Camelopardalis Constellation – A Guide to the Midnight Giraffe!

In this article, we’ll be sharing with you everything you need to know about the constellation of Camelopardalis, including how to find it, deep space objects contained within it, and how to use it to find other night sky objects more easily.

The Constellation of Camelopardalis

This constellation was invented by Dutch cartographer Petrus Plancius (1552-1622) and first documented by German astronomer Jakob Bartsch in 1624.

The word Camelopardalis is derived from the Latinized version of the Greek word for giraffe. It may seem unusual today but, in Greek, the giraffe was called the ‘camel-leopard’ due to its long, camel-like neck and its leopard-like spotted coat.

The ancient Greeks didn’t see any stars in this region of the sky so there are no myths associated with this modern constellation.

To help you spot Camelopardalis, here’s what SkySafari 6 shows.

Image of Camelopardalis the Giraffe from SkySafari 6

Camelopardalis has an area of 757 square degrees making it the 18th largest of the 88 recognized constellations. If you’ve observed the annual Perseid meteor shower, which peaks in mid-August, you may recognize this faint, constellation as being near the radiant.

Constellation of Camelopardalis between Cassiopeia and Ursa Major (click for full-screen)

In the next section discover how to find Camelopardalis.

How To Find Camelopardalis In The Night Sky

Camelopardalis is part of the Ursa Major family of constellations and is visible to observers at latitudes between +90° and -10°. Camelopardalis is a circumpolar constellation, so Northern Hemisphere observers can see it all year round. Southern Hemisphere observers who are far enough north, can see it from November to February.

The constellation of Camelopardalis is bordered by the constellations Auriga, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Lynx, Perseus, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. Note the position of Polaris, the pole star, just to the top right of Camelopardalis in the image below.

Camelopardalis boundaries. Click for full-screen.

To find Camelopardalis, do a naked-eye search for Polaris (in Ursa Minor) and Capella (in Auriga) then draw an imaginary line between these two stars (~43°) and look for Alpha Camelopardalis near the midpoint of the line.

Alternatively, do a naked-eye search for Cassiopeia’s “W” asterism then draw an imaginary line from Shedar to Segin (~13°) and, extend this line ~18° to Alpha Camelopardalis.

You can measure these distances with your hand held at arm’s length.

Finding camelopardalis from Cassiopeia or Auriga
Find Camelopardalis using either Cassiopeia (green line) or Polaris and Capella (orange). Click for full-screen.

To find Camelopardalis’s exact position for your location on any night, use software such as Stellarium (free) or SkySafari 6.

The Brightest Stars in Camelopardalis Constellation

Camelopardalis is not a large or bright constellation. While none of its stars are brighter than magnitude 1.5, this constellation contains many binary stars which are brighter than magnitude 5.0 and have noticeable color contrasts.

See all of the stars which are brighter than magnitude 5.0 on the SkySafari image below, with their details listed below that.

Bright stars of Camelopardalis. Click for full-screen.

Alpha Camelopardalis – This magnitude 4.29, blue-white supergiant is the third brightest star in Camelopardalis. Usually, the ‘alpha’ star is brightest but in the case of this constellation, two other stars are functionally brighter: Beta Cam is magnitude 4.03 and HR 1035 shines at magnitude 4.21.

It’s so far away that its distance measurement is also unknown but there are reasons to believe it’s around 3,200 light-years distant.

Beta Camelopardalis – This double star is the brightest in Camelopardalis. The magnitude 4.03, yellow-orange bright giant, and its magnitude 7.44 secondary component are 84.2 arcseconds apart. The pair form an eclipsing variable. Beta Camelopardalis is 1000 light-years away.

Gamma Camelopardalis – This double star is the fourth brightest star in Camelopardalis and marks the giraffe’s haunches. The 4.61 magnitude, white subgiant, primary, and 12.40 magnitude, secondary components are 56.3 arcseconds apart. Gamma Camelopardalis is 359 light-years away.

BE Camelopardalis – This is an orange-red M2 class star shining at magnitude 4.42. It’s 796 light-years away. It’s a long-period, pulsating variable ranging in magnitude from 4.35 to 4.48.

CE Camelopardalis – This magnitude 4.59 yellow-white supergiant marks the giraffe’s rear foot. CE is a pulsating variable star ranging in magnitude from 4.64 to 4.69 over 16.8 days and is 2,509 light-years away.

CS Camelopardalis (HR1035) – This variable double star is the second brightest star in Camelopardalis but only shines at magnitude 4.26. The yellow-white supergiant primary and its 7.80 magnitude, secondary components are 2.3 arcseconds apart. CS Camelopardalis is 1,941 light-years away.

VZ Camelopardalis – This star lies away from the asterism, 7° from Polaris, and near the boundary with Cepheus. It shines at magnitude 4.88 and is an orange-red giant 499 light-years from Earth.

7 Camelopardalis – marks the giraffe’s front foot. It’s another double star located 372 light-years away. The magnitude 4.46 blue-white main sequence primary has a magnitude 7.90 secondary component located 0.6 arcseconds away.

HR2209 – This double star is 175 light-years away and marks the giraffe’s snout. The 4.76 magnitude, white main-sequence primary and secondary components are 8.5 arcseconds apart.

Star Hopping From Camelopardalis

Camelopardalis’s dim stars make it a poor starting point for star hopping.

Objects To See Within Camelopardalis

Camelopardalis doesn’t contain any Messier objects but does contain some other deep sky objects suitable for small telescopes.

Kemble’s Cascade (Kemble 1) – This asterism, shaped like a line of stars, has an apparent size of 150.0 x 15.0 arcminutes. It’s at right ascension 4h 0m 54s and declination +62° 57’ 32”.

See the image below showing the line running from 1 o’clock to 7 o’clock inside the circle.

Kemble’s Cascade. Stars are shown to magnitude 9.0. Click for full-screen.

NGC 1502 – This open cluster has a magnitude of 6.90 and an apparent size of 8.0 arcminutes. Find it at R.A. 04h 07m 50s and Dec +62° 19′ 00″, which is at the end of Kemble’s Cascade (see above).

NGC 2403 – This spiral galaxy has a magnitude of 8.25 and an apparent size of 19.1 x 10.1 arcminutes. It’s 10 million light-years away and is at right ascension 7h 38m 52s and declination +65° 33’ 19”.

IC 342 (Caldwell 5) – This spiral galaxy has a magnitude of 8.57 and an apparent size of 19.8 x 18.8 arcminutes. It’s around 11 million light-years away and is at right ascension 03h 46m 49s and declination +68° 05’ 46”.

Summary

Camelopardalis is a medium-sized, dim, circumpolar constellation with many notable stars and some deep sky objects. Look for it between Cassiopeia and Ursa Major this winter.


Written by Tanya C. Forde