Epoch J2000 Equinox J2000
|Right ascension||07h 39m 18.11950s|
|Declination||+05° 13′ 29.9552″|
|Apparent magnitude (V)||0.34 (A) / 10.7 (B)|
|Spectral type||F5 IV–V/DQZ|
|U−B color index||−0.01|
|B−V color index||0.40/0.0|
|Radial velocity (Rv)||−3.2 km/s|
|Proper motion (μ)||RA: −714.590 mas/yr
Dec.: −1036.80 mas/yr
|Parallax (π)||284.56 ± 1.26 mas|
|Distance||11.46 ± 0.05 ly
(3.51 ± 0.02 pc)
|Absolute magnitude (MV)||2.66/13.0|
|Mass||1.42 ± 0.04 M☉|
|Radius||2.048 ± 0.025 R☉|
|Surface gravity (log g)||3.96 cgs|
|Temperature||6,530 ± 50 K|
|Metallicity [Fe/H]||-0.05 ± 0.03 dex|
|Rotational velocity (v sin i)||3.16 ± 0.50 km/s|
|Mass||0.602 ± 0.015 M☉|
|Radius||0.01234 ± 0.00032 R☉|
|Surface gravity (log g)||8.0 cgs|
|Temperature||7,740 ± 50 K|
|Period (P)||40.82 yr|
|Semi-major axis (a)||4.3"|
|Longitude of the node (Ω)||97.3°|
|Periastron epoch (T)||1967.97|
|Argument of periastron (ω)
Procyon (α CMi, α Canis Minoris, Alpha Canis Minoris; Br. pronunciation //) is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Minor. To the naked eye, it appears to be a single star, the eighth brightest in the night sky with a visual apparent magnitude of 0.34. It is classified as a binary star system, consisting of a white main-sequence star of spectral type F5 IV–V, named Procyon A, and a faint white dwarf companion of spectral type DQZ, named Procyon B. The reason for its brightness is not its intrinsic luminosity but its relative closeness to the Sun; as determined by the European Space Agency Hipparcos astrometry satellite, it lies at a distance of just 11.46 light-years (3.51 parsecs), and is therefore one of our nearest stellar neighbours. Its closest neighboring star is Luyten's Star, about 1.12 ly (0.34 pc) away, and the latter would appear as a visual magnitude 2.7 star in the night sky of a hypothetical planet orbiting Procyon.
Procyon is the eighth brightest star in the night sky, culminating at midnight on January 14. It forms one of the three vertices of the Winter Triangle asterism, in combination with Sirius and Betelgeuse. The prime period for evening viewing of Procyon is in late winter.
Procyon distance estimates
|Source||Parallax, mas||Distance, pc||Distance, ly||Distance, Pm||Ref.|
|Strand (1950)||287 ± 4||3.48 ± 0.05||11.36 ± 0.16||107.5 ± 1.5|||
|Woolley et al. (1970)||287 ± 4||3.48 ± 0.05||11.36 ± 0.16||107.5 ± 1.5|||
|Gliese & Jahreiß (1991)||285.8 ± 5.3||3.5+0.07
|108 ± 2|||
|van Altena et al. (1995)||286.7 ± 2.1||3.488+0.026
|11.38 ± 0.08||107.6 ± 0.8|||
|Perryman et al. (1997)
|285.93 ± 0.88||3.497 ± 0.011||11.41+0.04
|107.9 ± 0.3|||
|Perryman et al. (1997)
|Girard et al. (2000)||283.2 ± 1.5||3.531 ± 0.019||11.52 ± 0.06||109 ± 0.6|||
|Gatewood & Han (2006)||286 ± 0.95||3.497 ± 0.012||11.4 ± 0.04||107.9 ± 0.4|||
|van Leeuwen (2007)||284.56 ± 1.26||3.514+0.016
|11.46 ± 0.05||108.4 ± 0.5|||
|RECONS TOP100 (2012)||285.17 ± 0.64[nb 1]||3.507 ± 0.008||11.437 ± 0.026||108.2 ± 0.24|||
Non-trigonometric distance estimates are marked in italic.
