DR. SKY BLOG

Majestic Canopus is the 2nd-brightest star in the night sky

Feb 16, 2022, 2:00 PM | Updated: 2:10 pm
(NASA Photo)...
(NASA Photo)
(NASA Photo)

As we move deep into February and the weather returns with more moderate temperatures, many will ease outside and look up at our amazing Arizona skies!

These cool February nights offer some stargazing for all.

With the winter constellation of Orion high up in the south at sunset, we get out our phones or old school star maps and discover some of the many hidden treasures in this region of the night sky.

The best views will come, of course, with folks who have darker skies, away from city lights and a clear view of the southern horizon.

If that is you, or you can get to a place like that, I suggest a search for one of the most amazing stars in the entire night sky.

I am referring to the far southern star and second brightest star in the night sky – Canopus.

Never seen from many northern latitudes, Canopus is in the rich constellation of Carina, one of the largest constellations in the night sky.

Carina covers an amazing 494 square degrees of sky. The constellation was so big it was first part of the larger constellation then known as Argo Navis, a large ship in the sky.

In modern times, Argo Navis was broken up into three smaller constellations – Carina, the keel; Puppis, the poop deck; and finally, Vela, the sails.

Here is the view of the constellation Vela with the bright star Canopus.

And yet another, to help you locate Canopus.

Now, let’s look at the star Canopus in some detail.

Canopus is a large A9 spectral class star located some 310 light years from Earth. The light that you see from Canopus left the star in the year 1712 and just got here now.

Large and bright, Canopus looks like this when compared to other stars, even our own sun.

The diameter of Canopus would be around 60 million miles, while our sun is just 865,000 miles in diameter, making Canopus a big deal in the star category.

To find this amazing star, look due south at around 9 p.m. Arizona time, during this week and next. Canopus will shine only a few degrees above the horizon.

The lowest northern latitude you would need to view Canopus, would be 37 degrees 18 minutes N latitude, but even then, the star would just touch the horizon.

We in the Valley are located near 32 degrees N latitude, making the star visible for a short period of time.

While Sirius is presently the brightest of the stars in the night sky, that will change around 480,000 years from now. Sirius will move farther away from our sun and Canopus will become the brightest star in our night sky.

Learn all about this amazing star and how to view it here.

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

Podcasts are available here.

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Majestic Canopus is the 2nd-brightest star in the night sky