The constellation of Giraffe (Camelopardalis - Cam)

Perhaps someone knows her better with the Latin name, Camelopardalis, which as a name evokes more an unlikely cross between a camel and a leopard than a well-known giraffe. From the stellar point of view, from the diagram on the side we can see that it is located between the Little Bear and the Big Bear as well as between Cassiopeia and Auriga: it is impossible not to notice in that celestial plague a vast space with very few bright stars. The star α Cam is of magnitude 4.25, β Cam is even a little brighter ( 4) while all the other stars are weaker: we can already foresee that none of the component stars has ever had a name and that because of the low brightness of the stars we can see a giraffe joining the bright dots.

The name and history

A very recent constellation, introduced by Petrus Plancius, a Dutch cartographer and religious man who lived between the 16th and 17th centuries, in 1598, it owes its name to a biblical episode: for the wedding between Isaac and Rebecca, the bride reached the ceremony at Canaan riding a giraffe.

Other historians claim that it was a camel that brought Rebecca, the fact is that to look at the shape of the weak stars everything can be seen except a giraffe or a camel.

According to some, the introduction of the Giraffe was the work of Jacob Bartsch, an astronomer, who reproduced it for the first time on a planisphere in 1624.

Before analyzing these characteristics, let's see the representation of the Giraffe according to Hevelius

the Giraffe according to Hevelius

and according to Stellarium

the Giraffe according to Stellarium

As you can see the only problem is to associate the figure of the giraffe with the stars below, but since there is nothing to add, let's move on to its stars.

A few stars nearby

The nearest star is called Gliese 445: it is a star of class M3, just 10a and placed at a small distance of 17 al. Let's remember that these distances are very small compared to the distances of other more famous stars, not to mention the galaxies: however, these are absolutely inconceivable distances for the human mind, which vice versa tends to be misled by such low values.

I say it very often: with all the good will and the greatest optimism, the possibility of making interstellar journeys to nearby stars remains a pure science fiction issue. The films we see at the cinema about interstellar journeys have always deceived us: even the closest star (Proxima Centauri, about 4 miles away) is at an immeasurable, unimaginable distance, if compared to the distances we encounter every day: not infrequently I am taken for a pessimist or out of reality, by those who say that 100 years ago we didn't even dream of the level of technology reached today. But this is fine as long as we are talking about the sphere of our life and the objects we interact with every day: the difference between a trip out of town to the Moon and the epic journey to a nearby star is absolutely impractical, with a multiplicative factor so absurdly large that it loses its true meaning.

What remains for us is to take advantage of the means available, such as the well-known Celestia program, which allows us to make this flight in human time by a click: as you know I always add some travel notes, as I would do if I had made the trip myself. Not even this time I miss the opportunity to show how little imagination is enough to make real impossible situations seem: I'm referring to my Girafi friends who sent me a picture of the Sun seen from their parts, Sun that is almost 4a in a decidedly austral area of sky (if you think about geometry you will be convinced) with stars of the Octant, Male Hydra, Peacock and Toucan, over which the well known Alpha Centauri dominates. That cotton ball you see above is the LMC (Large Magellanic Cloud) well known to Australian land observers.

The second star for distance is called Gliese 169 and is actually a double star (169.1 A and B) of star classes M4 and C5 respectively and placed at a distance of 18 al. You could think that these two stars are very close also to Gliese 445 just seen: in reality Celestia informs us that being on this last star and looking around to discover the nearby stars, there are ten more (between 7 and 10 al) before finding this pair of stars that however is only 11 al: we must never forget that all stars must be seen in the cosmos in a three-dimensional way and that Astronomy is not an easy science. Easy and intuitable is the fact that even if we position ourselves near this double star our Sun appears in an area populated exclusively by Australian stars, Wolf, Compass, Altar, Scorpio and Peacock, always with the well-known Alpha Centauri close to our yellow dwarf. My Vatussi friends have confirmed this with this photo that also shows a beautiful Milky Way in the star field photographed. From their name perhaps you can guess that the two races of alien inhabitants are very similar in taste too: think that the Girafi and the Vatussi do nothing but make scarves, scarves and more scarves, to the point of nausea and the reason is given by a physical characteristic that unites them, which I leave you to guess.

The third star for proximity is HIP 32439, class F8 and just below the 5th post at 58 a.m.: there are no friends of mine there, but rumor has it that our Sun has as heavenly neighbors stars of the Altar, Peacock and Male Hydra, with an excellent neighbor (Sirius) and an unexpected Altair, projected into that area of the sky because of its small distance from the Sun.

Two big stars

comparison between the stars of the Giraffe and other notes

From the comparison diagram between the stars of the Giraffe and others encountered in the previous episodes we can see that there are two quite big stars: the first is the red giant 17 Cam class M1, with a radius of 96 times that of the Sun. My friends 17Camion have to complain about this star that looms over their skies even if from a distance of 17 UA: even more so from a distance of 10 UA the star appears massive and disturbing.

The other star that I have inserted in the diagram is instead β Cam, of class G0 and therefore an older sister of our Sun: with its ray of 42 times our yellow dwarf, it abundantly exceeds the famous Aldebaran, but this is not a novelty. My Videocassettes friends (once called Betacam after the star's name) have unfortunately almost disappeared by now, after they were invaded and overwhelmed by the Di-vu enemies who landed on their planet aboard their Streaming class spaceships.

Deep sky objects

Between the objects deep sky present alkl'interno of the constellation of the Giraffe, I have chosen 5, very characteristic, especially in the shots made by the HST, very rich as always of details, that are better appreciated clicking every single image and obtaining in this way the visualization to greater definition. Let's start with the planetary nebula NGC 1501

the nebula NGC 1501

and then observe the open cluster called NGC 1502, to which few stars belong.

the open cluster NGC 1502

Moving on to the galaxies, we have the NGC 1569 irregular dwarf galaxy with its beautiful bright red colouring

the galaxy NGC 1569

then we encounter the beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 2403...

the galaxy NGC 2403

now we see the pair of galaxies (the largest irregular one) called NGC 2366 and NGC 2363.

the irregular galaxy NGC 2366

and finally we see the wonderful IC 342, once considered as belonging to the local group, but then it was calculated to be part of the Group of Galaxies of Maffei 1 (from the name of the Italian Astronomer who had discovered them) in turn close to our Local Group.

Galaxy IC 342.


The Giraffe is a circumpolar boreal constellation and therefore never sets at our latitudes: what better occasion to discover it already tonight?

Audio Video The constellation of Giraffe (Camelopardalis - Cam)
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