The Draco constellation is formed by a series of mostly dim stars in a chain that resembles a serpent, winding its way through the night sky.
Draco includes the cat’s eye nebula, and the former north star, Thuban.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the most interesting facts about the Draco constellation.
Draco Constellation Facts, Myth, Location and Stars
1. Draco isn’t the easiest constellation to see.
The Draco constellation is the 8th largest constellation in the sky, covering more than 1000 square degrees of space, or about 2.63% of the night sky.
However, all of this space is quite spread out.
Draco is a long snake or serpent that wraps itself around Ursa Minor and wedges itself between other constellations, too.
The stars that make up the body of the dragon are fairly far apart, so unless you know where to look, it can be hard to connect the dots.
Once you have spotted Draco for the first time, it will be easier to see it again.
2. Draco means “dragon” and is linked to myths about serpents.
The word “Draco” and the image of a serpent both lead us back to the Greek “Drakon”, which was a monster involved in the fight between the gods and the giants.
Draco fought Minerva, and he lost. That’s why he was thrown into the sky, where he remains to this day as a constellation.
Another dragon story that people associate with the Draco constellation is the story of the dragon that Hera used to guard her golden apples.
When Hercules wanted them, he had to throw a spear into the garden to kill the dragon.
3. Draco contains some interesting stars:
– Thuban was once the star at the celestial north pole. Because of precession, the zodiac signs move about one degree every 70 years.
In the time of the ancient Egyptians, when the pyramids at Giza were constructed, the north star was Thuban and they designed their architecture around featuring this star.
The current north star is Polaris. It will remain at the celestial north pole for the next several hundred years.
– Eltanin is the brightest star in the Draco constellation.
It has an apparent magnitude of 2.24, and it is 69 light-years away from the sun.
Struve 2398 B is the closest star in the Draco constellation to Earth.
It is only 11 light-years away! That’s still a pretty long trip, but it’s much closer than the farthest star in the constellation.
HIP 57123 is more than 163,000 light-years away from the sun.
4. The Draco constellation is circumpolar.
As one of the northernmost constellations, Draco includes the north pole of the ecliptic.
Because it is so close to the point of rotation in the sky, it doesn’t move as much as some other constellations.
It rotates around that celestial north axis but remains generally in the same place in the sky.
This means it is conveniently visible year-round for those who live in the northern hemisphere, and that you can probably locate it at a similar place in the sky, no matter what time of year you are looking.
5. Draco is home to the cat’s eye nebula
The cat’s eye nebula is a well-known planetary nebula that was first studied by the astronomer William Huggins.
This nebula was called planetary because he thought that they resembled planets, but the truth is that they have nothing to do with planets.
When a star of intermediate mass (1-8 times the mass of our sun) often loses its atmosphere and the radiation from the exposed core ionizes all of the material that was ejected and floating away.
This ultraviolet light causes a beautiful show for astronomers, who get to see the end of a red giant star’s life as a kind of colorful slow-motion explosion in the night sky.
The cat’s eye nebula is more than 3,000 light-years away from earth. When the death of the star is finished, it will leave behind a white dwarf.
6. You can locate the Draco constellation by looking for Ursa Minor.
The snake of the Draco constellation wraps itself around Ursa Minor.
If you can locate Ursa Minor, look for the stars around it in the line pattern that you expect Draco to take.
Because Draco is circumpolar, it is easily viewable at any time of night or year in the northern hemisphere.
It moves on its axis throughout the night, but light pollution and other environmental factors are all that matter when it comes to being able to see this constellation.
If you live in the southern hemisphere, unfortunately, you are out of luck.
It is impossible to see Draco at all in the southern hemisphere, since it is one of the northernmost constellations.
You’ll have to settle for a photograph or book a plane ticket to the northern hemisphere.
7. Look for the tadpole galaxy inside the Draco constellation
The tadpole galaxy is a deep-sky object visible inside the Draco constellation. It looks like a tadpole because it is a centrally spinning galaxy with several tails spinning off of it.
The tadpole galaxy is the result of two galaxies colliding.
The galaxies in question are so far away that we are seeing what this merger between massive celestial bodies looked like millions of years ago.
The tadpole galaxy is a perfect example of what could happen if our own Milky Way galaxy merges with the Andromeda galaxy, as it seems to be prepared to do over the next few billion years.
The Constellation of the Dragon – Draco
The Draco constellation is one of the northernmost constellations in the night sky. Although it is large, it isn’t easy to find because it is composed of dim stars and surrounded by other constellations.
With a little practice, you can pick it out by the way it wraps around Ursa Minor.
The mythology of the dragon comes from Greek stories about the battles between the gods and the giants, in which a dragon was thrown into the sky.
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