The constellation of the Dove (Columba - Col)

The celestial map of the Dove (from Stellarium)

It is a constellation with just one bright star of 2nd magnitude, while all the others are weaker. From the celestial map of Stellarium, however, we can see that this small constellation is located next to the Major Dog where the brightest star in the firmament, Sirius, shines. This fact makes it easy to spot in the bright skies of cities.

We will see shortly that the constellation has just a couple of deep sky objects and a particular star.

It is a recent constellation and therefore it appears only in the work of Hevelius

the Dove according to Hevelius

and of course in the Stellarium

the Dove according to Stellarium

in both cases she is portrayed wearing an olive branch with her beak, the universal symbol of peace.

The name, history and myth of the Dove

The constellation of the Dove seems to have been introduced in 1592 by the Dutch astronomer and cosmographer Petrus Plancius, in his heavenly hemisphere, under the name Columba Nohae, or "Noah's dove". and was officially included in Bayer's catalogue in 1603.

Although recent, the Dove has a mythological story to tell, if in fact strong are the references to the dove freed by Noah after the end of 150 days of the Universal Flood, which returned with an olive branch in its beak, as proof of the existence of a dry land and then emerged from the abundant water, the parallel reference to the bird that was commissioned by the Argonauts (see constellation Carena) to indicate a safe passage between the Rocce Cozzanti (Simplegadi) is equally well founded

An important star

In this constellation we find an only interesting star, really particular: it's the blue star μ Col (also known as HIP 27204), class O and 5, quite far away from us (more than 1300 al), which is a rare example of runaway star and that is stars characterized by a very high motion.

two runaway stars

Measuring the proper motion and radial velocity of this star, it has been calculated that μ Col and AE Aur are moving away from each other at a relative speed of 200 km/s, escaping from a point right in correspondence with the star ι Ori: it is thought that two and a half million years ago a collision between two binary systems originated these two runaway stars, which continue their crazy flight into empty space absolutely undisturbed. Currently between the two stars there are about 70° of distance and in the map we see indicated with a red circle, in the center ι Ori (which is at a distance of 2300 al), at the top AE Aur (at 1800 al) and at the bottom μ Col (as said at 1300 al) with two red arrows indicating the path of the two stars.

A couple of Deep sky objects

As said, inside the constellation there are a couple of deep sky objects, as always very interesting. Let's start with the beautiful barred spiral galaxy NGC 1808...

the beautiful galaxy NGC 1808

while the second object that I show you is the globular cluster NGC 1851, very rich in stars

the globular cluster NGC 1851

Names of stars and visibility

The constellation of the Dove possesses a number of stars to which the ancient Arabs had given a name

  • Phact (α Col): the dove
  • Wazn (ß Col): the weight
  • Ghusn al Zaitun (γ Col): olive branch
  • Kurud I and II and κ Col): the monkeys

As far as the visibility of the constellation is concerned, at the usual time of 9 p.m., it is low on the horizon, South-East, in mid-December, culminating in the South at the beginning of February of the following year (at about 15-20° on the horizon), and then it is low on the horizon, South-West, in the second half of March.

Now that we know where to find her, we have no excuse not to look for the Dove too.

Audio Video The constellation of the Dove (Columba - Col)
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