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Here Are 15 of the Brightest Stars in the Night Sky

Behold!

Since time immemorial people on Earth have wondered at the night sky and observed countless celestial bodies move through space.

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Many ancient civilizations looked at the stars and built massive monuments honoring their mythical deities that supposedly came down from heaven.

Orion, Sirius, the Pleiades are just some of the many stars observed by the ancients.

But what are the brightest stars in the night sky, other than our sun, which is obviously the brightest star in the sky?

Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

(1) Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris) is the brightest star in the entire night sky. Located to the South of the celestial Ecuador, at around -16.7º, it is visible practically from all over the planet. Radiating a white color, with a magnitude of -1.5 and at a distance of about 8 light-years, is the main star of the Canis Major constellation, which is why it is also known as the Dog Star. It was one of the most important stars int he night sky for civilizations like the Egyptians, as it marked the beginning of the floods of the Nile.

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An image of Canopus by Expedition 6. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
An image of Canopus by Expedition 6. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

(2) Canopus also referred to as α Carinae is the brightest star in the southern constellation of Carina. It is the second-brightest star in the night sky, after Sirius. Canopus has a visual magnitude of -0.72. Canopus is essentially white when seen with the naked eye. Canopus was not visible to the mainland ancient Greeks and Romans; it was, however, visible to the ancient Egyptians. It is not visible from anywhere in Europe.

The two bright stars are (left) Alpha Centauri and (right) Beta Centauri. The faint red star in the center of the red circle is Proxima Centauri. Taken with Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens with 11 frames stacked, each frame exposed 30 seconds. Image Credit: Skatebiker / Wikimedia Commons.
The two bright stars are (left) Alpha Centauri and (right) Beta Centauri. The faint red star in the center of the red circle is Proxima Centauri. Taken with Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens with 11 frames stacked, each frame exposed 30 seconds. Image Credit: Skatebiker / Wikimedia Commons.

(3) Rigil Kentaurus, more commonly known as Alpha Centauri is the third brightest star in the night sky. Alpha Centauri is also the closest star system to Earth, at 4.37 light-years (1.34 pc) distance from the Sun. Alpha Centauri is a triple star system: α Centauri A, α Centauri B, and α Centauri C, respectively Rigil KentaurusTolimanProxima Centauri, where astronomers say an Earth-like planet capable of hosting life as we know it may exist.

Optical image of Arcturus (DSS2 / MAST / STScI / NASA).
Optical image of Arcturus (DSS2 / MAST / STScI / NASA).

(4) With an apparent visual magnitude of −0.05, Arcturus, aka Alpha Bootis, is the fourth brightest star in the night sky. It is the brightest in the northern celestial hemisphere. Located at a distance of 36.7 light-years from the Sun, Arcturus is a red giant.

Vega through Celestron CGEM DX 1100 @ F6.3, Canon T3i, Televue 4X Powermate, ISO 800, 60 sec exposure. Image Credit: Drew Farwell / Wikimedia Commons.
Vega through Celestron CGEM DX 1100 @ F6.3, Canon T3i, Televue 4X Powermate, ISO 800, 60-sec exposure. Image Credit: Drew Farwell / Wikimedia Commons.

(5) Vega, also called Alpha Lyrae is the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra, and fifth-brightest star in the night sky. At a distance of 25 light-years from the Sun, together with Arcturus and Sirius, Vega is one of the most luminous stars in the Sun’s neighborhood.

Capella components compared with the Sun. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Capella components compared with the Sun. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

(6) Capella, aka alpha Aurigae, is the most prominent star in the constellation Auriga. With an apparent visual magnitude of +0.08, Capella is the sixth brightest of all the sky. It is the first magnitude star closest to the North Celestial Pole, so it is impossible to observe it from latitudes below 40º S. It is located about 42 light-years from Earth, and is a multiple star system, composed of two binaries.

Rigel and reflection nebula IC 2118 in Eridanus. Rigel B is not visible in the glare of the main star. Image Credit: Robert Gendler - http://www.treasuresofthesouthernsky.org / Wikimedia Commons.
Rigel and reflection nebula IC 2118 in Eridanus. Rigel B is not visible in the glare of the main star. Image Credit: Robert Gendler – http://www.treasuresofthesouthernsky.org / Wikimedia Commons.

(7) Rigel, aka Beta Orionis, is the seventh brightest star in the night sky, and the brightest in the constellation of Orion. Rigel has an average apparent magnitude of 0.13 and is a luminous object located around 863 light-years away from Earth.

