Canes Venatici

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Canes Venatici is one of the 88 official modern constellations. It is a small northern constellation that was created by Johannes Hevelius in the 17th century. Its name is Latin, and refers to the hunting dogs of Boötes the Herdsman, a neighboring constellation.

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History

Canes Venatici contains no bright stars, α and β CVn being only of 3rd and 4th magnitude respectively.

In Classical times, Ptolemy included it in part of the constellation Ursa Major as informes, "unformed", in his star catalogue. α CVn was "Ptolemy's 28th of Ursa Major", and β CVn was "Ptolemy's 29th of Ursa Major".

In the medieval times, its identification with the dogs of Boötes arose through a mistranslation. Some of Boötes' stars were traditionally described as representing the club (Greek, Κολλοροβος) of Boötes. When the Greek astronomer Ptolemy's Almagest was translated from Greek to Arabic, the translator Johannitius (following Alberuni) did not know the Greek word and rendered it as the nearest-looking Arabic word, writing العصى ذات الكلاب in ordinary unvowelled Arabic text "al-`aşā dhāt al-kullāb", which means "the spearshaft having a hook", probably thinking of a shepherd's crook. When the Arabic text was translated into Latin, the translator Gerard of Cremona (probably in Spain) mistook the Arabic word كلاب for kilāb (the plural of كلب kalb), meaning "dogs", writing hastile habens canes ("spearshaft having dogs").[1][2]

In 1533, the German astronomer Peter Apian depicted Boötes as having two dogs with him.[3][4] These spurious dogs floated about the astronomical literature until Hevelius decided to specify their presence in the sky.[5]

Hevelius chose the name Asterion (from the Greek 'αστέριον, meaning the "little star",[6] the diminutive of 'αστηρ the "star", or adjective meaning "starry"[7]) for the northern dog and Chara (from the Greek χαρά, meaning "joy") for the southern dog, as Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs, in his star atlas.[8]

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