Camelopardalis is one of several constellations created by the Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius in the 17th century for the sole purpose of filling gaps in the sky left blank by Greek astronomers. The word “Camelopardalis” is a marriage between the Greek words kamelos (camel), and pardalis (leopard), which taken together describes how the ancients saw a giraffe; an animal with a long neck like a camel and spots like a leopard. Although the constellation is generally taken to represent a giraffe, a naked-eye observation of the constellation does not reveal any such creature as most of the stars in the constellation are very faint, and to see anything resembling a giraffe requires some optical aid, or a star chart on which all the relevant dots are connected.
Camelopardalis is located in the northern sky, in a region that was judged to be empty by the ancient Greek astronomers because it contained no stars brighter than 4th magnitude. Out of the 88 recognised constellations, Camelopardalis ranks 18th in terms of size, taking up an area of 757 square degrees of the northern sky between latitudes +90° and -10° . Its nearest neighboring constellations include Ursa Minor to the east, Cassiopeia to the west, and Auriga to its south-east.
Camelopardalis can be seen from the northern hemisphere during the autumn, winter and spring seasons, although the best time to view the constellation is at 9 PM (Local Time) during the month of February. The arrangement of the naked-eye stars that make up the constellation proper somewhat resembles a mirror image of the constellation Ursa Minor some way to the north east of the constellation. Look for Camelopardalis at about the midway point between Ursa Major to the west, and Perseus to the east.
– Beta Camelopardalis is the most luminous star in the constellation , with an apparent visual magnitude of 4.03. The star is a G-type, yellow supergiant, and is the primary component in a binary system that is located about 1,000 light years away.
– CS Camelopardalis is the second most luminous star in the constellation with an apparent visual magnitude of 8.7. It is a B-type blue-white supergiant, and one component of a binary system located about 3,000 light years away, with the other component (CS Camelopardalis A) being a variable star of the Alpha Cygni class. Variable stars of this class display non-radial pulsations that influence the star’s luminosity; in this case, from magnitude 4.19 to magnitude 4.23.
– Sigma 1694 Camelopardalis (Struve 1694) is a type-A white subgiant that marks the “head” of the giraffe. This is also a binary system in which the component star is too close to the primary to be resolved optically. The combined apparent visual magnitude of the system is 5.3, and it is located about 300 light years away.
Notable Deep Sky Objects
Although Camelopardalis has no famous deep sky objects, it is located in a part of the sky that faces away from the plane of the Milky Way, which means that many of the galaxies within the constellation’s borders are clearly visible because their light is not absorbed or scattered by the dust and gas clouds of the Milky Way’s outer regions. Two notable galaxies in the constellation include:
– NGC 2403 (Caldwell 7) is an intermediate spiral galaxy about 8 million light years away. The northern spiral of this galaxy is connected to a nebulous region (NGC 2404) of a neighboring galaxy, which is an outlying member of the M81 Group of Galaxies that includes M81 and M82. The entire M81 Group of Galaxies is part of the Virgo Supercluster.
– NGC 1569 is an irregular dwarf galaxy located about 11 million light years away, and known for the two star clusters it contains. One cluster, located in the northwestern reaches of the galaxy, contains mostly young stars less than 5 million years old, but curiously, also some very old red stars. The other cluster near the centre of the little galaxy contains old red giants and supergiants, but very few young stars.
The October Camelopardalids peaks on the night of 5/6 October, with about 15-20 meteors per hour expected right through the night. There is, however, a recently discovered shower called the May Camelopardalids that is associated with the comet 209P/LINEAR. This shower is expected to peak on 24/25 May each year, but how reliable meteor sightings turn out to be in future remains to be seen.
As of 2016, Camelopardalis has four stars with one planet each, with only two of these stars visible.