Backyard Voyager

The 25 brightest stars visible from Earth

Our Night Sky's 25 Brightest Stars

1. spaceSirius (Alpha Canis Majoris) spacerApparent Magnitudespacerspace-1.44space Size (LY) 9

spaceCanis Major


Canis Major, the larger of Orion's two hunting dogs is one of the oldest constellations. Witin it are two of the brightest star in the night sky-- Sirius and Adhara. It was once thought that during the summer months, when Sirius was visible above the horizon before nightfall, its heat was added to the sun's heat. This belief is the basis of the phrase "dog days of summer." Sirius is so bright in because of its great luminousity and proximity, being only 8.6 light years distant. It is actually a double star.Its faint companion,Sirius B, is mag 8.44.






2. spaceCanopus (Alpha Carinae) spacerApparent Magnitudespacerspace-.62 space Size (LY) 313



Carina is one part of the constellation formerly known as Argo Navis. It is difficult to see in much of the continental United States, and is only visible to those living below 38 degrees lattitude. Canopus is a rare class "F" yellow-white supergiant with a diameter 65 times solar. From its apparent brightness and distance of 313 light years, we calculate a luminosity 15,000 times that of the Sun .



3. spaceArcturus (Alpha Bootis) spacerApparent Magnitudespacerspace-0.05 space Size (LY) 37



The constellation Bootes, easily found by following the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper, contains the large star Arcturus, third brightest in the sky. Arcturus is a bright orange Class K giant star with a surface temperature of 4290 degrees Kelvin. To the eye, it shines 113 times more brightly than our sun and has a diameter of 26 times solar.



4. spaceRigel Kentaurus (Alpha Centauri) spacerApparent Magnitudespacerspace-0.01 space Size (LY) 4


Centaurus lies low in the sky and is impossible to see from most of the United States. It contains within it the closest star, other than the sun, to the solar system, Proxima Centauri. This is a companion star to Rigel Kentaurus, also known as Alpha Centaur, lying a mere 4.36 light years away. A modest telescope will split it as double. The brighter is a yellow class G dwarf star that, with a temperature of 5770 Kelvin (10 degrees cooler than solar), appears almost identical to the Sun. The companion, over a magnitude fainter, is a cooler (5300 Kelvin) class K star, the two making an obvious color contrast.



5. spaceVega ( Alpha Lyrae) spacerApparent Magnitudespacerspace0.03 space Size (LY) 25


Lyra is an ancient constellation easily seen high in the northern skies. It is visible in the summer and fall. Its close proximity makes it unusually bright-- 54 times the brightness of our sun. Vega is a classic white main sequence star. Because of its massive size, 2.5 times that of our sun, it uses its internal fuel faster and will burn out in less than a billion years.



6. spaceCapella ( Alpha Aurigae) spacerApparent Magnitudespacerspace0.08 space Size (LY) 42


Auriga was one of the earliest constellations named and represented shepherding. The brightest star, Capella, meant she goat, and the stars below were thought of as kids. Capella is yellow-white and in the middle of the temperature range. It is the best known double star, both components of which are larger and brighter than the sun.



7. spaceRigel ( Beta Orionis) spacerApparent Magnitudespacerspace0.18 space Size (LY) 773


Orion is one of the oldest and most recognized constellations.Orion is large and easy to find. It contains many bright stars and in the belt are three very bright stars lined up in a row. Rigel represents Orion's foot. Although it is Orion's beta star, it is brighter than the alpha star Betelgeuse. It is a "blue supergiant," a fairly hot star with a surface temperature (11,000 Kelvin) about double that of our Sun.



8. spaceProcyon ( Alpha Canis Minoris) spacerApparent Magnitudespacerspace0.40space Size (LY) 11

spaceCanis Minor

Canis Minor is the smaller of the the two hunting dogs used by Orion. The constellation is one of the smallest in the sky and is composed primarily by only two bright stars, one of which is Procyon. A white class F subgiant-dwarf, Procyon radiates with the power of 6.9 Suns, having a surface temperature of 6530 Kelvin. Procyon has a faint companion star, Procyon B, was not actually seen until 1896, its existence was known as early as 1844 because of the star wobble it exserts on Procyon A.



9. spaceBetelgeuse ( Alpha Orionis) spacerApparent Magnitudespacerspace0.45 space Size (LY) 522


The great star Betelgeuse is one of the two that dominate mighty Orion of northern winter, the other Rigel, the pair respectively called Alpha and Beta Orionis.



10. spaceAchernar ( Alpha Eridani) spacerApparent Magnitudespacerspace0.45space Size (LY) 144


Achernar is a bright blue star of six to eight solar masses . Although classified as a main sequence (dwarf) star, it is thousands of times brighter than the Sun . It is visible in the southern part of the night sky. It remains permanently below the horizon from many densely populated portions of Earth 's northern hemisphere. From those Southern hemisphere countries from which it can be seen best, it is particularly conspicuous through being highest in the night sky in November.



11. spaceHadar (Beta Centauri) spacerApparent Magnitudespacerspace0.61space Size (LY) 526


Hadar, less often known as Agena (from the "knee" of the Centaur), is quite the magnificent star: rather, stars. Visually, Alpha Centauri is notably brighter than Hadar, but only because (ignoring Proxima) it is the closest star to the Earth. At a distance of 335 light years, Hadar, a blue class B (B1) giant, is 77 times farther away, and is bright because it is truly luminous.



12. spaceAltair (Alpha Aquilae) spacerApparent Magnitudespacerspace0.76 space Size (LY) 17


Altair, the 13th brightest star in the sky and the Alpha star of Aquila the Eagle, is also the southern anchor of the famed Summer Triangle , which it makes with Vega and Deneb . The Arabic name "Altair," reflective of the constellation itself, comes from a phrase meaning "the flying eagle." Though the constellation does not look much like its name, Altair itself is flanked by a pair of stars (the Beta and Gamma stars Alshain and Tarazed ) that really do remind the sky- gazer of a bird with outstretched wings.



13. spaceAcrux ( Alpha Crucis ) spacerApparent Magnitudespacerspace0.77space Size (LY) 321

spaceCrux (Southern Cross)

Among the most famous constellations in the sky is a "modern" one that is quite invisible from most of the populated northern hemisphere: Crux , the Southern Cross. Some 60 degrees below the celestial equator, Crux is well-visible only roughly south of the Tropic of Cancer (a good reason to go to Hawaii). From nearly all the temperate southern hemisphere, Crux is circumpolar (never setting).