Located north of the celestial Equator, the constellation Auriga is the site of the galactic anti-center. This means the constellation contains the point in the sky opposite to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Also in the Auriga constellation is the star Capella, which is the 6th brightest star in the sky.

It was first catalogued in the 2nd century by Greek astronomer Ptolemy and its name is Latin for “the charioteer”, which associates it with various mythological beings, including Erichthonius and Myrtilus. Auriga is most prominent during winter evenings in the northern Hemisphere, as are five other constellations that have stars in the Winter Hexagon asterism. Because of its northern declination, Auriga is only visible in its entirety as far as 34° south; for observers farther south it lies partially or fully below the horizon. Auriga is a large constellation, with an area of 657 square degrees, it is half the size of the largest, Hydra.

Applicable Information
Visibility In Pacific NorthwestJuly to April
Best Times To ViewMarch
Right Ascension 04h 37m 54.4293s– 07h 30m 56.1899s
Area657 square degrees
Main Stars5 or 8
Brightest ObjectCapella
Meteor showersAurigids and Delta Aurigids
Messier objects3
Neighboring ConstellationsCamelopardalis, Perseus, Taurus, Gemini, and Lynx

The Name

The first record of Auriga’s stars was in Mesopotamia as a constellation called GAM, representing a scimitar or crook. It is unsure whether this was just a representation of just Capella (Alpha Aurigae) or the entire constellation. The crook of Auriga stood for a goat-herd or shepherd. It was formed from most of the stars of the modern constellation; all of the bright stars were included except for Elnath.

Bedouin astronomers would create constellations that were groups of animals, where each star represented an animal. The stars of Auriga comprised a herd of goats, an association that is present in Greek mythology.

In Greek mythology, Auriga is often identified as the mythological Greek hero Erichthonius of Athens, the chthonic son of Hephaestus who was raised by the goddess Athena. Erichthonius was generally credited to be the inventor of the quadriga, the four-horse chariot. His chariot was created in the image of the Sun’s chariot, the reason Zeus placed him in the heavens.

Traditionally, illustrations of Auriga represent it as a chariot and its driver. The charioteer holds a goat over his left shoulder and has two kids under his left arm; he holds the reins to the chariot in his right hand. However, depictions of Auriga have been inconsistent over the years.

Occasionally, Auriga is seen not as the Charioteer but as Bellerophon, the mortal rider of Pegasus who dared to approach Mount Olympus. In this version of the tale, Jupiter pitied Bellerophon for his foolishness and placed him in the stars.

The stars of Auriga were incorporated into several Chinese constellations. Wuche, the five chariots of the celestial emperors and the representation of the grain harvest.

In ancient Hindu astronomy, Capella represented the heart of Brahma and was important religiously.

Ancient Peruvian peoples saw Capella, called Colca, as a star intimately connected to the affairs of shepherds.

In Brazil, the Bororo people incorporate the stars of Auriga into a massive constellation representing a caiman; with the southern stars representing the end of the animals tail.

There is evidence that Capella was significant to the Aztec people, and the indigenous peoples of California and Nevada also noticed the bright pattern of Auriga’s stars. The Pawnee of North America recognized a constellation with the same major stars as modern Auriga.

The people of the Marshall Islands featured Auriga in the myth of Dümur, which tells the story of the creation of the sky. 

The stars of Auriga do feature in Inuit constellations. 


The brightest star in the constellation is Alpha Aurigae, which is known ass Capella. It is the 6th-brightest star in the night sky with a magnitude of 0.08 and has a traditional name that references its mythological position as Amalthea.

The galactic anticenter is located in Auriga, about 3.5° to the east of Beta Aurigae. The galactic anticenter is the point that is the celestial sphere opposite the Galactic Center, which means that it is the edge of the galactic plane roughly nearest to the solar system.

Auriga has many open clusters and other objects as a result of its position to the winter Milky Way. The 3 messier objects in the constellation are all open clusters, which are M36, M37, and M38. All 3 of these messier objects are visible in binoculars or a small telescope in suburban skies. Larger telescopes would resolve individual stars for these 3 messier objects. Other interesting deep sky objects include open clusters NGC 2281 and IC 410.

M36, otherwise known as NGC 1960, is a young galactic open cluster with approximately 60 stars, most of these stars are relatively bright. For amateur astronomers, only about 40 of the 60 stars are visible in most instruments. The cluster is very similar to the Pleiades cluster, and if M36 were the same distance from Earth it would be of similar magnitude.

M37, otherwise known as NGC 2099, is an open cluster that is larger than M36, and has 150 stars. With 150 stars Messier 37 is the richest cluster in Auriga and is the brightest open cluster in Auriga with a magnitude of 5.6. In 10×50 binoculars, M37 appears as a hazy patch of light, but 20×80 and larger binoculars reveal a very compact star cluster, resolving the brightest stars. Telescopes can reversal more details.

M38 also known as the Starfish Cluster, is a diffuse open cluster that is the least concentrated of the three main open clusters in Auriga. It appears as a cross-shaped or pi-shaped object in a telescope and contains approximately 100 stars

Although difficult for amateur telescopes to view, NGC 1931 is a nebula located about 1 degree to west of M36. The object is said to be a miniature version of the Orion Nebula. It will appear elongated in an amateur telescope as a large telescope will easily show the nebula’s “peanut” shape, as well as the quartet of stars that are engulfed by the nebula.

Make sure to check out other articles on the site, including a brief introduction to constellations, other constellation articles, and more!

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