Carina (constellation)

Carina (/kəˈraɪnə/) is a constellation in the southern sky. Its name is Latin for the keel of a ship, and it was formerly part of the larger constellation of Argo Navis (the ship Argo) until that constellation was divided into three pieces, the other two being Puppis (the poop deck), and Vela (the sails of the ship).

Pronunciation/kəˈraɪnə/, genitive /kəˈraɪniː/[1]
Symbolismthe keel
Right ascension 06h 02m 59.7365s– 11h 20m 37.4211s[2]
Area494 sq. deg. (34th)
Main stars9
Stars with planets11
Stars brighter than 3.00m6
Stars within 10.00 pc (32.62 ly)1
Brightest starCanopus (α Car) (−0.72m)
Messier objects0
Meteor showers
Visible at latitudes between +20° and −90°.
Best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of March.

History and mythology

Carina was once a part of Argo Navis, the great ship of Jason and the Argonauts who searched for the Golden Fleece. The constellation of Argo was introduced in ancient Greece. However, due to the massive size of Argo Navis and the sheer number of stars that required separate designation, Nicolas Louis de Lacaille divided Argo into three sections in 1763, including Carina (the keel).[3] In the 19th century, these three became established as separate constellations, and were formally included in the list of 88 modern IAU constellations in 1930.[4] Lacaille kept a single set of Greek letters for the whole of Argo, and separate sets of Latin letter designations for each of the three sections. Therefore, Carina has the α, β and ε, Vela has γ and δ, Puppis has ζ, and so on.[5]

Notable features

Constellation Carina
The constellation Carina as it can be seen by the naked eye


Carina contains Canopus, a white-hued supergiant that is the second brightest star in the night sky at magnitude −0.72, 313 light-years from Earth. Alpha Carinae, as Canopus is formally designated, is a variable star that varies by approximately 0.1 magnitudes. Its traditional name comes from the mythological Canopus, who was a navigator for Menelaus, king of Sparta.[3]

There are several other stars above magnitude 3 in Carina. Beta Carinae, traditionally called Miaplacidus, is a blue-white hued star of magnitude 1.7, 111 light-years from Earth. Epsilon Carinae is an orange-hued giant star similarly bright to Miaplacidus at magnitude 1.9; it is 630 light-years from Earth. Another fairly bright star is the blue-white hued Theta Carinae; it is a magnitude 2.7 star 440 light-years from Earth. Theta Carinae is also the most prominent member of the cluster IC 2602. Iota Carinae is a white-hued supergiant star of magnitude 2.2, 690 light-years from Earth.[3]

Eta Carinae is the most prominent variable star in Carina; with a mass of approximately 100 solar masses and 4 million times as bright as the Sun.[3] It was first discovered to be unusual in 1677, when its magnitude suddenly rose to 4, attracting the attention of Edmond Halley.[6] Eta Carinae is inside NGC 3372, commonly called the Carina Nebula.[3] It had a long outburst in 1827, when it brightened to magnitude 1, only fading to magnitude 1.5 in 1828. Its most prominent outburst made Eta Carinae the equal of Sirius; it brightened to magnitude −1.5 in 1843. However, since 1843, Eta Carinae has remained relatively placid, having a magnitude between 6.5 and 7.9.[6] However, in 1998, it brightened again, though only to magnitude 5.0, a far less drastic outburst. Eta Carinae is a binary star, with a companion that has a period of 5.5 years; the two stars are surrounded by the Homunculus Nebula, which is composed of gas that was ejected in 1843.[3]

There are several less prominent variable stars in Carina. l Carinae is a Cepheid variable noted for its brightness; it is the brightest Cepheid that is variable to the unaided eye. It is a yellow-hued supergiant star with a minimum magnitude of 4.2 and a maximum magnitude of 3.3; it has a period of 35.5 days.[3]

Two bright Mira variable stars are in Carina: R Carinae and S Carinae; both stars are red giants. R Carinae has a minimum magnitude of 10.0 and a maximum magnitude of 4.0. Its period is 309 days and it is 416 light-years from Earth. S Carinae is similar, with a minimum magnitude of 10.0 and a maximum magnitude of 5.0. However, S Carinae has a shorter period – 150 days, though it is much more distant at 1300 light-years from Earth.[3]

