For the second celestial object in our series, all must bow to the mighty Dragon. It’s fitting that Dragon sails this race under the watchful eye of the Draco constellation floating in the northern sky each night.
Like with most constellations, it takes imagination to turn the stars into the figure they are named after, but if you squint hard you can see it.
Latin for “Dragon”, the Draco Constellation can be found wrapped between the Little Dipper and Big Dipper in the northern sky. It never sets and can be seen all year long. While the naked eye can trace about 16 stars in the constellation, it is actually made up of over 120 stars. It is the 6th largest constellation and covers 2.6% of the sky.
Because stars move over long stretches of time, the pole star changes. Polaris only became the pole star in 1793 BC as it moved into the closest alignment with Earth’s axis, and before that the pole star was Thuban, the star third in from the end of the tail of Draco. The Egyptian Pyramids were built to have one of their sides facing north, and had an entrance passage geometrically aligned so Thuban would be visible at night from the entrance to guide its occupants in their journey.
Draco is one of the original 48 constellations documented by Ptolemy in 150 AD, and could have been inspired by the Greek legend of Ladon, the dragon who was tasked by Hera to guard the golden apples of Hesperides and who was killed by Hercules when he stole the apples. The Hercules constellation appears to the south west of Draco in the sky. In Greco Roman mythology, Draco was a dragon killed by the goddess Minerva and tossed into the sky