Centaurus is a large, bright southern constellation that is among the 48 constellations cataloged by 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. Because it is located so far south on the celestial sphere, it rises only partially above the horizon at a 40-degree north location. It reaches its highest nightfall ascension in May. This constellation has the distinction of hosting our nearest stellar neighbor, the Alpha Centauri system. Located just over four light years away, this system consists of three components: Alpha Centauri A, B and C. Alpha Centauri C is also known as Proxima, which is actually the nearest of the three component stars, and the only one that cannot be seen with the unaided eye.
© James R. Johnson, 2014.