Carina is home to several double stars and binary stars. Upsilon Carinae is a binary star with two blue-white hued giant components, 1600 light-years from Earth. The primary is of magnitude 3.0 and the secondary is of magnitude 6.0; the two components are distinguishable in a small amateur telescope.[3]

Two asterisms are prominent in Carina. One is known as the 'Diamond Cross', which is larger than the Southern Cross (but fainter), and, from the perspective of the southern hemisphere viewer, upside down, the long axes of the two crosses being close to parallel. Another asterism in the constellation is the False Cross, often mistaken for the Southern Cross, which is an asterism in Crux. The False Cross consists of two stars in Carina, Iota Carinae and Epsilon Carinae, and two stars in Vela, Kappa Velorum and Delta Velorum.[3]

Deep-sky objects

Carina is known for its namesake nebula, NGC 3372,[7] discovered by French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1751, which contains several nebulae. The Carina Nebula overall is an extended emission nebula approximately 8,000 light-years away and 300 light-years wide that includes vast star-forming regions.[8] It has an overall magnitude of 8.0[6] and an apparent diameter of over 2 degrees.[3] Its central region is called the Keyhole, or the Keyhole Nebula. This was described in 1847 by John Herschel, and likened to a keyhole by Emma Converse in 1873.[9] The Keyhole is about seven light-years wide and is composed mostly of ionized hydrogen, with two major star-forming regions. The Homunculus Nebula is a planetary nebula visible to the naked eye that is being ejected by the erratic luminous blue variable star Eta Carinae, the most massive visible star known. Eta Carinae is so massive that it has reached the theoretical upper limit for the mass of a star and is therefore unstable. It is known for its outbursts; in 1840 it briefly became one of the brightest stars in the sky due to a particularly massive outburst, which largely created the Homunculus Nebula. Because of this instability and history of outbursts, Eta Carinae is considered a prime supernova candidate for the next several hundred thousand years because it has reached the end of its estimated million-year life span.[8]

NGC 2516 is an open cluster that is both quite large (approximately half a degree square) and bright, visible to the unaided eye. It is located 1100 light-years from Earth and has approximately 80 stars, the brightest of which is a red giant star of magnitude 5.2. NGC 3114 is another open cluster approximately of the same size, though it is more distant at 3000 light-years from Earth. It is more loose and dim than NGC 2516, as its brightest stars are only 6th magnitude. The most prominent open cluster in Carina is IC 2602, also called the "Southern Pleiades". It contains Theta Carinae, along with several other stars visible to the unaided eye. In total, the cluster possesses approximately 60 stars. The Southern Pleiades is particularly large for an open cluster, with a diameter of approximately one degree. Like IC 2602, NGC 3532 is visible to the unaided eye and is of comparable size. It possesses approximately 150 stars that are arranged in an unusual shape, approximating an ellipse with a dark central area. Several prominent orange giants are among the cluster's bright stars, of the 7th magnitude. Superimposed on the cluster is Chi Carinae, a yellow-white hued star of magnitude 3.9, far more distant than NGC 3532.[3]

Carina also contains the naked-eye globular cluster NGC 2808. Epsilon Carinae and Upsilon Carinae are double stars visible in small telescopes.

One noted galaxy cluster is 1E 0657-56, the Bullet Cluster. At a distance of 4 billion light years (redshift 0.296), this galaxy cluster is named for the shock wave seen in the intracluster medium, which resembles the shock wave of a supersonic bullet. The bow shock visible is thought to be due to the smaller galaxy cluster moving through the intracluster medium at a relative speed of 3000–4000 kilometers per second to the larger cluster. Because this gravitational interaction has been ongoing for hundreds of millions of years, the smaller cluster is being destroyed and will eventually merge with the larger cluster.[8]


Carina contains the radiant of the Eta Carinids meteor shower, which peaks around January 21 each year.


