Monoceros is a relatively new constellation, as opposed to many which date back as old as a few thousand years. It is believed to have been invented by the astronomer Bartsch, though there are some reports that it dates back to 1564. The four stars which make up the "body" of the unicorn are also the 4 stars which the Chinese call the 4 great canals. As a unicorn, it resembles a horse with a long horn protruding from its forehead. Legend states that if the unicorn is pursued it leaps from a high cliff and lands horn first. The horn breaks off, cushioning the fall and leaving the unicorn unharmed to escape.

For the Observer

Autumn and Winter Skies

Beta Monocrotis (06h26.4m -07°00) is a class B3 star of magnitude 4.60. This star is the best example of a triple star system with the added benefit it can be seen in relatively small telescopes. It was discovered by Sir William Herschel in 1781. The AB pair consist of two 5th magnitude stars the the third C component is a 5.6 magnitude star. The distance to the system is about 175 light years.

M50 (NGC2323) (07h00.5m -08°16) Is an open star cluster. With a magnitude of 6.3, the cluster can easily be found in binoculars, and possibly by the naked eye under the best of conditions. Somewhere near the center is a nice red class M giant star. Most of the rest of the stars in the cluster are blue and white giving a nice contrast. The main body of the cluster contains about 200 stars. The cluster is about 9 light years across and about 2900 light years distant.

NGC2244 the Rosette Nebula (06h97m +04°54) is right next to NGC2237. 2244 is a wreath like object and is a bright galactic star cluster. At magnitude 5.5 the cluster is marked by 5 bright ) type giants and 16 B type stars. The brightest star is a yellow giant of magnitude 5.85. The diameter of the cloud is about 55 light years and it is about 2600 light years distant. NGC2237 is a diffuse nebula, elongated and quite faint.

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