Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky – its modern name comes from the Ancient Greek Seirios (“glowing” or “scorcher”). It is actually another one of those binary stars, a white star and a white dwarf. Like Procyon, its nearness to Earth makes it much brighter in the night sky than many other stars. It is brighter than our sun, but dimmer than Rigel and Canopus.
In the next few months I plan to have an occasional series on the 20 brightest stars in the sky. Originally I was planning to start at 1 and work down, but I thought it made more sense to deal with them when they were most visible. So this month I’ll be writing about Capella, Sirius, Procyon, and Rigel.
Capella is the sixth brightest star in the sky, and third brightest in the northern hemisphere. It belongs to the constellation of Auriga, the Charioteer. As the title of this post indicates, the Charioteer is often shown cradling a goat in his arm, with the kids (or a whip). He also seems to have lost his chariot, which isn’t part of the constellation.
Rigel is basically Orion’s ankle. You can find it if you look for the three stars of his belt, then down the belt to the bright white star below it. The name comes from Rijl Jauzah al Yusra, the Left Leg of the Jauzah (Jauzah was the Arabic title for Orion).
Fun fact: Rigel was mentioned in several Star Trek episodes, in the form of its planet, Rigel VII. Captain Pike had landed there and been attacked, and this history, as well as more current events, were mentioned in episodes of New Generation and Deep Space Nine.