From China (especially northern China), the stars of Carina can barely be seen. The star Canopus (the south polar star in Chinese astronomy) was located by Chinese astronomers in the Vermilion Bird of the South (南方朱雀, Nán Fāng Zhū Què). The rest of the stars were first classified by Xu Guanggi during the Ming Dynasty, based on the knowledge acquired from western star charts, and placed among The Southern Asterisms (近南極星區, Jìnnánjíxīngōu).

Polynesian peoples had no name for the constellation in particular, though they had many names for Canopus. The Māori name Ariki ("High-born"), .[10] and the Hawaiian Ke Alii-o-kona-i-ka-lewa, "The Chief of the southern expanse". [11] both attest to the star's prominence in the southern sky, while the Māori Atutahi, "First-light" or "Single-light", and the Tuamotu Te Tau-rari and Marere-te-tavahi, "He-who-stands-alone".[12] refer to the star's solitary nature. It was also called Kapae-poto, ("Short horizon"), because it rarely sets from the vantage point of New Zealand;[13] and Kauanga ("Solitary"), when it was the last star visible before sunrise.[14]


The Southern Celestial Pole migrates through the constellation Carina.

Carina is located in the southern sky near the south celestial pole, making it circumpolar for most of the southern hemisphere. Due to precession of Earth's axis, by the year 4700 the south celestial pole will be located in Carina. Three bright stars in Carina will come within 1 degree of the southern celestial pole and take turns as the southern pole star: Omega Carinae (mag 3.29) in 5600, Upsilon Carinae (mag 2.97) in 6700, and Iota Carinae (mag 2.21) in 7900. About 13860, the bright Canopus (-0.7) will be less than 8 degrees from the Celestial Pole, making it circumpolar in Bali. [15]


USS Carina (AK-74) was a United States Navy Crater class cargo ship named after the constellation.

See also


  1. ^ OED
  2. ^ a b "Carina, constellation boundary". The Constellations. International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Ridpath & Tirion 2001, pp. 104–106.
  4. ^ Delporte, E. (1930). Delimitation scientifique des constellations (tables et cartes). Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ Wagman, M. (2003). Lost Stars: Lost, Missing, and Troublesome Stars from the Catalogues of Johannes Bayer, Nicholas-Louis de Lacaille, John Flamsteed, and Sundry Others. McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-939923-78-6.
  6. ^ a b c Levy 2005, p. 101.
  7. ^ Levy 2005, p. 100.
  8. ^ a b c Wilkins & Dunn 2006, p. .
  9. ^ Appletons' Journal. D. Appleton and Company. 1873. pp. 818–.
  10. ^ Makemson 1941, p. 201.
  11. ^ Makemson 1941, p. 198.
  12. ^ Makemson 1941, p. 229.
  13. ^ Makemson 1941, p. 217.
  14. ^ Makemson 1941, p. 218.
  15. ^ Stellarium 0.16.0, setting time to that year.
Secondary sources
  • Levy, David H. (2005). Deep Sky Objects. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1-59102-361-6.
  • Makemson, Maud Worcester (1941). The Morning Star Rises: an account of Polynesian astronomy. Yale University Press.
  • Ridpath, Ian; Tirion, Will (2007) [2001]. Stars and Planets Guide. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-08913-3.
  • Wilkins, Jamie; Dunn, Robert (2006). 300 Astronomical Objects: A Visual Reference to the Universe (1st ed.). Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books. ISBN 978-1-55407-175-3.

External links

Media related to Carina (constellation) at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: Sky map 9h 00m 00s, −60° 00′ 00″

AXP 1E 1048-59

Anomalous X-ray pulsar (AXP) 1E 1048.1-5937 was the first AXP ever observed to emit an SGR-like X-ray burst. It is also the closest magnetar to Earth.

