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May Constellations

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The seven May constellations feature such well-known groups as Centaurus, the centaur, and Virgo, the maiden. These constellations contain a large number of interesting Messier objects including galaxies and star clusters. Coma Berinices is home to several Messier galaxies. These galaxies are part of a large group known as the Virgo cluster. This cluster of over 2,000 galaxies includes M64, the Blackeye Galaxy and M100, a spiral galaxy and the brightest member of the Virgo cluster. Several more of these galaxies can be found in constellation Virgo. It contains 11 Messier galaxies of various shapes and sizes. An additional four galaxies are located in the constellation of Canes Venatici.

Canes Venatici | Centaurus | Coma Berenices | Corvus | Crux | Musca | Virgo

  Canes Venatici The Hunting Dogs  

Pronunciation:  (KAY-neez vee-NAT-uh-sigh) 
Abbreviation:  CVn   Genitive:  Canum Venaticorum
Right Ascension:  13.16 hours   Declination:  41.15 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
456
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, May 20

Canes Venatici is visible in the Northern Hemisphere in spring and summer. It was named after the hunting dogs, Asterion and Chara, held by Boötes as he hunts for the bears Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. It is another of the constellations introduced by Johannes Hevelius. Canes Venatici is composed mainly of faint stars, but it does contain five Messier objects. All of these are spiral galaxies except for M3, which is a globular star cluster. M51 is known as the Whirlpool Galaxy, and is one of the most beautiful face-on spirals in the sky.

Points of Interest in Canes Venatici
Diagram of the constellation Canes Venatici Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 M51 Spiral Galaxy 8.4
2 M106 Spiral Galaxy 8.4
3 M63 Spiral Galaxy 8.6
4 M94 Spiral Galaxy 8.2
5 M3 Globular Star Cluster 6.2
6 Cor Caroli "Heart of Charles" 2.90
7 Chara "Dear" 4.26
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  Centaurus The Centaur  

Pronunciation:  (sen-TAHR-us) 
Abbreviation:  Cen   Genitive:  Centauri

Right Ascension:  13.13 hours   Declination:  -45.96 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
1060
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, May 20

Centaurus, the Centaur, is one of the largest constellations in the sky. It represents Chiron, one of the half-man, half-horse beasts of Greek mythology. Chiron was accidentally wounded by Hercules. After his death, Hercules honored him by giving him a place in the stars. Under a dark sky, the outline of the constellation does indeed resemble a centaur. Centaurus is the site of the third brightest star in the sky, Rigel Kentaurus, at magnitude -0.01. This star is actually part of a triple star system, which includes the well-known star, Alpha Centauri. These are actually the closest stars to our own solar system. Another star in Centaurus, Agena, is the tenth brightest star in the night sky. This constellation contains no Messier objects.

Points of Interest in Centaurus
Diagram of the constellation Centaurus Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 Rigel Kentaurus "Foot of the Centaur" -0.01
2 Agena "The Settled Land" -0.23
3 Menkent "Shoulder of the Centaur" 2.06
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  Coma Berenices Berinice's Hair  

Pronunciation:  (KOH-muh BER-uh-NY-seez) 
Abbreviation:  Com   Genitive:  Comae Berenices
Right Ascension:  12.76 hours   Declination:  21.83 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
386
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, May 15

Coma Berenices is visible in the northern hemisphere in spring and summer and may be found between Virgo and Ursa Major. It refers to Berenice, the wife of Ptolemy III of Egypt, whose beautiful long hair was given to Aphrodite as a gift. The stars in this constellation are not very bright, but it does contain a variety of objects, including eight messier objects. All of these are galaxies except for M53, which is a globular star cluster. M64 is a spiral galaxy known as the Blackeye Galaxy. It gets it name from a dark region of dust near its center, which makes the galaxy look as if it has a back eye. M100 is the brightest galaxy in the group. It is a beautiful example of a face-on spiral galaxy.

Points of Interest in Coma Berenices
Diagram of the constellation Coma Berenices Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 M53 Globular Star Cluster 7.6
2 M64 Spiral Galaxy 8.5
3 M85 Elliptical Galaxy 9.1
4 M91 Spiral Galaxy 10.2
5 M88 Spiral Galaxy 9.6
6 M100 Spiral Galaxy 9.3
7 M99 Spiral Galaxy 9.9
8 M98 Spiral Galaxy 10.1
9 Diadem * 5.22
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  Corvus The Crow  

Pronunciation:  (KOR-vus) 
Abbreviation:  Crv   Genitive: Corvi
Right Ascension:  12.47 hours   Declination:  -13.33 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
184
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, May 10

Corvus, the Crow, is visible in the Northern Hemisphere from January until May If you live in the lower latitudes. Corvus is a very old constellation. To the ancient Greeks, it was a crow, or raven, sent by Apollo to fetch water. The raven wasted his time eating figs. After returning late, Apollo punished him by throwing him into the heavens. He was also condemned to endure eternal thirst. This is why the crow caws instead of singing like other birds. Corvus contains no Messier objects. With the exception of a few binary stars, there are no items of interest in this constellation.

