Camelopardalis constellation lies in the northern hemisphere. Its name comes from the Latin derivation of the Greek word for “giraffe.”
Taken apart, the word camelopardalis means camel (Greek kamēlos) and leopard (pardalis). The giraffe was called the “camel-leopard” because it had a long neck like a camel and a body with spots, like a leopard.
The constellation was created by the Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius and documented by the German astronomer Jakob Bartsch in 1624. It contains Kemble’s Cascade, an asterism formed by a cascade of relatively faint stars, and several notable deep sky objects: the open cluster NGC 1502, the Oyster Nebula (NGC 1501), the spiral galaxy NGC 2403, and the dwarf irregular galaxy NGC 1569.
Facts, location and map
Camelopardalis is the 18th largest constellation in the night sky, occupying an area of 757 square degrees. It is located in the second quadrant of the northern hemisphere (NQ2) and can be seen at latitudes between +90° and -10°.
The neighboring constellations are Auriga, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Lynx, Perseus, Ursa Major, and Ursa Minor.
Camelopardalis has three stars with known planets and no Messier objects. The brightest star in the constellation is Beta Camelopardalis. The October Camelopardalids are the only meteor shower associated with the constellation.
Camelopardalis contains two formally named stars. The star names approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) are Mago and Tonatiuh.
The Giraffe constellation is pretty faint, with no stars brighter than fourth magnitude. The Greeks did not see any stars in Camelopardalis and thought this region of the sky, as well as what is now the constellation Lynx, was empty. There are no myths associated with the constellation as it was only created in the 17th century.
While the giraffe is not a reference to mythology, the constellation’s name could be a reference to the book of Genesis in the Bible, but this remains doubtful. When Jacob Bartsch included Camelopardalis on his star map of 1624, he described the constellation as a camel on which Rebecca rode into Canaan, where she was to marry Isaac. Since Camelopardalis represents a giraffe and not a camel, this explanation does not seem likely.
β Camelopardalis (Beta Camelopardalis)
Beta Camelopardalis is the brightest star in the constellation. It is a binary star with a yellow G-type supergiant for the primary component. It is approximately 1,000 light years distant and has an apparent magnitude of 4.03.
CS Camelopardalis, the second brightest star in Camelopardalis, is also a binary. It consists of a blue-white B-type supergiant and a magnitude 8.7 star located 2.9 arc seconds away. The star is located in the reflection nebula vdB 14.
CS Camelopardalis A is an Alpha Cygni type variable star, one that exhibits non-radial pulsations (which means that some portions of the star’s surface expand while others contract), with luminosity varying from magnitude 4.19 to 4.23. The star is approximately 3,000 light years distant.
Σ 1694 Camelopardalis (Sigma 1694 Camelopardalis, Struve 1694)
Sigma 1694 Camelopardalis, or Struve 1694, is a binary star composed of a white A-type subgiant with a magnitude of 5.3, 300 light years from Earth, and a spectroscopic binary that consists of two A-type main sequence stars. Struve 1694 represents the head of the giraffe.
VZ Camelopardalis is an M-type red giant approximately 470 light years distant. It is a semi-regular variable star with a mean apparent magnitude of 4.92. Its luminosity varies from 4.80 to 4.96 with a period of 23.7 days.
Kemble’s Cascade is an asterism formed by more than 20 stars between magnitude 5 and 10 that form a straight line in the sky. The line stretches over a distance of five moon diameters and ends at an open star cluster, NGC 1502.
The asterism was named after Father Lucian J. Kemble, a Franciscan Friar who discovered it and wrote a letter to Walter Scott Houston (columnist for Sky and Telescope magazine) describing the sight as “a beautiful cascade of faint stars tumbling from the northwest down to the open cluster NGC 1502.” Houston named the asterism Kemble’s Cascade in his “Deep Sky Wonders” column in Sky and Telescope in 1980.
Deep sky objects in Camelopardalis
NGC 2403 (Caldwell 7)
NGC 2403 is an intermediate spiral galaxy approximately 8 million light years distant. The galaxy has an apparent magnitude of 8.9 and was first discovered in the 18th century by the German-born British astronomer Frederick William Herschel.
The northern spiral arm of NGC 2403 connects to NGC 2404, a nebulous region in an external galaxy, also located in the constellation Camelopardalis.
NGC 2403 was the first galaxy discovered beyond our local group that contained known Cepheid variables. Two supernovae were also reported in the galaxy in the last century: SN 1954J and SN 2004dj.
NGC 1502 is an open cluster located at the end of the Kemble’s Cascade asterism. It is a small cluster, containing about 45 stars, with Struve 485, a bright binary star, at the centre.
NGC 2366 is an irregular galaxy with an apparent magnitude of 11.4. The galaxy contains a star forming region, NGC 2363.
NGC 1569 is a dwarf irregular galaxy with an apparent magnitude of 11.9. It is approximately 11 million light years distant. The galaxy is notable for the two super star clusters which it contains.
Both clusters have had star forming activity but, while one cluster (located in the northwest region of the galaxy) mostly contains young stars, ones formed less than 5 million years ago, but also some older red stars, the other cluster (located near the galaxy’s centre) contains mostly old stars; red giants and supergiants.
IC 342 (Caldwell 5)
IC 342 is another intermediate spiral galaxy in the constellation Camelopardalis. It has an apparent magnitude of 9.1 and is approximately 10.7 million light years distant. The galaxy was discovered in 1895 by the British astronomer William Frederick Denning.
IC 342 lies outside the Local Group of galaxies. It is one of the two brightest galaxies in the IC 342/Maffei Group, the nearest group of galaxies to the Local Group, with most member galaxies concentrated either around IC 342 or Maffei 1, an elliptical galaxy in the constellation Cassiopeia.
IC 342 lies close to the galactic equator and is obscured by a lot of interstellar dust, which makes it a difficult object to observe.