Carina Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy

The Carina Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy is a dwarf galaxy in the Carina constellation. It was discovered in 1977 with the UK Schmidt Telescope by Cannon et al. The Carina Dwarf Spheroidal galaxy is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way and is receding from it at 230 km/s. The diameter of the galaxy is about 1600 light-years, which is 75 times smaller than the Milky Way. Most of the stars in the galaxy formed 7 billion years ago, although it also experienced bursts of star formation about 13 and 3 billion years ago. It is also being tidally disrupted by the Milky Way galaxy.

Carina OB2

Carina OB2 is a giant OB association in the constellation Carina. It contains anywhere from 91 to 157 stars, many of which are hot blue stars of spectral types B and O. It is located 3.1 kiloparsecs distant and is around 4 million years old.

D Carinae

The Bayer designations d Carinae and D Carinae are distinct.

for d Carinae, see V343 Carinae

for D Carinae, see HR 3159

HD 61248

Q Carinae (Q Car) is a star in the constellation Carina.

Q Carinae is an orange K-type giant with an apparent magnitude of +4.93. It is approximately 394 light years from Earth.

HD 79447

HD 79447, also known as i Carinae (i Car) is a star in the constellation Carina. It is a blue-white B-type giant with an apparent magnitude of +3.96 and is approximately 499 light years from Earth.

HD 81101

HD 81101, also known as k Carinae (k Car), is a star in the constellation Carina.

k Carinae is a yellow G-type giant with an apparent magnitude of +4.79. It is approximately 223 light years from Earth.

HD 83944

HD 83944, also called m Carinae (m Car), is a star in the constellation Carina.

m Carinae is a blue-white B-type subgiant with an apparent magnitude of +4.51. It is approximately 224 light years from Earth.

HR 3643

HR 3643 (G Car) is a star in the constellation Carina. It is a yellow-white F-type bright giant with an apparent magnitude of +4.47 and is approximately 454 light years from Earth.

IC 2220

IC 2220, also known as the Toby Jug Nebula, is a reflection nebula located 1200 light years away in the southern constellation of Carina.

IC 2448

IC 2448 is an elliptical planetary nebula in the constellation of Carina. It lies near the bright star Beta Carinae, and the southern Carina can be explored in the months of autumn in the southern hemisphere.

Mystic Mountain

Mystic Mountain is a photograph and a term for a region in the Carina Nebula imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. The view was captured by the then-new Wide Field Camera 3, though the region was also viewed by the previous generation instrument. The new view celebrated the telescope's 20th anniversary of being in space in 2010. Mystic Mountain contains multiple Herbig-Haro objects where nascent stars are firing off jets of gas which interact with surrounding clouds of gas and dust.This region is about 7,500 light-years (2,300 pc) away from Earth. The pillar measures around three light-years in height (190,000 astronomical units).

NGC 2516

NGC 2516 is an open star cluster in the southern sky in the constellation Carina discovered by Abbe Lacaille in 1751-1752. It is also called Southern Beehive or the Sprinter.

NGC 3059

NGC 3059 is a barred spiral galaxy. It is located in the constellation of Carina. The galaxy can be described as being faint, large, and irregularly round. It was discovered on February 22, 1835 by John Herschel.

NGC 3199

NGC 3199 is a emission nebula in the constellation Carina. The object was discovered in 1826 by the Scottish astronomer James Dunlop. It is a bow shock around the central star, WR 18, a Wolf–Rayet star.

NGC 3293

NGC 3293 is an open cluster in the Carina constellation. It was discovered by Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille in 1751.

It consists of more than 100 stars brighter than 14th magnitude in a 10 arc minute field, the brightest of which are blue supergiants of apparent magnitude 6.5 and 6.7. There is also a 7th magnitude pulsating red supergiant, V361 Carinae.


OGLE-TR-182 is a dim magnitude 17 star far off in the constellation Carina at a distance of approximately 12,700 light years.

S Carinae

The Bayer designations S Carinae and s Carinae are distinct. Due to technical limitations, both designations link here. For the star

S Carinae or HD 88366

s Carinae or HD 90853

U Carinae

The Bayer designations U Carinae and u Carinae are distinct. Due to technical limitations, both designations link here. For the star

U Carinae or HD 95109

u Carinae or HD 94510

Carina constellation
Constellation history

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