Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Auriga (Latin for chariot) is a northern constellation. It was one of the 48 constellations listed by Ptolemy, and counts as one of the 88 modern constellations. Its brightest star is Capella, which is associated with the mythological she-goat Amalthea. The three stars Epsilon, Zeta and Eta Aurigae are called Haedi (the Kids).
Two peculiar binary stars, ε Aurigae and ζ Aurigae. ε Aurigae is one of the strangest binary stars. The orbital period is about 27 years, with an eclipse duration of about 18 months. The visible companion is a yellowish (F-class)supergiant. The type of the other star is not known. ζ Aurigae has a period of 970 days, the primary is a (K-class)supergiant and the secondary is a (B-class) main sequence star. Both these systems present a rare stage of binary evolution, as the components are in a short and active evolotionary stage.
Notable deep sky objects
The constellation may date back to Babylonian times as Rukubi, the chariot. The Romans identified this constellation with Erichthonius, the lame son of Vulcan (whom the Greeks referred to as Hephaestus) and Minerva (whom the Greeks referred to as Athena), who invented the four-horse chariot.
Before the classical era, it was also identified as a chariot and its driver, which, considering its fainter stars visible to the naked eye, it resembles. However, the driver was considered to be a shepherd, usually one which had flung a goat over its left shoulder (due to the resemblence of that area to a lump), and had its kids (two bright stars) nearby.
Together with the area of the sky that is deserted (now considered as the new and extremely faint constellations Camelopardalis and Lynx), and the other features of the area in the Zodiac sign of Gemini (i.e. the Milky Way, and the constellations Gemini, Orion, and Canis Major), this may be the origin of the myth of the cattle of Geryon, which forms one of The Twelve Labours of Herakles.
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