Boötes has a variety of myths and legends connected with it. One of the oldest says it represents the son of Zeus and a nymph, Callisto. Boötes was sent away and penniless by his brother. Left to pick his own fate, Boötes invented a plow which was pulled by oxen. He farmed the land and made a decent living. Callisto was so pleased she convinced Zeus to place their son and his plow in the sky. Boötes was known as the female wolves by the Arabs, and the Hebrews called it the barking dog. Homer referred to Boötes in the Odyssey so it is an ancient constellation and may be one of the first recorded. In another early chart, Boötes is shown running and holding a spear. He is accompanied by two hunting dogs, Asterion and Chara that form the constellation Canes Vanatici. Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation has a great deal of information connected with it. it was known as the "Watcher" and by the Arabs and the "Keeper of the Heavens." To the Shawnee Indians of the southeast US, Arcturus represented a great hunter known as White Hawk.

For the Observer

The Stars of Spring

Alpha Boötes, Arcturus ( 14h 16m +19° 11') is one of the oldest stars in the universe, a member of what astronomers refer to as Population II stars. These stars are have only traces of elements other than hydrogen and helium, indicating they were formed when there were few other elements available in the universe. With a magnitude of -0.1, Arcturus is the fourth brightest star in the sky. It is a giant yellow K2 class star, only 36 light years distant.

Epsilon Boötes, Izar, ( 14h 45m +27° 04') is a yellow K1 giant star that is also a binary. It's magnitude is 2.4, and that of the companion is 2.7. The pair are 110 light years distant.

M3 (NGC5272) ( 13h 39m .9 +28° 38') is technically in Canes Venatici, but it is easier to find when referenced to the brighter stars of Boötes. M3 is a globular cluster containing about 44,500 stars. It is bright and easy to find in small telescopes.

M53 (NGC 5024) ( 13h 10m .5 +18° 26') like the above, does not technically belong to Boötes, but rather, Coma Berenices. Again, it is easier to find in reference with the brighter stars of Boötes. It is a rich globular cluster that is a nice sight in a small telescope.

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Kathy Miles, Author, and Chuck Peters, Systems Administrator