Mr. Isaac Roberts after four hours' exposure. It now appears to  p117 be composed of a pair of curving arms issuing from opposite extremities of an oval central body, one of the arms joining itself to a second nucleus, — a new system in process of formation.

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Page updated: 4 Mar 14