You Have To Be Lynx-Eyed
to see the faint stars
of the constellation Lynx. So wrote the prosperous brewer Johannes
Hevel (Hewelke) in the busy port town of Danzig, in the mid-1600s.
He became an amateur astronomer as a hobby, and built for himself
an observatory at his home. Only about 40 years after the invention
of the telescope, he chose as a first project to develop an atlas
of the Moon. This work contained the best maps up to that time,
and many of the 250 names shown on his charts are still in use
today. This Selenographia was finished in 1647. However,
unsatisfied with the quality of his telescopic observations owing
to chromatic aberration, Hevelius (this was the Latinized version
of his name) began to make telescopes of increasingly longer focal
lengths. At last he built a telescope with a focal length of 150
feet. This instrument was suspended from a 90-foot mast. Of course,
this proved to be an impractical arrangement, for even the slightest
breeze made it unusable. The mounting burned in the great Danzig
fire of 1679, and Hevelius never again returned to productive
Hevelius died in 1687;
but his star chart published in 1690 put forth seven new constellations,
including Lynx. The others, all in the north, included Canes Venatici
(the Hunting Dogs), Lacerta (the Lizard), Leo Minor (the Lion
Cub), Sextans (the Sextant of Urania, first called Sextans Uraniae),
Scutum (the Shield, first called Scutum Sobieskii, the Shield
of John Sobieski, a Polish hero-king), and Vulpecula (the Fox,
first known as Vulpecula et Anser, the Fox and Goose).
Lynx is a winter constellation
that lies directly to the north of Gemini's bright star Castor.
But there are no bright stars in the constellation itself, as
Hevelius pointed out. There is no asterism here, and the only
pattern is of a wobbly line beginning from a point between Dubhe
in Ursa Major and Capella in Auriga, then dropping south and east
toward Leo Minor.
Our drawing associates
the Lynx with the polar regions, fitting with its northern location,
and with its best observation during the winter months. None of
the stars have names, although Lynx's two brightest, Alpha and
38 Lyncis, form a pair distinguished by their location at the
corners of an equilateral triangle with two other similar pairs
in Ursa Major.
Of a number of good multiple
stars in the constellation, one of the best is the triple 38 Lyncis.
A 3.9-magnitude star is accompanied by a 6.6-magnitude star 3
arc seconds distant and a third star 88 arc seconds away at magnitude
Another challenge for
small telescopes is the triple system 12 Lyncis. These stars are
about 200 light years away. Companion B is 1.7" from the
primary, and companion C is separated by 8.7". A medium sized
telescope should enable you to resolve all three of these 5th,
6th and 7th magnitude stars.
From 12 Lyncis, star-hop
to Struve 958 by moving four degrees south, past 13 Lyncis, and
slightly east, about three arc minutes. Here you will find a binary,
two 6th magnitude stars 4.9" apart, with a third (11th magnitude)
Kui 37 is one binary better
known by another name: 10 Ursae Majoris. With a proper motion
toward the west, this star has moved from Ursa Major to Lynx but
kept its old name. It is a close visual binary with the companion
revolving its primary every 21.9 years.
Deep sky objects in Lynx
include the most distant of all globular clusters, 210,000 light
years away from the center of the Milky Way. This is actually
farther than the Large Magellanic Cloud, and this cluster, NGC
2419, has been called the Intergalactic Wanderer. None of the
individual stars are brighter than 17th magnitude, yet the total
cluster achieves a magnitude of 11.5. A large cluster, with a
diameter of about 400 light years, it shows as an object 4 minutes
across. The total luminosity of the cluster equals 175,000 suns.
There are a number of
faint galaxies in this part of the sky. The best of these is NGC
2683, a spiral galaxy which we see nearly edge-on, and so its
spiral structure is difficult to discern. In true-color photographs,
it shows a red color where dust on the nearer side of the galaxy
obscures and reddens the light coming from the more distant side.
The galaxy occupies an area about 9.3 × 1.3 arc minutes
in size and shines at a magnitude of just under 10.