Points of Interest in Corvus
Diagram of the constellation Corvus Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 Alchiba "Tent" 4.02
2 Kraz * 2.65
3 Gienah Ghurab "Wing" 2.59
4 Algorab "Raven" 2.95
5 Minkar "Nose" 3.00
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  Crux The Southern Cross  

Pronunciation:  (KRUKS
Abbreviation:  Cru   Genitive: Crucis
Right Ascension:  12.45 hours   Declination:  -59.97 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
68
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, May 10

Crux, the Southern Cross, is only visible from latitudes south of 27 degrees north. It is completely invisible to most parts of the northern hemisphere. Crux is one of the most familiar constellations in the southern hemisphere, and is also the smallest constellation in the sky. This is an easy constellation to identify, due to its obvious cross shape and bright stars. Since the southern hemisphere does not have a bright star near its pole, Crux was used by sailors as a navigational aid. They would draw a line using the stars in the cross in order to determine the location of the south celestial pole, which is actually located in the constellation Ocatans. Crux contains no Messier objects and no deep sky objects of interest.

Points of Interest in Crux
Diagram of the constellation Crux Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 Acrux "Alpha of Crux" 1.33
2 Becrux "Beta of Crux" 1.25
3 Gacrux "Gamma of Crux" 1.63
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  Musca The Fly  

Pronunciation:  (MUS-kuh) 
Abbreviation:  Mus   Genitive: Muscae
Right Ascension:  12.46 hours   Declination:  -70.34 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
138
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, May 10

Musca, the Fly, is completely visible in latitudes south of 15 degrees north between February and April. The constellation was named for its shape, resembling that of a housefly. It is one of 12 southern constellations named by Johann Bayer in 1603. He originally called it Apis, which meant "the Fly Bee". But the name didn't catch on and was eventually changed to Musca Australis vel Indica, "The Southern or Indian Fly", to distinguish it from the Northern Fly. After the International Astronomical Union merged the Northern Fly with Aries in 1929, the name was shortened to Musca. This constellation is composed of faint stars and contains no Messier objects.

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

This constellation is composed mainly of faint stars.

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  Virgo The Maiden  

Pronunciation:  (VER-goh) 
Abbreviation:  Vir   Genitive:  Virginis
Right Ascension:  13.21 hours   Declination:  -3.73 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
1294
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, May 25

Virgo can be seen in spring and summer in the northern hemisphere and in autumn and winter in the southern hemisphere. It is the second largest constellation in the sky after Hydra. Virgo is depicted as a maiden. In ancient times she was Isis, the Egyptian protectress of the living and the dead and the principal mother goddess. Virgo has also been Ishtar of the Sumerian-Chaldean civilizations, and Inanna, the goddess of love. In Roman times she was represented by the goddess Ceres. Her festival was in the second week of April, the same time that the constellation appears in the spring skies. Virgo is one of the 13 constellations of the Zodiac. The Sun passes through Virgo in mid-September. This makes Virgo the constellation that announces the harvest. This constellation is perhaps best known for the large cluster of galaxies known as the Virgo cluster. This local cluster contains over 2000 galaxies, 11 of which appear in the Messier catalog. The most famous of these is M104, the Sombrero Galaxy. This edge-on spiral galaxy has a dark dust lane running across its center, giving it the appearance of a sombrero hat.

Points of Interest in Virgo
Diagram of the constellation Virgo Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 M104 Spiral Galaxy 8.0
2 M61 Spiral Galaxy 9.7
3 M49 Elliptical Galaxy 8.4
4 M58 Barred Spiral Galaxy 9.7
5 M59 Elliptical Galaxy 9.6
6 M60 Elliptical Galaxy 8.8
7 M84 Elliptical Galaxy 9.1
8 M86 Elliptical Galaxy 8.9
9 M87 Elliptical Galaxy 8.6
10 M89 Elliptical Galaxy 9.8
11 M90 Spiral Galaxy 9.5
12 Spica "Ear of Wheat" 0.98
13 Zavijah "Most Knowledgeable" 3.61
14 Porrima "Roman Goddess of Childbirth" 3.65
15 Auva "The Barker" 3.38
16 Vindemiatrix "Vine Harvestress" 2.83
17 Heze * 3.37
18 Zaniah "Corner" 3.89
19 Syrma "Train" 4.08
20 Rijl al Awwa * 3.88
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