Camelopardalis is a large constellation located in the northern sky. It represents a giraffe, the tallest terrestrial animal on Earth. It is not one of the 48 Greek constellations credited to Claudius Ptolemy. And with that said, no mythological stories are related to it.
The celestial giraffe was only created many years later in 1613. It was introduced by the Dutch-Flemish astronomer Petrus Plancius. His works helped fill the gaps of the sky where no constellation once occupied. He was also a cartographer who had big contributions in mapping the southern skies.
After Camelopardalis was introduced, it was included in the 1624 star atlas of the German astronomer Jakob Bartsch. He related this constellation to the bible story of Rebecca and Isaac, in the book of Genesis. It is believed that it is the camel that Rebecca rode when she journeyed to Canaan to meet and marry Isaac. Aside from Bartsch, the influential works of Johannes Hevelius also helped in establishing this constellation.
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) uses the abbreviation Cam for the celestial giraffe. The genitive for it is the same as its name, Camelopardalis. Out of the 88 modern constellations recognized by the IAU, Camelopardalis ranks as the 18th largest constellation. It occupies an area of 757 square degrees. That is about 1.83% of our entire night sky!
Though Camelopardalis is considered large, it is not especially bright. It has no bright star in particular as none of them is brighter than magnitude 3.0. Its brightest stellar members are only within the fourth magnitude range. Its brightest star, Beta Camelopardalis, is 4.03 in apparent magnitude. That is followed by the 4.21-magnitude CS Camelopardalis.
More than five stars in Camelopardalis have planetary systems. Another thing to be excited about this constellation is the October Camelopardalids. It is a meteor shower that seems to have its radiant point from the celestial giraffe. A supernova was discovered in the constellation in 2011. It is called SN 2010lt and is in the UGC 3378 galaxy.
Noteworthy deep-sky objects are present in this constellation. Examples include the galaxy NGC 2403 and the open cluster NGC 1502, among others.
Camelopardalis is in the Ursa Major Family of constellations together with:
- Ursa Major (the Great Bear)
- Ursa Minor (the Little Bear)
- Draco (the Dragon)
- Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs)
- Boötes (the Herdsman)
- Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair)
- Corona Borealis (the Northern Star)
- Lynx (the Lynx)
- Leo Minor (the Lesser Lion)
What’s In A Name?
The name of the Camelopardalis constellation was derived from two Greek words, kamēlos meaning “camel,” and pardalis which means “leopard.” Though the two names literally translate to “camel-leopard,” it is a good description of what a giraffe looks like. Its long neck is comparable to a camel and its body has spots, just like the markings of a leopard.
Other variations of this constellation’s name include Camelopardalus and Camelopardus.
What Does Camelopardalis Look Like?
Different sources show different ways of connecting the stars in constellation Camelopardalis. The most common sky pattern depicting it is that of an h-like shape, or sometimes a triangle. The single line sticking out can be interpreted as the giraffe’s prominent long neck.
Other versions portray the celestial giraffe in the same sense but with more details. In the one below, we can easily make out its legs, body, and of course, neck. We can be really creative in tracing the stars in a constellation!
Where To See the Camelopardalis Constellation
Camelopardalis lies in the 2nd quadrant of the northern hemisphere (NQ2). Its coordinates in the celestial sphere are at about 6 hours right ascension and +70° declination. This constellation is observable at latitudes between +90° and −10°.
Camelopardalis and Its Neighbors
Eight constellations border Camelopardalis. Some of them are among the easiest patterns in our night sky. These are Ursa Minor (the Little Bear), Draco (the Dragon), Ursa Major (the Great Bear), Lynx (the Lynx), Auriga (the Charioteer), Perseus (the Hero), Cassiopeia (the Seated Queen), and Cepheus (the King).
Ways to Spot Camelopardalis
We can use the famous patterns around Camelopardalis to locate it in the sky. If we can find the Big Dipper in Ursa Major and the Little Dipper in Ursa Minor, we know that the celestial giraffe is somewhere near. In fact, this constellation is often associated with the longitude line because its long neck extends to the north pole.
The W asterism in Cassiopeia can be a good reference point we can use too. If we try to draw an imaginary line from it to Ursa Major, the faint area that we can find between them is the constellation of Camelopardalis. We can also do the same with the prominent stars surrounding it. We can try to connect the north star Polaris and Capella, the sixth brightest star in our sky in Auriga constellation, and find it in between.
