Columba (constellation)

Columba (constellation)

Abbreviation Col
Genitive Columbae
Pronunciation ,
Symbolism the dove
Right ascension 05h 03m 53.8665s–06h 39m 36.9263s[1]
Declination −27.0772038°–−43.1116486°[1]
Family Heavenly Waters
Area 270 sq. deg. (54th)
Main stars 5
Stars with planets 1
Stars brighter than 3.00m 1
Stars within 10.00 pc (32.62 ly) 0
Brightest star α Col (Phact) (2.65m)
Nearest star Gliese 218
(48.89 ly, 14.99 pc)
Messier objects 0
Meteor showers None
Canis Major
Visible at latitudes between +45° and −90°.
Best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of February.

Columba is a small, faint constellation created in the late sixteenth century. Its name is Latin for dove. It is located just south of Canis Major and Lepus.


  • History 1
  • Notable features 2
    • Stars 2.1
    • Deep-sky objects 2.2
  • See also 3
  • Citations 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The constellation Columba as it can be seen by the naked eye.

Columba was created by Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius in 1592 in order to differentiate the 'unformed stars' of the large constellation Canis Major.[2] Plancius first depicted Columba on the small celestial planispheres of his large wall map of 1592. It is also shown on his smaller world map of 1594 and on early Dutch celestial globes.

Seen as "Columba Noachi" in Urania's Mirror (1825)

Plancius originally named the constellation Columba Noachi ("Noah's Dove"), referring to the dove that gave Noah the information that the Great Flood was receding. This name is found on early 17th-century celestial globes and star atlases (such as Bayer's Uranometria of 1603[3]). Columba may also represent the dove released by Jason and the Argonauts at the Black Sea's mouth; it helped them navigate the dangerous Symplegades.[2]

Although the Plancius is credited with the creation of Columba, the existence of a "dove" constellation was attested to by Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), although it is not known whether the same group of stars was contemplated.[4] In addition, given the mythological linkage of Columba with Jason and the Argonauts, the celestial location of Columba over Puppis, part of the larger constellation once known as Argo Navis (the ship of the Argonauts), supports an ancient derivation of this constellation, despite its notable omission by Ptolemy.[5][6]

In the Society Islands, Alpha Columbae (Phact) was called Ana-iva.[7]

Notable features


Columba is rather inconspicuous, the brightest star, Alpha Columbae, being only of magnitude 2.7. Alpha Columbae, a blue-white star, is traditionally called Phact, which means "ring dove". Alpha Columbae is 268 light-years from Earth. The only other named star in Columba is Beta Columbae, which has the name Wazn. It is an orange-hued giant star of magnitude 3.1, 86 light-years from Earth.[2]

Columba is the constellation that is at the solar antapex - the Earth (and Sun) is moving away from its direction as the solar system moves through space.

The constellation contains the runaway star μ Columbae, which was probably expelled from the ι Orionis system.

Deep-sky objects

There is one globular cluster in Columba, 7th-magnitude NGC 1851. It is 35,000 light-years from Earth and is resolvable in medium-sized amateur telescopes.[2]

See also

Columba (Chinese astronomy)


  1. ^ a b "Columba, constellation boundary". The Constellations (International Astronomical Union). Retrieved 27 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d Ridpath & Tirion 2001, pp. 120-121.
  3. ^ Canis Maior and Columba in Bayers Uranometria 1603 (Linda Hall Library)
  4. ^ Richard H. Allen (1899) Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, pp. 166-168 .
  5. ^ P.K. Chen (2007) A Constellation Album: Stars and Mythology of the Night Sky, p. 126 (ISBN 978-1-931559-38-6).
  6. ^ Chen, p. 126.
  7. ^ Makemson 1941, p. 281.


  • Makemson, Maud Worcester (1941). The Morning Star Rises: an account of Polynesian astronomy. Yale University Press. p. 281. 
  • Ridpath, Ian; Tirion, Wil (2001), Stars and Planets Guide,  
  • Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion (2007). Stars and Planets Guide, Collins, London. ISBN 978-0-00-725120-9. Princeton University Press, Princeton. ISBN 978-0-691-13556-4.

External links

  • Star Tales – Columba
  • Columba Constellation at Constellation Guide