Centaurus is a spectacular constellation in the southern hemisphere. It is the ninth largest and was listed by the astronomer of the second century Ptolemy. The constellation of the half horse, half human creature is about twice as big as Gemini.
How to spot Centaurus
Centaurus circles around the sky’s south pole and is only visible in the southern hemisphere below the 25th degree of latitude. The famous Crux (Southern Cross) is located underneath the huge hind quarters of the horse. If you extend an imaginary line eastwards from the horizontal cross bar you’ll get to Alpha Centauri, one of the brightest stars in the sky, which shows its right front hoof. In the southern hemisphere you can see Centaurus all night long.
The constellation Centaurus represents the wise teacher and educator of many Greek heroes: Cheiron. In Greek mythology, centaurs were considered insidious and barbaric. An exception, however, was Cheiron, the son of the Titan Kronos and Philyra and thus half-brother of Zeus. Kronos impregnated Philyra in the form of a stallion, so that at the birth of their son, the mythical creature was born. The mother was so ashamed that she turned into a tree and Cheiron had to grow up without her. As a teacher and educator, however, he later received a lot of recognition. When Hercules killed many of the centaurs with his poisoned arrows after a quarrel, he unintentionally hit Cheiron. He survived the accident, but suffered so much pain because of the poison that he asked for salvation. He gave his immortality to Prometheus and was then placed in the starry sky to the memory of all.
Centaurus contains two of the top ten brightest and most well known stars in the sky, Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri. It has eight stars of the magnitude one and two. Two United States Navy ships, the USS Centaurus (AKA-17) and the USS Centaurus (AK-264) are named after the constellation.