The Crane Constellation (Grus - Crane)


The Crane constellation

In the beautiful summer nights, if we look southwards, we can notice the well known Fomalhaut, the α of the Southern Fish, which stands out in an area of sky poor of bright stars, very close to much better known constellations such as Capricorn and Aquarius, also poor of bright stars (as are for example Orion or the Big Dipper).


Well, just below the Southern Fish, there is our Crane with its main star α, Al Na'ir, which would be well visible and recognizable (thanks to the magnitude 1.7), but at our latitudes at the most close to the horizon.

Thanks to Stellarium we can therefore contemplate the Crane in its entirety, discovering that it is, among other things, a constellation quite large in size.

We will see that the constellation has many deep sky objects and we will soon know three big stars and as many near ones: in any case, they are celestial objects as always really spectacular.

The ancient and modern representations of the Crane are quite obvious: according to Hevelius (top left)

the representation of the Crane according to Hevelius

and according to Stellarium

the representation of the Crane according to Stellarium

The giant stars of the Crane

comparison between the stars of the Crane and other bigger and better known ones

Looking at the diagram beside (made as always by myself with the help of Illustrator) we notice with pleasure three very big stars, at least compared to those two drawn below (the famous Rigel and Aldebaran, defeats again), but obviously and clearly smaller than those star monsters (met during the episodes) of which we see only a small part.


Let's start with the largest, a red supergiant of spectral class M5, the β Crane, which is nothing more than 171 times our Sun. Even if it's nothing compared to other star monsters (from T Cep with a diameter of 540 times the Sun to VY CMa with its 2100 times), it's still scary! With the usual help of my galactic friends (whatever... Celestia) we immediately see the comparison with our Sun, which literally disappears in the comparison.

My friends Grugiganti, in fact, sent me a photo of their big star, from the distance of 10 UA, to have a comparison with our yellow dwarf from the distance of the planet Saturn: to be left breathless, something that my nice friends happen very often, since the atmosphere of their planet Noair is very rarefied.

The second star in size is the δ2 Crane, whose diameter is 100 times that of the Sun: it is therefore a red supergiant, spectral class M4. Not bad either!

Viewed from 10 UA, the star is once again imposing and impressive, once again compared to that bright dot (almost invisible) on the right that is the Sun at the same distance: you can imagine the comments of my friends Gruisti, who have the peculiarity of being very tall with slender legs and living in houses always placed no less than 100 meters from the ground below, on top of large pylons. Their houses are fortunately very stable and do not oscillate, as their planet is not beaten by winds. I forgot that their planet is also called Noair, demonstrating their lack of imagination.


Back to seriousness, even the third largest star, the semi-regular red giant π1 Gru, spectral class S5, looks good from the top of its diameter 82 times that of the sun and therefore much larger than Rigel.

Could I forget my lazy friends? Of course not! You can imagine how many times I urged them to send me a picture of their big star from the distance of 10 UA, practically the distance of their small rocky planet that they call Indolenzua (no, it's not a typo, they call it just like that).
Well... let's get back to more serious things.

The name, history and myth of the Crane

For the Arabs, these stars were part of the Southern Fish constellation. The constellation Crane appears for the first time in its present form in an official catalogue in 1603, with Bayer, even if it was already known in 1598 in the planisphere of Plancius.

In the Middle Ages the constellation was also called Phenicopterus, "the Flamingo".

Being recent, it lacks a mythology.

The nearby stars of the Crane

Inside this nice constellation we find three stars whose distance is less than the threshold of 60 light years (al) from our Sun: the nearest is the star called Gliese 832, a small star of 8.1 and spectral class M1, which is at the small distance of 16.1 al from us.

From the photo sent to me by my friends, we can see that our Sun is a small star of 3 in a star field containing stars of the Big Dipper on one side, Castor, Pollux and Raccoon on the other and not far from the very famous and nearby α Centauri: our star is called Sun while the other stars mentioned are for them Castor, Pollux and Procyon.
I forgot to say that they have a strange custom: at five o'clock in the afternoon, they interrupt whatever they are doing, to drink a cup of a strange hot and fragrant drink. When in Rome, do as the Romans do! And I forgot that their 7-wheeled cars drive with the 3 steering wheels on the right: I don't really know where they get these habits from, my English friends.


The second star for proximity is much more distant, 44 al from our Sun: it is a star of class G1 (therefore of the same family of our diurnal star), called HIP 110109 , that in theory we could see with the naked eye, having an equal to 5.

The third star (HIP 107649) is instead located at a distance of 51 al and is also of the same family of the Sun, this time of spectral class G2, with an anchor equal to 5.

By a strange coincidence, even our Sun, seen from the sides of these two stars, presents the same one and is in both cases very close to the Big Dipper: my friends Centodiecicentonovi and Centosetteseicentoquarantanovi (called Novi1 and Novi2 respectively), sent me two photos, of which I show only the first, since the star field is practically the same.

Deep sky objects

The Crane constellation presents many interesting objects: I remember that all the photos were taken by HST.

Let's start with a very impressive barred spiral galaxy, the NGC 7424.

the splendid barred spiral galaxy NGC 7424

then we have a spiral galaxy, NGC 7213

the spiral galaxy NGC 7213

followed by the spiral galaxy, NGC 7140.

the spiral galaxy NGC 7140

Here instead we have a star field rich in galaxies among which two stand out, one almost in the center (IC5264, a spiral galaxy) and one higher to the right (IC1459, an elliptical galaxy).

a star field rich in calassias, with IC5264 and IC1459 in the centre.

Let's see now another beautiful crossed-out spiral galaxy, the NGC 7418

the barred spiral galaxy NGC 7418

and finally we close with another barred spiral galaxy, the NGC 7421...

the barred spiral galaxy NGC 7421

Names of stars and visibility

Among the stars of the Crane, only three have received little known names

  • Al Na'ir (α Crane): the brilliant one
  • Gruid Gruid): unknown meaning but obviously related to Gruid
  • Deneb Hut (γ Crane): tail of the Southern Fish, as in ancient times it was part of that constellation.

As for the visibility of the constellation, I have already said that at our latitudes you can hardly see it and only if the horizon is free: at the beginning of September, at 9 p.m., it is low on the South-East horizon, culminating in the South at the end of October with Al Na'ir bordering the horizon, and finally even lower on the South-West horizon at the beginning of December.



Audio Video The Crane Constellation (Grus - Crane)
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