The constellation of Auriga the Charioteer appears in the Greek charts by Eudoxus in the 4th century BC. In one Greek legend, Auriga represents Erichthonius, a King of Athens and the son of Vulcan and Minerva. Auriga was deformed and his difficulty in walking led him to invent the four horse chariot. This invention brought him a place of honor in the sky. In another legend, Auriga was the son of Mercury. He trained chariot horses and his animals were said to be the fastest there were. The bright star Capella also has some legend about it. It is reputed to represent the goat that suckled Jupiter. At some point Jupiter accidentally broke off a horn. Jupiter made this piece of horn magical in that it could be filled with whatever the possessor wished for. It was given the name Cornucopia, or "horn of plenty." In India, Capella was worshipped as the heart of Brahma. English poets have called Capella the shepherd's star.

For the Observer

Autumn and Winter Skies

Alpha Auriga, Capella( 05h 17m +46° 00') is a white giant class GO star, 46 light years distant. It has a magnitude of 0.1 making it the fourth brightest star in the night sky. Capella is a triple star system. The first companion is a yellow giant star of magnitude 0.6. The two star orbit each other closely, with a separation equal to that of the distance from our Sun to Venus. The third star is a small yellow-orange star that can only be detected by spectroscopy. The system has a January 25th transit.

Beta Auriga, Menkalinan, ( 06h 00m + 44°57' ) is a double star consisting of two blue white giant A2 class stars. They have magnitudes of 1.9 and 2.7 and are 90 light years distant.

M36 (NGC1960) (5h 32m +34° 07') is a large open cluster 4100 light years away. The cluster contains about 60 stars ranging from 9th to 14th magnitude.

M37 (NGC2099) ( 5h 49m +32° 33') is another rich open cluster containing about 150 stars. It is about 4600 light years distant.

M38 (NGC1912) ( 5h 25m +35° 48') is a bright globular cluster somewhat irregular in shape. It is about 4200 light years distant and contains about 100 stars.

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