This constellation was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Ara the altar. It may have originated as Tul-Ku, the holy altar from the ancient Euphrateans. It was originally in the zodiac but was later replaced by Libra. The Romans said it was the altar of Dionysus. The Arabs called it the incense burner.

For the Observer

Southern Circumpolar Skies

Beta Ara (17h 25.1m -55°31') the brightest star with a magnitude of 2.3, is an orange giant star. Its distance is about 1030 light years.

Gamma Ara (17h 25.2m -56°22') is a class B1 star with a magnitude of 3.3. It has a 10th magnitude companion that is probably only a visual double.

NGC 6397 (17h 36.8m -53°39') is a bright globular cluster. It is a rather loose group of stars that looks nice even in small telescopes. NGC 6397may be the closest globular cluster to our solar system.

NGC 6188(16h 35.9m -48°55') is a nebula with beautiful bright and dark contrast such as the horsehead nebulae in Orion. NGC 6193 is within 2 degrees of NGC 6188. It is a group of about 30 hot blue giant stars.

Copyright © 1995 - 2003
Kathy Miles, Author, and Chuck Peters, Systems Administrator