Bootes Constellation, The Herdsman or Plowman

Bootes Constellation

Bootes Constellation

Bootes Constellation Outline

Bootes Constellation Outline

The constellation Bootes is easily visible. Simply look down from the tail of the Big Dipper. Bootes looks like a giant kite with a bright red star at the narrow end. Bootes is also known as the Bear Driver because it leads the Great Bear as it revolves around the North Star. Bootes is usually visualized as a herdsman holding a staff and two dogs on a leash, chasing Ursa Major around the pole.

The Bootes constellation has been called many names over time. Some of these names include the Barking Dog, the Loud Weeper, the Pastor and Nimrod. The origin of the word “Bootes” itself is unclear. So suggest it is synonym to “plowman” and others think it represent the shouts of an ox driver.

Bootes Mythology

The constellation Bootes is associated with several myths. In one, Bootes is a ploughman who drove the oxen which were tied to the polar axis in the Ursa Major constellation, with his two dogs. Bootes’ purpose was to keep the skies turning.

A different myth sees Bootes linked with Atlas because of the position of the constellation’s arms near the pole star. Bootes is also said to have invented the plough, which earned him a place in the heavens.

Another Greek myth tells the tale of Bootes as Icarius, a grape grower whom the god Dionysus had taught to make wine. When they tasted the wine, Icarius’ friends became so intoxicated that they believed they had been poisoned and so they killed him. When Icarius’ dog Maera brought his daughter Erigone to his body, she hanged herself in despair and the dog died of grief. Zeus then transformed them to constellations: Icarius became Bootes, Erigone was turned into the Virgo constellattion, and the dog became either Canis Major or Canis Minor. Various sources are inconsistent on that point.

Bootes Stars and Deep Space Objects

The brightest star of Bootes is Arcturus (alpha Bootis) with an apparent magnitude of –1.0. It is the third brightest star in the sky. Arcturus is a red giant 36.7 light-years distant and about 110 times more luminous than the Sun. It has some unusual features besides its distinctive orange color. Arcturus is the fastest moving star in the sky, not in terms of its speed through space, but its speed across the backdrop of the other stars. In about 800 years, Arcturus will be very close to a Moon’s diameter from its current position in respect to the other stars which will have barely moved.

Bootes contains several binary stars visible to the naked eye, including Iota, delta and mu. Mu Bootis is a triple star system with a yellow-white F-type subgiant for a primary component.

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