Happy Wednesday, everyone! Tonight for week 56 of #WUFO we will be looking for “The Little Dog Star” Procyon in Canis Minor!
Procyon is the brightest star in the wee constellation Canis Minor (the Lesser Dog) and the 8th brightest star in the night sky. It is found to the left of the constellation Orion and above Canis Major (the Greater Dog). Finding Procyon tonight will be especially easy for those of you who participated in the last few Stargazing Side Quests because we will be looking in the same area of the night sky.
When you go out at 10pm tonight, look up to the southern sky. You’ll probably find the constellation Orion right away as well as the brightest star in the sky, Sirius in Canis Major. Remember Betelgeuse from week 53’s Stargazing Side Quest? That’s the red-ish/orange-ish star that makes Orion’s left shoulder. Betelgeuse in Orion, Sirius in Canis Major, and this week’s side quest target Procyon in Canis Minor make up the three stars of the asterism known as the “Winter Triangle”.
One reason Procyon is so bright from our perspective is because it is actually pretty close to us at only about 11.5 light-years away. While Procyon’s radius is only about twice that of our sun’s, it still emits much more light. If you were to look back at our sun from Procyon, our sun would look significantly dimmer than Procyon looks in our night sky.
Like Sirius, Procyon is also a binary star with a smaller companion called Procyon B. Procyon B is a funky little star that’s only about the size of our planet Earth, but still has about 3/4 the mass of our sun! We won’t be able to distinguish Procyon A (our Side Quest target this week) from Procyon B because Procyon B is just a few arc seconds away from Procyon A from our perspective here on Earth and it is 15,000 times fainter than Procyon A.
Bonus fun fact: did you know that Procyon is also the name of the genus that raccoons are in? 🦝
Let us know if you find Procyon tonight! Especially let us know if you got to see the whole Winter Triangle! Be sure to tag @stargazingsidequest and @liminal.earth on Instagram with your stargazing pics so we can boost and celebrate your astronomical achievement this week!
Our weekly Stargazing Side Quests will always be FREE for everyone! If you enjoy these free astronomy lessons and would like to make a donation to support their production, please consider a small contribution to my Tip Jar. All proceeds go to getting a Unistellar telescope that will significantly improve our weekly Stargazing Side Quests as well as open the doors for in-person star parties where even folks in the most light polluted areas will still be able to see the beauty of the night sky. Donations are not at all mandatory, but are greatly appreciated!
SOURCES for this week’s Stargazing Side Quest: