EarthSky | Meet Canis Minor the Lesser Dog in February


Canis Minor and its vibrant star Procyon lie inside the Winter Circle or Hexagon.

Canis Minor the Lesser or Little Dog is a small constellation, nevertheless it has a major star. It’s home to the Eighth-brightest star in all the sky, generally known as Procyon or Alpha Canis Minoris. This star will also be one among many six stars inside the noticeable Winter Circle asterism.

The companion constellation to the Lesser Dog is, in spite of everything, shut by Canis Major, the Greater Dog. And Canis Major properties the brightest star inside the sky, Sirius, which will also be part of the Winter Circle.

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Sirius is normally generally known as the Dog Star. And Procyon is known as the Little Dog Star. This is an environment friendly time to look at for these stars and constellations, because of, inside the subsequent few nights, the moon will possible be shifting amongst them.

Chart with hexagon in red, several labeled stars, and 3 positions of the moon.
The moon is shifting inside the midst of the Winter Circle stars on the evenings of February 11, 12 and 13, 2022. Watch for the star Procyon inside the Circle. It’s the brightest star in Canis Major, the Lesser Dog. Read more about the moon and Winter Circle.

The mythology of Canis Minor

Canis Minor and Canis Major are the devoted canine of Orion the Hunter. They lie east of Orion and observe him up from the horizon inside the Northern Hemisphere.

In one mythological story, the gods positioned the Lesser Dog on the banks of the river of the Milky Way so it may not at all be thirsty.

English astronomer Richard Proctor tried to rename Canis Minor for a cat, Felis, to inform aside it from Canis Major.

Due to Canis Minor’s proximity to Monoceros the Unicorn, many illustrations depict the Lesser Dog in order that’s seems to be standing on the Unicorn’s once more.

Antique colored etching of a spaniel dog standing on a unicorn's back, with scattered stars.
The constellations Canis Minor and Monoceros from Urania’s Mirror, circa 1825. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Finding the Lesser Dog

Canis Minor is easy to go looking out in February and March. If you may discover Orion, you probably can merely starhop your choice to Canis Minor. If you’re inside the Northern Hemisphere, Orion stands extreme above the southern horizon mid-evening. To its left, out from reddish Betelgeuse, is vibrant Procyon. You can spot even brighter Sirius to the lower correct. These three stars make up the Winter Triangle.

From the Southern Hemisphere, Orion is standing on his head above the northern horizon and Canis Minor is to the right.

Star chart with labeled black dots for stars and a red triangle connecting three of them.
The Winter Triangle is an asterism highlighting stars in Canis Minor, Canis Major and Orion. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Stars of Canis Minor

While Canis Minor should not be the smallest of the 88 constellations, it’s doubtless one of many smaller ones, ranking 71st. The majority of the smallest constellations are in Southern Hemisphere skies.

This diminutive constellation has two stars of phrase. The first you’ve already met. Procyon, or the Little Dog Star, shines at magnitude 0.40. The temperature of Procyon – at 7,000 kelvin (6,700 Celsius or 12,000 Fahrenheit) – is rather like that of the sun. Unlike the sun, it has a stellar companion, a hard-to see white dwarf which requires a giant telescope. Procyon appears vibrant to us on Earth because of it’s a mere 11.4 light-years away.

The completely different vibrant star in Canis Minor is Gomeisa, or Beta Canis Minoris. Gomeisa shines at a magnitude 2.89. Gomeisa lies a far more distant 170 light-years away.

Star chart, black dots on white background, large Procyon labeled.
The star chart for Canis Minor reveals Procyon as a giant dot, an indicator of how vibrant it is as compared with surrounding stars. Image via IAU/ Wikimedia Commons.

Part of the Winter Triangle and Circle

Bright Procyon will get included into two obligatory winter asterisms: the Winter Triangle and Winter Circle or Hexagon. Starting on the bottom of the Winter Circle with the brightest star, Sirius, the alternative stars inside the Circle are Procyon, Pollux, Capella, Aldebaran and Rigel. The Winter Triangle is form of a slice of a pie taken out of the Winter Circle. It accommodates Sirius and Procyon plus Orion’s reddish Betelgeuse.

A large hexagonal pattern made of labeled bright stars in separate constellations.
The Winter Hexagon – aka the Winter Circle – via Stellarium/

Deep-sky targets in Canis Minor

Quite plenty of galaxies and nebulae lie in Canis Minor, nevertheless the bulk are too faint for the casual beginner astronomer. The brightest of these is barely thirteenth magnitude, the spiral galaxy NGC 2485. Because our private Milky Way lies inside the southwest portion of the constellation, the faint galaxies that you’ll uncover all lie inside the northeast portion of Canis Minor’s boundaries. You can take into account the highway drawn between Procyon and Gomeisa as a result of the border of the Milky Way.

Bottom line: Canis Minor is a small constellation with one notably vibrant star, Procyon. The constellation of the Lesser Dog follows Orion all through the sky.

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