Camelopardalis is a relatively dim constellation you can see year-round in the northern hemisphere.
It is a lesser-known constellation that you won’t find in the zodiac or the original constellations of Ptolemy, but it includes some fascinating stars.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the constellation Camelopardalis, and some of the most interesting facts about it.
Camelopardalis Constellation Facts, Myth, Location and Stars
1. Camelopardalis refers to a giraffe
You would think it would refer to a camel, but it doesn’t. Camelopardalis is the Latin name for a giraffe.
The shape of the stars looks a little bit like the two legs of a giraffe supporting a very long neck. This is how Camelopardalis got its name.
Since Camelopardalis is very dim, with none of its stars registering as greater than 4 in apparent magnitude, the ancient Greeks couldn’t see it!
They thought that this region of the night sky was empty of stars, and moved on.
It wasn’t until the 1600s when Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius named Camelopardalis one of his 12 constellations, based on records from Dutch sailors, that Camelopardalis was recognized.
When Plancius’ constellations were reprinted a year later by a German astronomer, Jakob Bartsch, who saw in it “the animal that Rebecca rode to marry Isaac – which was a camel.
However, the name was eventually changed to Camelopardalis, which is the Latin name for a giraffe.
2. Camelopardalis is extremely dim.
It has to be very dark to see Camelopardalis with the naked eye, and even then it is better with a pair of binoculars.
Camelopardalis does not include any stars that are brighter than a magnitude of 4.02.
The limit to what humans can see with the naked eye is an apparent magnitude of about 6.
Most of the stars in Camelopardalis fall into this narrow range, and if you live in a region with a lot of light pollution you might never be able to see them.
If you are lucky enough to live in a region that gets very dark nights with low levels of light pollution, it still might be helpful to bring binoculars.
There are only 5 stars in Camelopardalis that are brighter than an apparent magnitude of 5.0.
The majority of interesting stars in this constellation are on the borderline of what is visible with the naked eye, even on the darkest of nights.
3. You can see Camelopardalis any time of year in the northern hemisphere.
Camelopardalis is a circumpolar constellation that rotates around the celestial north pole, which makes it visible for most of the night, year-round in the northern hemisphere.
If you are in North America, Europe, or North Asia, you are lucky enough to have almost permanent access to this constellation.
In the southern hemisphere, you are out of luck. It is possible to view Camelopardalis at latitudes above -10.
That includes Darwin, Australia, but not Sydney.
If you are in the far southern hemisphere, Camelopardalis may never be visible.
In the northern parts of the southern hemisphere, it may only be narrowly visible for a part of the year – from November to February.
4. Camelopardalis is the 18th largest constellation in the sky.
As one of the larger constellations, Camelopardalis takes up 757 square degrees or about 1.8% of the sky.
For most of history, this was considered empty space.
Now that we have better binoculars and telescope equipment, we can see that a lot is going on in this region of the sky that we couldn’t detect before.
These dim stars are just as interesting as brighter and closer stars.
There are no Messier objects in this constellation, but there are deep-sky objects like Kemble’s cascade.
5. Camelopardalis includes Kemble’s Cascade
This asterism (grouping of stars smaller than a constellation) is a line of more than 20 dim stars that fall inside Camelopardalis.
The brightest of these is HR 1204, or H Camelopardalis, which is a blue dwarf with an apparent magnitude of 4.95.
Kemble’s cascade is named after Father Lucien Kemble, a Franciscan friar and amateur astronomer who discovered the asterism and described it as “a beautiful cascade of faint stars tumbling from the northwest down to the open cluster NGC 1502.”
When an article was published about it in the 1980s, the author referred to it as Kemble’s Cascade and the name has stuck.
NGC 1502, the system that Kemble’s cascade “pours” into, is a cluster of about 45 stars located about 2700 light-years away.
It has an apparent magnitude of 6.9. At its center is Struve 485, a binary star.
6. There are some notable stars in Camelopardalis
– Beta Camelopardalis is the brightest star in the system, with an apparent magnitude of 4.02. It is a binary star that is about 1000 light-years away.
– CS Camelopardalis is also a binary star. It is a blue-white B-type supergiant and is very dim, with an apparent magnitude of 8.7.
– VZ Camelopardalis is an M-type red giant with an apparent magnitude of 4.92. It is located about 470 light-years away.
7. You can find Camelopardalis by looking for the north star.
The north star – Polaris – is in the celestial north.
As a circumpolar constellation, Camelopardalis circles the north star.
If you can find Polaris, you can find Camelopardalis, and it is much better to start from there than to search for the dim stars in this constellation by themselves.
Once you can see Polaris, look for Capella, in the constellation Auriga.
If you draw an imaginary line between these constellations, you will find Alpha Camelopardalis somewhere in the middle of that line.
Camelopardalis is located between Casseiopeia and Ursa Major. It is surrounded by Cepheus, Draco, Lynx, Perseus, and Ursa Minor.
The Camel Constellation – Camelopardalis
Camelopardalis isn’t named after a camel.
It represents a giraffe, evidenced by the long lecky atop skinny stick legs in the constellation.
As a very dim constellation, it is difficult to see Camelopardalis with the naked eye.
You’ll need a very dark night, and probably a set of binoculars.
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