The constellation Wolf (Lupus-Lup)



From the diagram taken from Stellarium, we see the location in the sky of the constellation of the Wolf: it is indissolubly glued to that of the fearsome Scorpio, from which it will never leave at a safe distance... In fact, the beautiful Antares serves as a beacon to find this not very known constellation which, as in other cases, has inside it a few interesting objects, although not so striking and recognizable.


Precisely with regard to the recognizability of the wolf, to which the constellation is associated, we can already say that the official figure is once so sympathetically evocative of a slightly chubby wolf looking at the Scorpio, studying its moves.

The name, the story, the myth of the constellation Wolf


The Wolf is a very ancient constellation, known since the times of the ancient Greeks, but originally it was not known by this name. It was considered as a part of the constellation Centaur, or a beast, but feline.

Its mythology is however contrasted: some believe that the wolf is the one impaled by the nearby Centaur to be offered as a sacrifice to the gods on the altar (the nearby constellation Ara), or that it is a human victim or a hare holding his arm outstretched above the altar, ready to kill. In reality it is difficult to distinguish which beast it is, it is confusingly sketched, or it is a mixture of parts of assembled animals. According to others the constellation represents Lycaon, the fierce king of Arcadia, who used to make human sacrifices and was therefore transformed into a wolf by Zeus. Certainly it is the connection with the ancient Babylonian constellation UR.IDIM (the hydrophobic dog).


The Arabs, instead, indicated this constellation by tracing a lioness or a leopard in its asterism.


Hevelius had represented in this way the nice but fearsome canid

the Wolf according to Hevelius

while in the Uranometry it looked like this

the Wolf in Uranometry

finally Stellarium represents it in a similar way, but seen from a distance it looks like a horse.

the Wolf inside Stellarium

Two stars big but small

comparison between the stars of the Wolf and other well known stars

Yes, from the comparison diagram opposite, we see that there are two large stars, one 50 times and the other 42 times our Sun. If you think about it, they are already huge: a Sun 50 times bigger than the one we are used to would give us a few more headaches, but in fact, compared to other star monsters, the supergiants that we see only partially in the diagram seem to disappear. But if they disappear, then so does Aldebaran, who once again is even smaller than two anonymous nights that nobody knows about.

The largest, the one with a radius equal to 50 times our Sun is φ1 Lup, star class K5, while the second is Lup, with a radius of 42x, class F3. My friends Filuppi of the first star and Ilupini of the second one agree with me that it is not necessary to publish the photo of their star from a distance of 10 UA: especially the second ones, who live on a planet where a legume grows whose yellow seeds are excellent as snacks (from which they are greedy and from which they get their name) do not like the media advertising on their planet. In fact, they complain that the tourists do nothing but eat these legumes together with hectolitres of aperitifs, putting a strain on their stocks... It can be seen that they are not suited for trade...


But enough of this nonsense!

Four stars close together

In this constellation there are four stars whose distance is less than my threshold of 60 al and even the first one is below 20 al. The closest, in fact, is the Gliese 588 (HIP 76074) a red star of class M2 placed at just 19.2 al from our Sun: obviously the just is referred to galactic distances, but anyway it remains a distance within reach of science fiction interstellar vessels. Seen from a position near this star, our Sun appears of magnitude 3.7 in a predominantly "boreal" zone of sky, in which Capella and the usual intruder Alpha Centauri, which is a bit the star parsley, stand out: how many times we have crossed it in our peregrinations among the other nearby stars! If you think about it all is very obvious, since Alfa Centauri is the nearest star to us (apart from its companion Proxima) and its 4 at a distance allow it to appear here and there in the sky of other nearby stars in unusual places, in the usual but spectacular geometric game that considers the stars in a 3-dimensional environment and not attached to the sky as the ancients thought.

From the second star in order of distance, ν2 Lup of stellar class identical to our yellow dwarf, placed at 42 al, instead the Sun appears immersed in a small group of dim stars of a Perseus in which the well known Sirius appears: its distance of 8 al makes it appear when one less expects it, exactly for the same reason as Alpha Centauri. My Niduelupici friends in fact thought that the Sun was part of an open cluster: with satisfaction I can say that it was me some time ago to report their mistake, so much so that the new name of the nearby yellow dwarf has recently become Piellepia...


The third nearby star is HIP 77358, spectral class G6 and magnitude 6, placed at 49.7 a.m. from us: in the picture provided by my Hipilupi friends we see that our Sun has detached from the previous small group, now halfway between that small group and the well known star cluster of the Pleiades.

The fourth star close to us is finally g Lup, a star of magnitude 4.6 (and therefore visible to the naked eye in dark skies), of star class F5, at a distance of 57 al: my friends Glupi have given me a photo in which this time you can see our Sun a little bit closer to the now famous group of stars, but already at the limit of the visibility of the glupan eye.

Deep Sky Objects

After a few facetiousness, just to dilute the usual article full of annotations and abstruse scientific acronyms, we see together several really spectacular objects.

Let's start with the globular cluster NGC 5824, small, compact, immersed in a sea of stars, in this photo by HST, like the others: clicking on the photo you can see a higher resolution version.

the globular cluster NGC 5824

The second object is another globular cluster, NGC 5986, this time larger and richer in bright stars

the globular cluster NGC 5986

The globular cluster series continues with NGC 5822

the globular cluster NGC 5822

then with NGC 5749

the globular cluster NGC 5749

and finally with NGC 5927

the globular cluster NGC 5927

We now have a beautiful planetary nebula, called NGC 5882.

the planetary nebula NGC 5882

The last object is the so-called Retina Nebula, IC 4406, another beautiful and strange planetary nebula worthy to be inserted in the desktop of our PC.

the beautiful Retina Nebula

Names of the stars

The two brightest stars in the constellation Wolf received a name, perhaps only used in the Far East.

  • Men (α Lup): name of Chinese origin meaning Southern Gate
  • Kekouan (β Lup): name of Chinese origin meaning Cavalry Officer

In both cases there is no relationship with a wolf.

Visibility

The likeable constellation of the Wolf is visible from our latitudes, but given its position in the sky it appears low on the horizon (10-15°) even at the maximum visibility, which we have, at 9 p.m., in mid-July: for a couple of months at the turn of this date the Wolf is even lower on the horizon, observable with greater difficulty.



Audio Video The constellation Wolf (Lupus-Lup)
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