Procyon (top left), Betelgeuse (top right), and Sirius (bottom) form the Winter Triangle. Orion is to the right. Image Credit: Hubble European Space Agency / Akira Fujii.
Procyon (top left), Betelgeuse (top right), and Sirius (bottom) form the Winter Triangle. Orion is to the right. Image Credit: Hubble European Space Agency / Akira Fujii.

(8) Procyon, better known as Alpha Canis Majoris is the brightest cosmic object located in the constellation of Canis Minor. It is the eighth-brightest star in the night sky and has a visual apparent magnitude of 0.34. Located at a distance of just 11.46 light-years, Procyon is, therefore, one of Earth’s nearest stellar neighbors.

Extreme rotation speed has flattened Achernar. Image Credit: Fred the Oyster / Wikimedia Commons.
Extreme rotation speed has flattened Achernar. Image Credit: Fred the Oyster / Wikimedia Commons.

(9) Achernar also designated Alpha Eridani is the ninth brightest star in the night sky. It is located in the constellation of Eridanus. Located at a distance of 139 light-years from Earth, Achernar is in the deep southern sky and never rises above the horizon beyond 33°N.

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Image showing Betelgeuse and the dense nebulae of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. Image Credit: Rogelio Bernal Andreo / Wikimedia Commons.
Image showing Betelgeuse and the dense nebulae of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. Image Credit: Rogelio Bernal Andreo / Wikimedia Commons.

(10) Betelgeuse also dubbed Alpha Orionis is the tenth brightest star in the night sky, located in the constellation of Orion. It is the second brightest star in the constellation of Orion. The Star is massive. According to astronomers, Betelgeuse is a red supergiant of spectral type M1-2. It happens to be one of the largest stars visible to the naked eye. If Betelgeuse were at the center of the Solar System instead of our sun, its surface would most likely extend past the asteroid belt and the inner planets, completely devouring the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and even possibly Jupiter.

The two bright stars are (left) Alpha Centauri and (right) Beta Centauri. The faint red star in the center of the red circle is Proxima Centauri. Taken with Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens with 11 frames stacked, each frame exposed 30 seconds. Image Credit: Skatebiker / Wikimedia Commons.
The two bright stars are (left) Alpha Centauri and (right) Beta Centauri. The faint red star in the center of the red circle is Proxima Centauri. Taken with Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens with 11 frames stacked, each frame exposed 30 seconds. Image Credit: Skatebiker / Wikimedia Commons.

(11) Hadar, more commonly known as Beta Centauri is s a triple star system located in the southern constellation of Centaurus. Hadars combined apparent visual magnitude of 0.61 makes it the second-brightest cosmic object in Centaurus and the eleventh brightest star in the night sky. Beta Centauri is located around 390 light years away from Earth.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Steve Golden.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Steve Golden.

(12) Altair, also designated Alpha Aquilae is the twelfth brightest star in the night sky. Located around 16.7 light years from Earth it is one of the closest stars visible to the naked eye.

(13) Alpha Crucis is a multiple star system located in the constellation of Cruxis, some 321 light years away from Earth. The Multiple star system is part of the asterism known as the Southern Cross. Alpha Crucis has a combined visual magnitude of 0.76, and it is the brightest object in Crux and the thirteenth brightest star in the night sky.

Occultation of Aldebaran by the Moon. Aldebaran is the red dot to the right, barely visible in the thumbnail. Image Credit: Christina Irakleous / Wikimedia Commons.
Occultation of Aldebaran by the Moon. Aldebaran is the red dot to the right, barely visible in the thumbnail. Image Credit: Christina Irakleous / Wikimedia Commons.

(14) Aldebaran, also known as Alpha Tauri is a red giant located in the constellation of Taurus. Aldebaran is located around 65 light years away from Earth and is the fourteenth brightest star in the night sky. Curiously, Pioneer 10 is currently traveling towards Aldebaran and should make its closest approach in more or less two million years.

Antares between σ and τ Scorpii. Antares appears white in this WISE false color infrared image. Image Credit: Judy Schmidt / Wikimedia Commons.
Antares between σ and τ Scorpii. Antares appears white in this WISE false-color infrared image. Image Credit: Judy Schmidt / Wikimedia Commons.

(15) Antares, aka Alpha Scorpii, is the fifteenth-brightest star in the night sky observed from Earth. Antares is the brightest object in the constellation of Scorpius.