Lynx Constellation – The Night Sky’s Wild Cat

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

The Constellation of Lynx

Lynx is one of the seven extant constellations that Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius (1611-1667) created in 1687.

The other six in his list are:

  • Canes Venatici – the hunting dogs
  • Leo Minor – the lion cub
  • Lacerta – the lizard
  • Vulpecula – the fox
  • Sextans – the sextant
  • Scutum – the shield

Hevelius created this constellation to fill the large gap between Auriga and Ursa Major and named the constellation ‘Lynx’ because observers needed the eyesight of a lynx in order to see it.

There are no myths associated with this modern constellation.

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

Lynx constellation shown as a mythical figure
Lynx constellation shown as a mythical figure, from SkySafari 6

Lynx has an area of 545 square degrees making it the 28th largest of the 88 recognized constellations. It’s one of the dimmest constellations and resembles a bumpy line north of Leo and Cancer.

Star map showing the proximity of the constellation of Lynx to those of Cancer and Leo
Lynx constellation, north of Leo and Cancer. Click for full-screen.

In the next section discover how to find Lynx.

How To Find Lynx In The Night Sky

Lynx is part of the Ursa Major family of constellations and is visible to observers at latitudes between +90° and -55°.

This makes Lynx a circumpolar constellation for many Northern Hemisphere observers, including northern US states, meaning it never sets below the horizon.

The best times to see it are from January to May. In March, Lynx is overhead at 9pm for observers positioned in mid-northern latitudes.

Southern Hemisphere observers can see it from March to May.

The constellation of Lynx is bordered by the constellations Ursa Major, Camelopardalis, Auriga, Gemini, Cancer, and Leo Minor. It also shares its southeasternmost corner with the constellation of Leo.

The bordering constellations of Lynx
The bordering constellations of Lynx. Click for full-screen.

To find Lynx, do a naked-eye search for the Big Dipper, and Castor and Pollux in Gemini. Draw a pair of roughly parallel imaginary lines from Dubhe and Merak to Castor and Pollux (~44°). Lynx will be roughly 30° from Dubhe and Merak and roughly 14° from Castor and Pollux.

You can measure these distances with your hand at arm’s length. Use the star chart below for a visible guide.

Star chart showing how to locate Lynx using Gemini and the Big Dipper
Finding Lynx from the Big Dipper and Gemini. Click for full-screen

To find Lynx’s exact position for your location on any night, use software such as Stellarium [https://stellarium.org/] (free) or SkySafari 6.

Lynx’s Brightest Stars

Lynx is not a massive constellation and is not particularly bright. It contains only stars brighter than magnitude 4, and only a dozen or so brighter than magnitude 5.

The chart below shows all of the stars within Lynx brighter than magnitude 5. The list below looks at some of the more interesting ones.

Stars in Lynx constellation brighter than magnitude 5
Stars brighter than magnitude 5 in Lynx. Click for full-screen

Alpha Lyncis (40 Lyncis) – At the southeasternmost tip of Lynx is this double star, which is also the brightest star in the constellation at magnitude 3.13.

The primary is an orange-red giant and the secondary shins at magnitude 8.83. The two stars are 223 arcseconds apart.

This system is 203 light-years away.

2 Lyncis – is at the opposite, northwestern end of the Lynx line. This magnitude 4.44 white main-sequence star is 157 light-years away. It is also a rotating variable ranging in magnitude from 4.42 to 4.73.

12 Lyncis (Struve 948) – This triple star is 230 light-years away. The 4.86 magnitude primary star and its magnitude 6.0 secondary component are both white main-sequence stars and just 1.9 arcseconds apart. These have a 700-year orbit.

There is a tertiary component in this system. It shines at magnitude 7.2 magnitude 8.7 arcseconds from the primary sun.

15 Lyncis – This double star is 178 light-years away. The 4.36 magnitude, yellow-orange giant, primary, and 5.0 magnitude, secondary components are 0.7 arcseconds apart, which is too close to be separated by an average backyard telescope.

21 Lyncis – This white, magnitude 4.61, main-sequence star is 274 light-years away. It’s an eruptive variable ranging in magnitude from 4.40 to 4.64 but its period is unknown.

31 Lyncis (Alsciaukat) – The only star in Lynx with a name shines at magnitude 4.23. It is an orange-red giant 390 light-years away from our solar system.

The name ‘Alsciaukat’ comes from Arabic folklore and refers to a ‘thorn’.

38 Lyncis – This double star is the second brightest star in Lynx and shines at magnitude 3.81. Its primary star is a white, main-sequence sun, while the secondary shines at magnitude 6.09. The two components are 2.6 arcseconds apart and 122 light-years away.

10 Ursae Majoris – Yes, this double star is in Lynx, even though it is named for neighboring Ursa Major. It used to be in the latter until the official constellation borders placed it in Lynx.

Otherwise, this is an ordinary magnitude 3.97 double star. The primary is a yellow-white colored main-sequence star. Its secondary component is 0.6 arcseconds away and shines at magnitude 6.48. The system is 52 light-years away.

HR 3612– This 4.55 magnitude star is a bright orange giant. Its diameter is 48 times that of our sun’s, although its mass is only 12 times greater. This star is 817 light-years away from us.

Star Hopping From Lynx

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

Objects To See Within Lynx

Lynx contains no Messier objects and few other deep sky objects suitable for smaller telescope users.

NGC 2683 (UFO Galaxy) – This spiral galaxy has a magnitude of 9.1 and an apparent size of 9.5 x 2.7 arcminutes. It’s 16 million light-years away and can be found at right ascension 08h 52m 41s and declination 33° 25’ 21” (2000.0).

NGC 2419 (Caldwell 25, Intergalactic Wanderer) – This globular cluster has a magnitude of 10.4 and an apparent size of 4.6 arcminutes. It’s 300,000 light-years away and is at right ascension 07h 38m 08s and declination 38° 52’ 57” (2000.0).

Summary

Lynx is a challenging, medium-sized constellation between Ursa Major and Gemini. It contains relatively few notable stars or deep sky objects for small telescope observers.


Written by Tanya C. Forde