When To See the Camelopardalis Constellation
Camelopardalis is a northern circumpolar constellation in the mid-northern latitudes. That means observers can see it in the night sky all year long as it never dips below the horizon. This constellation, together with other circumpolar constellations north of the equator, move around Polaris (the North Star) in a counterclockwise direction.
Even if the celestial giraffe is visible to many observers throughout the year, the best way to see it in the night sky is in the month of February, at around 9 pm.
Camelopardalis and Its Stars
Camelopardalis is an overall faint constellation. In fact, the Greek astronomers in the past considered it an empty space in the sky.
Some of its stars were given formal names adopted by the IAU. They were given the names Mago and Tonatiuh.
Alpha Camelopardalis (α Camelopardalis)
Alpha Camelopardalis is not the brightest star in Camelopardalis even though it has the Alpha designation. Its apparent magnitude is 4.3, making it the third brightest star in the constellation. It is a supergiant star with the stellar classification O9 Ia.
Stellar wind and fluctuations in its photosphere affect the spectral lines of this blue-hued star. Its radius is 29 times the solar radius and its mass is about 31 times that of the Sun’s. It lies about 6,000 light-years from us.
Beta Camelopardalis (β Camelopardalis)
Beta Camelopardalis is a yellow-hued star with an apparent magnitude of 4.03. It is the brightest star in the celestial giraffe’s constellation. It was given the stellar classification G1 Ib–IIa. The mass of this star equates to 6.5 times the solar mass. It is also more luminous than the Sun by about 1,592 times.
This supergiant has visual companions, a 7th magnitude star and a 12th magnitude star. Beta Camelopardalis is located at a distance of about 870 light-years.
Gamma Camelopardalis (γ Camelopardalis)
Gamma Camelopardalis is a binary star system. The primary is a subgiant star that is about three times as massive as the Sun. Its stellar classification is A2 IVn, with an apparent magnitude of 4.66. This white-hued star has an oblate shape as a result of its high rotation rate. It radiates with the luminosity of 185 Suns.
The secondary component is a much fainter star whose apparent magnitude is 9.07. The pair has a visual companion that is 12.40 in magnitude. This star system is located 359 light-years away from us.
CS Camelopardalis is the second brightest star in the faint constellation of the celestial giraffe. It is a binary star system that has an overall apparent magnitude of 4.21.
Its primary is a supergiant with a blue-white hue, with the stellar classification of B9 Ia. The apparent magnitude of this B-type star varies from 4.19 to 4.23 since it is an Alpha Cygni variable. The other component is a fainter star that is 8.7 in magnitude.
Mago (HD 32518)
Mago is a K-type star that has an apparent magnitude of 6.436. It is designated HD 32518 in the Henry Draper Catalogue. It belongs in the spectral class K1III. This giant star has an estimated age of 6.4 billion years, much older than our Sun which is about 4.6 billion years old.
The radius of HD 32518 measures approximately 10.8 times the solar radius. Its mass is 1.13 times that of the Sun’s and radiates with about 46.4 solar luminosities. It is 399.7 light-years away from Earth.
This star was named after the Mago National Park. This park is home to many giraffes in Ethiopia. An exoplanet was discovered around this star. It was given the designation HD 32518b.
Tonatiuh (HD 104985)
HD 104985 was given the name Tonatiuh. It is a giant star belonging to the stellar class G9III. It is around 1.5 times as massive as the Sun. This yellow-hued star radiates with the luminosity of about 56 Suns.
Its IAU-approved name was based on the Aztec mythology, where Tonatiuh was the Sun god. This star hosts an exoplanet, designated HD 104985. The planetary system is about 317 light-years away from us.
Sigma 1694 Camelopardalis (Σ 1694 Camelopardalis)
Sigma 1694 Camelopardalis, also known as Struve 1694, is a double star with components A and B. Component A is the 5.28-magnitude HD 112028. This giant star has the stellar classification A0IIsp. The other component is the spectroscopic binary HD 112014. It consists of two A-type stars.
HD 32518 is an A-type star that is +4.76 in apparent magnitude, so we can see it with the naked eye. This main-sequence star has the stellar classification of A0 Vn. It is nearly 2.50 times as massive as the Sun and is more luminous by about 34 times. Since it is a fast rotator, it is believed to have an equatorial bulge. It is about 175 light-years distant.
7 Camelopardalis is a multiple-star system that has at least three components. The stars in this system are designated components A, B, and C. This system is roughly 370 light-years away from us.
