Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 45

Evenings with the Stars by Fred Schaaf

In Praise
of Procyon
Alpha Canis Minoris is a
serious underdog.

A K IR A FUJII

P

rocyon is the one bright star in
Canis Minor, the Little Dog. It's
often called the Lesser Dog Star because,
at magnitude +0.4, it shines two full
magnitudes fainter than the night sky's
most brilliant star, Sirius, the Dog Star
in Canis Major, the Big Dog.
Procyon suffers in almost every
category of comparison with neighboring Sirius. But the Lesser Dog Star has
many of its own merits, including its
fascinating position both on star maps
and in space.
Terrific tip of the tail. Procyon is
the eighth brightest nighttime star and
sixth brightest visible from latitude
40° north. It also utterly dominates its
constellation, though that's not difficult considering Canis Minor has only
two additional stars brighter than 5th
magnitude within its borders. The Little
Dog is usually pictured on star charts as
a single short line connecting Procyon
to Gomeisa (Beta Canis Minoris),
which glows modestly at magnitude
2.9. The two-star line is more like a
dog's tail than a whole dog. And since
Canis Major and Canis Minor face west
as they follow Orion, Procyon can be
thought of as the brilliant tip of the
Little Dog's tail.
Procyon's part in sky patterns.
Procyon is accompanied by numerous
bright stars as it climbs high in the sky
on February evenings. Amazingly, this
region contains nine of the 15 brightest stars visible from mid-northern
latitudes. Much of Procyon's beauty is
due to its placement within two large
patterns of bright winter stars.
Check our star map (pages 42-43)
to trace out the giant asterisms known
as the Winter Hexagon and the Winter

S HUNTER AND DOGS Mighty Orion is trailed by his faithful companions, Canis Major and Canis
Minor. The winter Milky Way flows between brilliant Sirius (lower left) and Procyon (upper left), and
just north of golden-orange Betelgeuse.

Triangle, both of which include Procyon. The Winter Hexagon is formed
by connecting Aldebaran, Capella,
Pollux (along with Castor sometimes),
Procyon, Sirius, Rigel, and back to
Aldebaran, with orange-gold Betelgeuse
roughly in the middle of the Hexagon.
The Winter Triangle comprises Sirius,
Betelgeuse, and Procyon. This latter
asterism is an almost perfect equilateral
triangle. Procyon is 26° from Betelgeuse
and 26° from Sirius, while Sirius is 27°
from Betelgeuse. Remarkably, Procyon is
a similar distance from two more bright
stars - it's 27° from Castor and 23°
from Pollux.
Most amazingly, Procyon is very
nearly due east of Betelgeuse and due
south of Pollux. Betelgeuse is 7.4° north
of the celestial equator, but Procyon
is 5.2° north of that key line - closer
than any other 1st-magnitude or
brighter star. In last month's column
we noted that Capella is almost exactly
due north of Rigel. Similarly, Procyon is
positioned due south of Pollux and just
a hair (1/10°) farther west.
Procyon's place in space. Both
Dog Stars are among the nearest stars

to Earth. Procyon's distance is 11.5
light-years, while Sirius is 8.6 lightyears away. Another interesting aspect
of the previously noted Procyon-Pollux
connection is that Pollux is 33.8 lightyears away - almost exactly three times
farther than Procyon.
But what is especially interesting about Procyon's place in space is
illustrated by considering the appearance of familiar stars as viewed from
Procyon. For example, our Sun would be
a 2.5-magnitude star in southern Aquila
in the Procyonic sky. Nearby Sirius,
situated 5.2 light-years from Procyon,
would gleam at about magnitude -2.5,
and Procyon's white dwarf companion would shine brighter than the full
Moon! Remarkably, a red dwarf called
Luyten's Star is only 1.2 light-years from
Procyon yet wouldn't be bright enough
to see with the naked eye. But, as seen
from Luyten's Star, Procyon would
dazzle at around magnitude -7!
„ FRED SCHAAF started writing his first
book, Wonders of the Sky: Observing
Rainbows, Comets, Eclipses, the Stars
and Other Phenomena, 40 years ago.
sk yandtelescope.org * FEBRUARY 2 021

45


http://www.skyandtelescope.org

Sky & Telescope - February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - February 2021

Contents
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - Cover1
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - Cover2
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 1
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - Contents
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 3
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 4
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 5
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 6
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 7
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 8
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 9
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 10
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 11
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 12
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 13
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 14
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 15
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 16
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 17
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 18
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 19
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 20
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 21
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 22
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 23
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 24
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 25
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 26
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 27
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 28
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 29
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 30
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 31
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 32
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 33
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 34
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 35
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 36
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 37
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 38
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 39
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 40
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 41
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 42
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 43
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 44
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 45
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 46
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 47
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 48
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 49
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 50
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 51
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 52
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 53
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 54
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 55
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 56
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 57
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 58
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 59
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 60
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 61
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 62
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 63
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 64
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 65
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 66
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 67
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 68
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 69
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 70
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 71
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 72
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 73
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 74
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 75
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 76
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 77
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 78
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 79
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 80
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 81
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 82
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 83
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 84
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - Cover3
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202207
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202206
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202205
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202204
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202203
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202202
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202201
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202112
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202111
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202110
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202109
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202108
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202107
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202106
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202105
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202104
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202103
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202102
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202101
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/skywatch_2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202012
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202011
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202010
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202009
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202008
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202007
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202006
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202005
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202004
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202003
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202002
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202001
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201912
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201911
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201910
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201909
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201908
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201907
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201906
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201905
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201904
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201903
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201902
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201901
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201812
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201811
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201810
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201809
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201808
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201807
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201806
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201805
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201804
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201803
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201802
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201801
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201712
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201711
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201710
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201709
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201708
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201707
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201706
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201705
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201704
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201703
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201702
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201701
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201612
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201611
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201610
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201609
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201608
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201607
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201606
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201605
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201604
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201603
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201602
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201601
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201512
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201511
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201510
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201509
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201508
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201507
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201506
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201505
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201504
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201503
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201502
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201501
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201412
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201411
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201410
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201409
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201408
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201407
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201406
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_mars
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201405
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201404
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201403
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201402
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201401
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201312
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201311
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201310
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201309
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201308
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201307
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201306
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201305
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201304
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201303
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201302
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201301
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201212
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201211
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201210
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201209
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201208
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201207
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201206
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201205
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201204
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201203
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201202
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201201
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201112
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201111
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201110
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201109
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201108
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201107
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201106
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201105
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201104
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201103
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201102
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201101
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201012
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201011
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201010
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201009
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201008
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201007
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201006
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201005
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201004
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201003
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201002
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201001
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com