Constellation Canis Minor (Lesser Dog)

Canis Minor
Canis Minor: IAU Constellation Map [150]

Properties

Canis Minor doesn't look like much as a constellation. It is relatively small at 183 square degrees and is located east of Orion, about the same height as its left shoulder star Betelgeuse. With the naked eye, however, only the two brightest stars Procyon and Gomeisa are striking in Canis Minor. The star Procyon forms together with Castor (α Geminorum), Pollux (β Geminorum), Capella (α Aurigae), Aldebaran (α Tauri), Rigel (β Orionis) and Sirius (α Canis Majoris) the winter hexagon. The center of the constellation culminates at midnight on around August 5th.[9, 15]

Stars with Proper Names [154]
α CMi Procyon, Elgomaisa, Algomeysa, Antecanis
β CMi Gomeisa, Algomeyla, Gomelza
Data for constellation Canis Minor [150]
IAU NameCanis Minor
IAU GenitiveCanis Minoris
IAU Abbr.CMi
English NameLesser Dog
Opposition12 January
Season (47° N)October … April
Right Ascension07h 06m 39s … 08h 11m 41s
Declination+00° 22' 10" … +13° 13' 26"
Area183 deg2
Neighbours (N↻)Gem, Mon, Hya, Cnc

Deep-Sky Object Descriptions

Catalogues

Mythology and History

The Greeks in ancient Greece thought Canis Minor was the smaller of the two dogs that followed the hunter Orion. According to another legend, the two dogs should belong to Diana, the goddess of the hunt or the woman of legendary beauty, Helen of Troy. [78]

Constellation Canis Minor
Constellation Canis Minor: Illustration from «Uranometria» by Johann Bayer, copper engraving by Alexander Mair, 1603 [28]

Another story tells of the Erigone's dog. She was the daughter of a simple Athenian farmer named Ikarios. Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility, wine and intoxication, had taught Ikarios how to press wine. Ikarios offered a sample of his art to a group of shepherds who, uncontrollably, drank the wine undiluted in large quantities until they thought they were enchanted because they saw some things twice. In their intoxication, they killed Ikarios because they thought he had poisoned them. After they had slept off their intoxication, they buried him under a fir tree and carefully covered all traces so that their deed would not be known. Ikarios' daughter Erigone did not know where her father was until her dog Maria dragged her by a corner of her robe to the place where her father had been buried by the murderers. Erigone was desperate and hanged herself from the Christmas tree that stood by her father's grave. The Delphic Oracle solved the crime and the guilty shepherds were punished. The dog Maria (Canis Minor) was transferred to heaven, Ikarios was turned into a boat (ox driver) who drives his winery (big wagon) and Erigone dies as a virgin.

The Greek name for this constellation was transcribed by the Romans to Procyon. This name means that the constellation - at least in northern latitudes - rises earlier in the east than the Big Dog. Cicero called it Antecanis, the constellation was also called Antecedens Canis, Antecursor, Praecanis, Procanis, Catellus (puppy), Icarium Astrum, Erigonius and Canis virgineus. After the Christianization of heaven, the little dog started wool and always bleated as an Easter lamb on Easter. [20]

References

  • [9] «Drehbare Sternkarte SIRIUS» von H. Suter-Haug; Hallwag-Verlag, Bern
  • [15] «Hartung's Astronomical Objects for Southern Telescopes» by David Malin and David J. Frew; Melbourne University Press 1995; ISBN 0-522-84553-3
  • [20] «Sternbilder und ihre Mythen» von Gerhard Fasching; Zweite, verbesserte Auflage; Springer Verlag Wien, New York; ISBN 3-211-82552-5 (Wien); ISBN 0-387-82552-5 (New York)
  • [28] «Uranometria omnium asterismorum continens schemata, nova methodo delineata aereis laminis expressa» Johann Bayer, Augsburg, 1603; DOI:10.3931/e-rara-309
  • [78] The Starry Sky: Canis Minor by Deborah Byrd; Astronomy 2/95, p.63
  • [150] IAU: The Constellations, 11. Oktober 2020; iau.org/public/themes/constellations
  • [154] Yale Bright Star Catalog, 15. Oktober 2020; tdc-www.harvard.edu/catalogs/bsc5.html