Component A is in itself a single-lined spectroscopic binary, which means the spectrum of the fainter star is not determined. Their orbital period is 3.88 days. The visible star in this pair is in the main sequence. It has the stellar classification A1 V. Its mass is around 3.16 times the solar mass and is also more luminous by roughly 222 times. The apparent magnitude of this white-hued star is 4.49.
Another component in this multiple star system, component B, is 7.90 in magnitude. It is believed to be an optical pair to component A. The other star in this system has an apparent magnitude of 11.30.
11 Camelopardalis is a variable star that also has the designation BV Camelopardalis. Its apparent magnitude varies from 5.10 to 5.22. It is a Be star whose stellar classification is B3 Ve. It is just 3 arcminutes away from 12 Camelopardalis, forming a visual double. This star is located approximately 710 light-years away.
U Camelopardalis is surrounded by a shell of gas. The spectral type of this 8th-magnitude star is C-N5. It is identified as a carbon star, which means that more carbon is present in its atmosphere. It forms a double with a 10th magnitude B-type star.
Z Camelopardalis is a good example of a nova-type star. It is a U Geminorum-type variable which is a dwarf nova prototype. Its apparent magnitude varies from 9.8 to 14.5. The change in its brightness stops or “halts” temporarily at some point. This cataclysmic variable star is surrounded by a gas shell. It is approximately 735 light-years from our planet.
VZ Camelopardalis is an M-type star that is also variable. Its apparent magnitude changes around 4.92. The stellar classification of this red giant is M4IIIa. Its radius is around 89 times the solar radius, radiating with the luminosity of about 1,252 Suns. VZ Camelopardalis is 500 light-years away from our Sun.
RU Camelopardalis is a type II Cepheid variable that is also a carbon star. With that said, its atmosphere has more carbon than oxygen. This carbon red star’s spectral type is C3.2e. Its apparent magnitude varies between 8.10 to 9.79. The radius and temperature of this star also change because of its pulsations.
Asterisms Related to Camelopardalis Constellation
Asterisms are other patterns that we can form in the night sky. Remember that an asterism is only a recognizable pattern in the sky that is not a constellation. There are two asterisms related to Camelopardalis which makes the constellation more exciting!
An asterism called Kemble’s Cascade is a popular pattern in the constellation of Camelopardalis. The asterism was credited to Walter Scott Houston, an amateur astronomy popularizer. He named it after the Franciscan friar Lucian Kemble who was also an amateur astronomer.
Kemble’s Cascade is a chain of about 20 stars in a line. This row of stars is often called “the waterfall”. The line ends in the open cluster NGC 1502 which serves as the asterism’s “pool.”
Kemble’s Kite is another asterism in Camelopardalis that was named after the mentioned friar, Lucian Kemble. This sky pattern simply resembles what it was named after, like a kite with a string or tail.
Planets in the Giraffe’s Constellation
More and more planets are getting discovered. Aside from the ones below, other exoplanets in the constellation of Camelopardalis include XO-3 b, XO-6 b, HD 35759 b, HD 40956 b, and PSR B0329+54 b among others.
HD 104985 b
HD 104985 b is a giant planet. It is mostly made up of gas, having a mass of 8.3 Jupiters. Because it orbits around the star Tonatiuh, it is also designated Tonatiuh b. It was given the official name Meztli as approved by the IAU. It has an orbital period of 199.5 days.
HD 32518 b
HD 32518 b is another gas giant in Camelopardalis. Its mass equates to 3.04 times the mass of Jupiter. It orbits around the K-type star Mago every 157.5 days. It was discovered in 2009 using the radial velocity method. Alternative names for this exoplanet include Mago b, after its star, and the IAU- approved name Neri.
HD 24064 b
HD 24064 b is an exoplanet that orbits the K-type star HD 24064. This planetary system lies about 988 light-years away from our planet, Earth. HD 24064 b is very massive, having a mass of 12.89 Jupiters. It is 1.29 AU from the star and orbits it in a period of 1.5 years. The Bohyunsan Optical Astronomy Observatory in Korea detected this exoplanet in 2015.
HD 29021 b
HD 29021 b is another gas giant in the constellation of Camelopardalis. It is as massive as 2.4 Jupiters. It orbits the yellow-hued star HD 29021 every 3.7 years. This planetary system is 101 light-years distant.
