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Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Draco the Dragon constellation mapDRACO the Dragon is a large, winding constellation found in the Northern Hemisphere sky. It is generally difficult to find. As shown in the Little Astronomy Blog constellation map above, Draco is surrounded by seven constellations: Boötes, Cepheus, Cygnus, Hercules, Lyra, Ursa Major, and Ursa Minor. Draco is famous for a mesmerizing New General Catalogue object: the Cat's Eye Nebula. Categorized as NGC 6543, this planetary nebula features a dying star in the center with concentric shells of dust. Another interesting cosmic object is dwarf spiral galaxy NGC 6503, located near the star Psi (ψ) Draconis. This NASA webpage (opens in new tab or window) mentions that stargazer Stephen James O’Meara nicknamed this galaxy the Lost-in-Space Galaxy due to its location in the Local Void, an area where NGC 6503 is alone and far away from other galaxies. Draco's brightest star is Etamin (Gamma Draconis, γ) with an apparent magnitude of about 2.24. Etamin is also known as Eltanin and is described as "the dragon's head." Other bright stars include Aldhibain (Eta Draconis, η), Rastaban (Beta Draconis, β; also known as Alwaid), and Altais (Delta Draconis, δ). According to WolframAlpha (link opens in new tab/window), Draco's stars exhibit a wide range of temperatures. With a temperature of about 5000° Kelvin, Giausar (Lambda Draconis, λ) has one of the lowest temperatures in Draco. In contrast, stars such as Nodus I (Zeta Draconis, ζ) and Kappa (κ) Draconis heat up about three times more than Giausar at 15,000° K! NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) image links - the yellow text below - automatically open in new tabs or windows.

Brightest Star: Etamin (also known as Eltanin and γ Draconis)
Binary (Double) Stars: Aldhibain, Epsilon Draconis (ε), Mu Draconis (μ), Nu Draconis (ν), and Psi Draconis (ψ)
Variable Stars: AT Draconis, RY Draconis, and VW Draconis
Galaxies: New General Catalogue objects: 4125, 4236, 4589, 4750, Spindle Galaxy (NGC 5866 and M102), 5879, 5907, Draco Group (trio comprised of 5981, 5982, and 5985), 6015, and 6503
Planetary Nebula: Cat's Eye Nebula

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Blog Background

The background has three Hubble Space Telescope images, which are accessible at this Hubble webpage:

— LH 95 is a star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, Dorado constellation.

— Ant Nebula (also called Menzel 3) is an aptly-named planetary nebula located in the constellation Norma.
— Egg Nebula (also called CL 2688) is a protoplanetary nebula in the constellation Cygnus.

HubbleSite Image Links: LH 95, Ant Nebula, and Egg Nebula