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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Lupus: The Night Wolf

Lupus: The Night Wolf

Head outside on an early summer evening, and you may just see a wolf. It’s not a real wolf, but Lupus, the wolf constellation in the night sky.

Visible primarily in June to residents of the Northern Hemisphere, Lupus is a constellation that lies in the southern sky, near Norma, Scorpius, Circinus, Centaurus, Libra, and Hydra.

Its name is Latin for wolf. Listed among the 48 constellations named by Second Century astronomer Ptolemy, Lupus is now one of the 88 modern constellations.

Originally, however, Lupus was not seen as a separate constellation, but an asterism within neighboring Centaurus. In fact, it wasn’t even originally described as a wolf, but only as an undefined animal killed by Centaurus. To this day, renderings of the two constellations usually depict a dead wolf hanging from the centaur’s spear. Prior to Ptolemy’s time, another astronomer, Hipparchus of Bithynia, had named the asterism Therion, meaning “beast.”

Lupus contains 41 stars, none of which are exceptionally bright. Nine of them make up its shape — a sort of figure eight. The brightest of these, Alpha Lupi, is also known as Men. The second brightest, the blue giant Beta Lupi, is called KeKouan.

The constellation contains a handful of deep sky objects, including globular clusters NGC 5824, NGC 5927, and NGC 5986, open clusters NGC 5822 and NGC 5749, and the dark nebula B 228.

Lupus, itself, is not associated with any specific myth, though wolves do figure in many myths and legends. In ancient Rome, for instance, wolves were seen as sacred, because Romulus and Remus, the mythological founders of the empire, were said to have been suckled by a she-wolf.

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