Canes Venatici represents the hunting dogs of Bootes, the herdsman. This is a small northern constellation consisting of only two main stars, and it is located below the Big Dipper’s curved handle and to the right of Bootes. Canes Venatici reaches its highest nightfall ascension in May.
In spite of its small size, Canes Venatici is very interesting in its arrangement of galaxies. The Giant Void, the largest galactic supervoid known, exists along side several other notable galaxies. There are four Messier galaxies: M51 (the Whirlpool Galaxy), M63 (the Sunflower Galaxy), M94, and M106. A fifth Messier object in the M3 globular star cluster, which is bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye under a very dark sky. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canes_Venatici
Coma Berenices represents the hair of Berenice II, queen of Eqypt and wife of 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. Surprisingly, this constellation is not one of the 48 that 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy cataloged. As a naked eye object, this constellation is not much to behold. Its three main stars are rather dim, and the form of the constellation is rather nondescript. It can be found nestled among the intersection of Leo, Virgo, and Bootes, and it reaches its highest nightfall ascension in May.
With binocular or telescopic aid, Coma Berenices is a wonder to behold. Most notable is the large Coma Berenices Open Cluster (Melotte 111). This star cluster is comprised of about fifty stars that are spread over a five-degree (the width of ten full moons) area of the sky. To look at Coma Berenices with binoculars is to see this cluster. This constellation is also home to the northern portion of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster where several Messier galaxies can be found, to include M85, M88, M91, M98, M99, and M100. There are two other named galaxies in Coma Berenices, the Black Eye galaxy (M64) and the Needle galaxy (NGC 4565). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coma_Berenices
Virgo, the virgin, is one of the zodiacal constellations, is one of the 48 constellations cataloged by 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and is the 2nd largest constellation in the sky. It can be found at is highest point in the sky at nightfall in March. Virgo is located on the ecliptic, flanked by Leo and Libra. It can also be found by following the arc of the Big Dipper’s handle through Arcturus in Bootes to Spica (Alpha Virginis), Virgo’s brightest star. Some of Virgo’s remaining stars can be difficult to see in light-polluted urban skies because this is not a particularly bright constellation. Within Virgo is one of the two points where the ecliptic intersects the celestial equator. The moment of the Sun’s southward crossing of the celestial equator as it moves along the ecliptic is the Autumnal Equinox, which marks the first day of Fall.
The Virgo Cluster is a very large scale object spanning about eight degrees and containing 1,300 or more individual galaxies. The cluster is centered in Virgo, and extends northward into Coma Berenices. The member galaxies that were cataloged by Charles Messier are M49, M58, M59, M60, M61, M84, M86, M87, M89, and M90. Many other galaxies in this cluster have NGC designations. The Sombrero Galaxy, M104, is a very unusual galaxy in Virgo that is not a member of the Virgo Cluster. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgo_(constellation)
Corona Borealis is one of the smallest, but prettiest constellations. It is located between Boötes and Hercules, and is best seen when it reaches its highest nightfall ascension in September. It is also one of the 48 constellations cataloged by 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. This constellation’s name is inspired by its shape: its main stars form a semicircular arc with Alphecca, a bright jewel, situated about half way around the arc. This distinct constellation easily catches the observers eye in a dark sky, but often escapes notice in a light-polluted urban sky. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona_Borealis
Boötes is a bright and distinct northern constellation that is one of the 48 constellations cataloged by 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. It can be found by looking south of Draco, lying between Hercules and Ursa Major. It is also found by following the curve of the Big Dipper’s handle southward and away from the bowl to the bright star Arcturus. Sometimes the phrase “arc to Arcturus” is used to describe this approach to locating it. Boötes reaches its highest nightfall ascension in June. Arcturus is the fourth brightest star in the night sky, and Boötes is home to many other bright stars, including eight above the fourth magnitude and an additional 21 above the fifth magnitude, making a total of 29 stars easily visible to the naked eye.
There are no Messier objects located in Boötes, but several NGC galaxies can be found with a telescope. The radiant of the Quadrantids meteor shower, which displays about 100 meteors per hour when it peaks over January 3rd and 4th, is located between Bootes’ head and the end of Ursa Major’s tail. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bootes_(constellation)
IAU Bootes chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 4, 2011.
Ursa Major is a circumpolar constellation that was cataloged by 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. The Big Dipper asterism is perhaps the most easily identifiable aspect of this constellation. As a circumpolar constellation at 40 degrees north latitude, it can be seen at any time on any clear night from a location with an unobstructed view of the northern horizon. In April, however, Ursa Major reaches its highest ascension at nightfall.
All seven stars comprising the Big Dipper were named by the ancients. The Big Dipper’s handle is the bear’s tail and the bowl is the bear’s hindquarter. Upon closer examination and in a darker sky, all of the constellations stars add to the dipper to form a distinct and complete bear. The two Big Dipper bowl stars opposite the handle are the pointer stars that guide the eye to Polaris, or the north star. Following the arc of the tail away from the bowl, a method sometimes referred to as “arc to Arcturus,” leads the observer to the star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes. Starting at the end of the tail and moving around through the bottom of the dipper’s bowl, the are: Alkaid (Eta Ursae Majoris), Mizar (Zeta Ursae Majoris) and its naked eye binary companion star Alcor, Alioth (Epsilon Ursae Majoris), Megrez (Delta Ursae Majoris), Phecda (Gamma Ursae Majoris), Merak (Beta Ursae Majoris), and Dubhe (Alpha Ursae Majoris) . Impress your friends by committing these stars’ names to memory and pointing them out on a late Spring evening when the dipper is high in the northern sky.
Ursa Major contains several Messier objects. A famous pair is M81, a nearly face-on spiral galaxy, and M82, a nearly edge-on galaxy, that gravitationally interact with one another and can be see within a single field of view of a modest telescope. M101, 108 and 109 are three other Messier galaxies, and M97, a planetary nebula are also found in Ursa Major. One rather odd Messier object is M40, which is the only double star in the Messier catalog. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ursa_Major_(constellation)