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April Constellations

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The eight April constellations include such popular groups as Hydra, the sea serpent, Leo, the lion, and Ursa Major, the great bear. Ursa Major is a large constellation that includes what may be the most famous constellation in the sky, the Big Dipper. The April sky contains a number of fascinating Messier objects including a large number of galaxies, both spiral and irregular. Leo contains five galaxies and Ursa Major contains five as well. Ursa Major is also home to the famous Owl Nebula, a planetary nebula formed when an old star ejected large amounts of mater into space.

Antlia | Chamaeleon | Crater | Hydra | Leo | Leo Minor | Sextans | Ursa Major

  Antlia The Air Pump  

Pronunciation:  (ANT-lee-uh) 
Abbreviation:  Ant   Genitive:  Antliae
Right Ascension:  10.16 hours   Declination:  -34.44 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
239
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, April 5

Antlia, the Air Pump, is visible in northern latitudes to 66 degrees north and southern latitudes to 50 degrees south from January through March. It is one of the 15 constellations named by Lacaille to fill in the empty spaces in the southern hemisphere. Originally named "Antlia Pneumatica and Machine Pneumatique", it commemorates the invention of the air pump by Robert Boyle. Antlia occupies a mostly empty region of the sky and contains only faint stars. It requires a lot of imagination to find an air pump in this area. There are no objects of interest to be found in this constellation.

Points of Interest in Antlia
Diagram of the constellation Antlia
None.

This constellation is composed mainly of faint stars.

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  Chamaeleon The Chameleon  

Pronunciation:  (kuh-MEE-lee-un) 
Abbreviation:  Cha   Genitive:  Chamaeleonotis
Right Ascension:  10.58 hours   Declination:  -79.75 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
132
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, April 15

Chamaeleon, the Chameleon, is visible in southern latitudes from 7 degrees South. It is difficult to spot in northern latitudes and is completely invisible in above 15 degrees from February through April. Named by Johann Bayer in 1603, the constellation is supposed to represent the famous color-changing lizard of the same name. Chamaeleon is located so far to the south that is circumpolar to residents of the southern hemisphere. This means it is visible all night long. Only those with vivid imaginations can make a lizard out of the dim stars in this constellation. Chamaeleon contains no notable objects of interest.

Points of Interest in Chamaeleon
Diagram of the constellation Chamaeleon
None.

This constellation is composed mainly of faint stars.

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  Crater The Cup  

Pronunciation:  (KRAY-ter) 
Abbreviation:  Crt   Genitive:  Crateris
Right Ascension:  11.43 hours   Declination:  -12 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
282
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, April 25

Crater, the Cup, represents the goblet of the Greek god Apollo. In ancient times it was also called the Cinerary Urn, which was a water bucket. It can best be seen in the northern hemisphere in April. The shape of this constellation does indeed resemble a cup. Aside from the 4.08 magnitude star, Alkes, there is not much of interest in this part of the sky. Crater is the origin point of the Eta Craterids meteor shower, which occurs annually between January 11 and 22.

Points of Interest in Crater
Diagram of the constellation Crater Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 Alkes "Cup" 4.08
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  Hydra The Sea Serpent  

Pronunciation:  (HYD-ruh) 
Abbreviation:  Hya   Genitive:  Hydrae
Right Ascension:  10.12 hours   Declination:  -19.36 degrees
Area in Square Degrees:  1303
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, April 20

Hydra, the Sea Serpent, is best seen from the southern hemisphere, but can be observed in the north between January and May. It represents a giant water snake, guarding the cup (Crater) from the crow (Corvus). In mythology, Hydra was a giant beast with the body of a dog and 100 snake-like heads. It was slain by Hercules on the second of his twelve labors for the king of Mycenae. Hydra is the largest constellation in the sky, and its stars form a long snake-like shape stretching from Libra to Canis Major along the southern horizon. This constellation was once much larger, but was later split into Sextans, Crater, Corvus, and a slightly smaller Hydra. Hydra contains three Messier objects: M48, an open star cluster, M68, a globular cluster, and M83, a magnificent spiral galaxy also known as the Southern Pinwheel.

Points of Interest in Hydra
Diagram of the constellation Hydra Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 M48 Open Star Cluster 5.5
2 M68 Globular Star Cluster 7.8
3 M83 Spiral Galaxy 7.6
4 Alphard "Heart of the Hydra" 1.98
5 Al Minliar al Shuja * 4.44
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  Leo The Lion  

Pronunciation:  (LEE-oh) 
Abbreviation:  Leo   Genitive:  Leonis
Right Ascension:  10.66 hours   Declination:  16.45 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
947
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, April 10

Leo, the Lion, can be found in the northern hemisphere in the spring and southern hemisphere in autumn. It was named after the Nemean lion, which was killed by Hercules on the first of his twelve labors for the king of Mycenae. According to legend, the lion had a hide that could not be pierced by iron, bronze, or stone. Hercules strangled the great beast after unsuccessfully trying to reason with it. The ancient Egyptians worshiped Leo as the place where the Sun rose after creation. It appearance in the night sky coincided with the summer solstice and the flooding of the Nile river. Leo contains five Messier objects, all of them galaxies. All of these are spiral galaxies, except for M105, which is an elliptical. The bright star, Regulus, was seen in ancient times as the guardian of the heavens. Its name means "heart of the lion", due to its position in the constellation. With a magnitude of 1.35, Regulus is the 25th brightest star in the sky.

Points of Interest in Leo
Diagram of the constellation Leo Minor Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 M66 Spiral Galaxy 8.9
2 M65 Spiral Galaxy 9.3
3 M105 Elliptical Galaxy 9.3
4 M96 Spiral Galaxy 9.2
5 M95 Spiral Galaxy 9.7
6 Regulus "Heart of the Lion" 1.35
7 Denebola "Tail of the Lion" 2.14
8 Algiebra "Forehead" 2.61
9 Zosma "Loincloth" 2.56
10 Ras Elased Australis "Head of the Lion" 2.98
11 Adhafera "Curl of Hair" 3.44
12 Chort "Rib" 3.34
13 Al Minliar al Asad * 4.46
14 Alterf "Glance" 4.31
15 Ras Elased Borealis "Head of the Lion" 3.88
16 Subra * 3.52
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  Leo Minor The Lion Cub  

Pronunciation:  (LEE-oh MY-ner) 
Abbreviation:  LMi   Genitive:  Leonis Minoris
Right Ascension:  10.3 hours   Declination:  35.16 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
232
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, April 10

Leo Minor, the Lion Cub is completely visible in latitudes north of 48 degrees South from January through March. It is located just above Leo and doesn't really resemble a lion at all. It is one of seven constellations introduced by Johannes Hevelius in the catalog released in 1690 after his death. Leo Minor is the only northern constellation with no alpha star. Its brightest star is actually 46 Leonis Minoris with a magnitude of 3.8. It is also known by the name Praecipua, which means "principal star". With the exception of a few extremely faint galaxies, there is not much of interest to be seen in this constellation.

Points of Interest in Leo Minor
Diagram of the constellation Leo Major Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 Praecipua "Principal Star" 3.83
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  Sextans The Sextant  

Pronunciation:  (SEKS-tunz) 
Abbreviation:  Sex   Genitive:  Sextantis
Right Ascension:  10.26 hours   Declination:  -2.41 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
314
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, April 5

Sextans is best seen from the southern hemisphere from January through May. It was named by Johannes Hevelius in honor of the instrument he used successfully to make stellar measurements from 1658 to 1679. Hevelius preferred the sextant instead of the telescope when making his observations. This constellation is composed mainly of faint stars and contains no objects of interest.

Points of Interest in Sextans
Diagram of the constellation Sextans
None.

This constellation is composed of only 4th and 5th magnitude stars.

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  Ursa Major The Great Bear  

Pronunciation:  (ER-suh MAY-jer) 
Abbreviation:  UMa   Genitive:  Ursae Majoris
Right Ascension:  10.67 hours   Declination:  55.38 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
1280
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, April 20

Ursa Major, the Great Bear, is visible in the northern hemisphere all year long. It is one of  the best-known constellations and is famous for containing a series of stars known as the Big Dipper. The shape of the bear can clearly be seen under dark skies, with the handle of the dipper making up the bear's tail. During the Civil War, the Big Dipper was used by the Underground Railroad. Slaves escaping from the South were told to follow the "drinking gourd" to a better life. This is because the Big Dipper is circumpolar, meaning it can be see in the North all night long. The message of the drinking gourd was passed along in the form of song, since most of the slaves were unable to read or write. Ursa Major is also the site of a well-known binary star system. Mizor and Alcor, located in the base of the dipper's these two stars were the first binary system to be discovered in 1650. They can easily be separated with a good pair of binoculars. Ursa Major contains seven Messier objects, including a double star, a planetary nebula, an irregular galaxy, and four spiral galaxies.

Points of Interest in Ursa Major
Diagram of the constellation Ursa Major Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 M101 Spiral Galaxy 7.9
2 M40 Double Star 8.4
3 M109 Spiral Galaxy 9.8
4 M97 Planetary Nebula 9.9
5 M108 Spiral Galaxy 10
6 M82 Irregular Galaxy 8.4
7 M81 Spiral Galaxy 6.9
8 Dubhe "Bear" 1.79
9 Merak "Loins" 2.37
10 Phad "Thigh" 2.44
11 Megrez "Base of the Tail" 3.31
12 Alioth * 1.77
13 Mizar * 2.27
14 Alkaid "Chief of the Mourners" 1.86
15 Talitha * 3.14
16 Tania Borealis * 3.45
17 Tania Australis * 3.05
18 Aula Borealis * 3.48
19 Aula Australis * 4.41
20 Muscida "Muzle" 3.36
21 Alcor * 4.01
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