HD 33564 b
HD 33564 b is a giant planet that is in the habitable zone. This gas giant has an orbital period of 388 days around its F-type star HD 33564. Its mass equates to 9.1 Jupiters. It was discovered in 2005 through the radial velocity method.
Deep-sky Objects in Camelopardalis Constellation
Camelopardalis contains notable deep-sky objects though, just like its stars, none of them are particularly bright. No Messier objects were identified in the constellation.
Still, with the help of telescopes, we can explore and uncover the celestial objects that it has. Some examples are the lenticular galaxy NGC 2655, the irregular dwarf galaxy NGC 2366, and one of the farthest galaxies known to us, MACS0647-JD.
The Oyster Nebula
The Oyster Nebula, or NGC 1501, is a planetary nebula. In its center is a pulsating star, a star whose size and brightness change over time. It was discovered by British astronomer William Herschel in 1787.
NGC 1502 is an open cluster with approximately 45 stars. It is the notable end, or the so-called “pool,” of the string of stars forming the asterism Kemble’s Cascade. This small and relatively compact cluster of stars was discovered in 1787 by William Herschel.
NGC 2403 is also called Caldwell 7. It is an intermediate spiral galaxy that is approximately 50,000 light-years in diameter. It was discovered in 1788 by William Herschel. This galaxy has notable HII regions, indications of star formation. The presence of these star-forming regions makes it comparable to a galaxy in the Local Group, M33.
NGC 2403 is part of the M81 Group, a galaxy group that spans the two constellations of Camelopardalis and Ursa Major. Its estimated distance is 10 million light-years. One of its spiral arms connects to a massive HII region called NGC 2404.
Two supernovae were detected in this galaxy, SN 1954J and SN 2004dj.
IC 342, also designated Caldwell 5, is a large spiral galaxy. The glowing pink region in its arms is an indication of star formation. This galaxy is not easily seen here on Earth due to the presence of cosmic clouds. Because of that, some people refer to it as “The Hidden Galaxy.” It was once thought to be a member of the Local Group. However, it was revealed that it actually belongs to the IC 342/Maffei Group, a nearby galaxy group.
British amateur astronomer William Frederick Denning discovered IC 342 in 1892. It is about 10 million light-years away from us.
NGC 1569 is an irregular dwarf galaxy that is undergoing a high star formation rate. It has two super star clusters, one located in the northwest part of the galaxy and the other near its center. The rate of star-forming activity in NGC 1569 is about 100 times greater than our Milky Way’s. It is located 11 million light-years from us.
Meteor Showers Related to Camelopardalis
There are two meteor showers associated with Camelopardalis constellation. Though they are not exceptionally that bright, they are also a sight to see.
The October Camelopardalids can be seen in the night sky on the fifth of October. They move 105,000 miles per hour and burn up at about 61 miles altitude. These Camelopardalids are a famous subject among astronomers because their comet of origin is not yet identified.
It is believed that this meteor shower may have been observed as early as 1902 but only confirmed in 2005.
The May Camelopardalids is a relatively new meteor shower. It was first observed on the 23rd and 24th of May 2014, with the peak on the second day. This annual meteor shower is a result of Earth’s encounter with Comet 209P/LINEAR.
More About Camelopardalis
In 1810, William Croswell made a different constellation out of Camelopardalis. He named this constellation Sciurus Volans, or the Flying Squirrel. This, however, did not catch on. It was included in his work, A Mercator Map of the Starry Heavens, along with other unique constellations.
A total of 79 constellations were illustrated in the star chart cards known as Urania’s Mirror. These cards, 32 in total, were about 20 by 14 cm in dimension and came in either plain or full color. But what made them more unique is that they have holes in them. These holes represent the stars in the constellations if we hold the cards against the light. What a brilliant idea!
Camelopardalis was depicted in Plate 2 of Urania’s Mirror or A View of the Heavens. It came with two obsolete constellations, Tarandus and Custos Messium.
Tarandus represented a deer constellation. This obsolete constellation was created in 1736 by Pierre Charles Le Monnier. Tarandus was also called Rangifer. Both its names are related to the same animal, rangifer being genus-related while tarandus is the more specific. Tarandus was depicted above Camelopardalis.
Custos Messium is another constellation that we no longer use. It was situated on the back of the celestial giraffe, between Cepheus the king and his wife the queen, Cassiopeia. Custos Messium was created by the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande. Its name means “harvest-keeper” in Latin. Lalande made it in honor of another French astronomer, Charles Messier.