Ara Constellation | Facts about the Altar

Ara, also known as the Altar constellation, is a fairly small group of stars that can be seen from the Southern hemisphere. Not only is it home to some well known stars, but also to the Stingray Nebula too, which can be seen to the South of the constellation. Lets find out some more about Ara.

Ara Constellation

  • Bordered By; Corona Australis, Scorpius, Norma, Triangulum Australe, Apus, Pavo, Telescopium.
  • Named after; The Altar
  • Declination; -45 to -67°
  • Brightest Star; Beta Arae
  • Best seen; July
  • Size rank; 63rd
  • Constellation family; Hercules
  • Pronunciation; AYY-RAH
ara-constellation

What is Ara named after?

As previously mentioned, Ara is one of the Hercules family of constellations. It comes from the Latin word for Altar, and it is thought to be named after the Altar where the Gods left gifts and peace offerings for the Titans, before later defeating them. This battle of the Titans is often referred to throughout mythology, pitting the older generation of Gods known as the Titans (Cronus, the Greek equivalent of the Roman Saturn) against his children, the Olympians (Zeus, known in Roman as Jupiter).

Who founded the Ara Constellation?

More than half of the constellations that we count today can all be traced back to one man; Ptolemy. A well known sceintist and astronomer, Ptolemy had a great catalog dating to the 2nd Century BC. In this catalog were many constellations that he himself had noted down from earlier writings, and it is where we get many of our constellations today (48 out of 88 of them to be precise).

How can I see Ara in the sky?

The best time for you to see Ara in the sky is during the months onf July and August from the Southern hemisphere.

Main Stars of Ara

There are different stars which make up the constellation Ara, as well as galaxies and Nebulae too. Here are the most well known of them.

ara-stars
  • Beta Arae (β) – The brightest star in this constellation is actually one of the youngest. Beta Arae is approximately 600 light years away from the planet Earth, it is an orange supergiant star. It is one of the few exceptions to the Alpha star being the brightest in the constellation.
  • Alpha Arae (α) – Although not quite as bright as the Beta, Alpha Arae is still one of the brightest within Ara and one of the most easily visible. It can be spotted pretty easily if you’re located in the Southern hemisphere. It is very hot with an estimated temperature of 18,044 K, which gives it a blue/white color.
  • Zeta Arae (ζ) – After the Alpha and Beta of this constellation, the next brightest star is Zeta Arae. It is around 500 light years away from Earth, and it clearly visible from the Southern hemisphere. It has a moderate temperature of 4,246 K, which gives it an orange color.
  • Gamma Arae (γ) – In terms of the youngest stars of this constellation, that title would have to go to Gamma Arae. It is only 15 million years old, which in star years, is just a baby. Despite this, the star itself is very hot, and has a blue colour because of this.
  • Delta Arae (δ) – This double star is one of the better known in Ara, and it is classified as a B-type main sequence star. It is just under 200 light years away from us, with more than 200x the luminosity of the Sun too.

As well as the stars that make up this constellation, you can also spot the Stingray nebula within its parameters too. This is one of the smaller nebulae, and it is the youngest planetary nebula that we know of. Even though it is quite small by nebulae standards, it is still more than 130x the size of our solar system.

Conclusion

All in all, Ara is an interesting constellation to learn about. Although it is one of the smaller ones in the night sky, it has a fair amount of stars and other deep sky objects you can spot if you are stargazing. It is surrounded by many other constellations, and can be viewed fairly easy from the Southern hemisphere.

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