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Constant Companions: Circumpolar Constellations, Part III

By Kat Troche

In our final installment of the stars around the North Star, we look ahead to the summermonths, where depending on your latitude, the items in these circumpolar constellations are nice and high. Today, we’ll discuss Cepheus, Draco, and UrsaMajor. These objects can all be spotted with a mediumto large-sized telescope under dark skies.

From left to right: Ursa Major, Draco, and Cepheus.
Credit: Stellarium Web.

  • Herschel’s Garnet Star: Mu Cephei is a deep-red hypergiant known as The Garnet Star, or Erakis. While the star is not part of the constellation pattern, it sits within the constellation boundary of Cepheus, and is more than 1,000 times the size of our Sun. Like its neighbor Delta Cephei, this star is variable, but is not a reliable Cepheid variable. Rather, its brightness can vary anywhere between 3.4 to 5.1 in visible magnitude, over the course of 2-12 years.

This composite of data fromNASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope gives astronomers a new look for NGC 6543, better known as the Cat's Eye nebula. This planetary nebula represents a phase of stellar evolution that our sunmay well experience several billion years fromnow.
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/STScI

  • The Cat’s Eye Nebula: Labeled a planetary nebula, there are no planets to be found at the center of this object. Observations taken with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescopes give astronomers a better understanding of this complex, potential binary star, and how its core ejected enoughmass to produce the rings of dust. When searching for this object, look towards the ‘belly’ of Draco with a medium-sized telescope.

The Cigar Galaxy.
Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, and JPL-Caltech

  • Bode’s Galaxy and the Cigar Galaxy: Using the arrow on the starmap, look diagonal from the star Dubhe in Ursa Major. There you will find Bode’s Galaxy (Messier 81) and the Cigar Galaxy (Messier 82). Sometimes referred to as Bode’s Nebula, these two galaxies can be spotted with a small tomedium-sized telescope. Bode’s Galaxy is a classic spiral shape, similar to our own MilkyWay galaxy and our neighbor, Andromeda. The Cigar Galaxy, however, is known as a starburst galaxy type, known to have a high star formation rate and incredible shapes. This image composite from2006 combines the power of three great observatories: the Hubble Space Telescope imaged hydrogen in orange, and visible light in yellow green; Chandra X-Ray Observatory portrayed X-ray in blue; Spitzer Space Telescope captured infrared light in red.

Up next, we celebrate the solstice with our upcomingmid-month article on the Night Sky Network page through NASA's website!

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