Procyon is a binary star system with a bright primary component, Procyon A, having an apparent magnitude of 0.34, and a faint companion, Procyon B, at magnitude 10.7. The primary has a stellar classification of F5IV–V, indicating that it is a late-stage F-type main-sequence star. The effective surface temperature of the star is an estimated 6,530 K, giving it a white hue. It is 1.4 times the solar mass (M☉), twice the solar radius (R☉), and has 6.9 times the Sun's luminosity (L☉). Procyon A is bright for its spectral class, suggesting that it is a subgiant that has nearly fused its core hydrogen into helium, after which it will expand as "burning" moves outside the core. As it continues to expand, the star will eventually swell to about 80 to 150 times its current diameter and become a red or orange color. This will probably happen within 10 to 100 million years.
Like Sirius B, Procyon's companion is a white dwarf that was inferred from astrometric data long before it was observed. Its existence had been postulated by Friedrich Bessel as early as 1844, and, although its orbital elements had been calculated by Arthur Auwers in 1862 as part of his thesis, Procyon B was not visually confirmed until 1896 when John Martin Schaeberle observed it at the predicted position using the 36-inch refractor at Lick Observatory. It is more difficult to observe from Earth than Sirius B, due to a greater apparent magnitude difference and smaller angular separation from its primary. The average separation of the two components is 15.0 AUs, a little less than the distance between Uranus and the Sun, though the eccentric orbit carries them as close as 8.9 AUs and as far as 21.0 AU.
At 0.6 M☉, Procyon B is considerably less massive than Sirius B; however, the peculiarities of degenerate matter ensure that it is larger than its more famous neighbor, with an estimated radius of 8,600 km, versus 5,800 km for Sirius B. With a surface temperature of 7,740 K, it is also much cooler than Sirius B; this is a testament to its lesser mass and greater age. The mass of the progenitor star for Procyon B was about 2.5 M☉ and it came to the end of its life some 1.7 ± 0.1 Gyr ago, after a main-sequence lifetime of 400–600 Myr. For this reason, the age of Procyon A is expected to be at least 2 Gyr.
In late June 2004, Canada's orbital MOST satellite telescope carried out a 32-day survey of Procyon A. The continuous optical monitoring was intended to confirm solar-like oscillations in its brightness observed from Earth and to permit asteroseismology. No oscillations were detected and the authors concluded that the theory of stellar oscillations may need to be reconsidered. However, others argued that the non-detection was consistent with published ground-based radial velocity observations of solar-like oscillations.
Photometric measurements from the NASA Wide Field Infrared Explorer (WIRE) satellite from 1999 and 2000 showed evidence of granulation (convection near the surface of the star) and solar-like oscillations. Unlike the MOST result, the variation seen in the WIRE photometry was in agreement with radial velocity measurements from the ground.
Possibility of life
Life is unlikely around Procyon, because the habitable zone around 2.7 AU from the primary may not contain stable orbits, due to the white dwarf companion with a periastron of 8.9 AU. Also the white dwarf companion to Procyon would have stressed life severely during its red-giant phase. Procyon emits more of its light in the ultraviolet spectrum, which may be damaging to life. Still, life cannot be ruled out for other stars of the spectral type of Procyon but such life would have a relatively short time to evolve and would face heavy bombardment from comets and meteorites as happened in the first few million years of the Earth’s existence. Shortly after the phase of heavy bombardment has ended for a planet orbiting a star like Procyon the star is likely to leave the main sequence preventing further development of life.
Attempts to detect X-ray emission from Procyon with nonimaging, soft X-ray sensitive detectors prior to 1975 failed. Extensive observations of Procyon were carried out with the Copernicus and TD-1A satellites in the late 1970s. The X-ray source associated with Procyon A/B was observed on April 1, 1979, with the Einstein Observatory high-resolution imager (HRI). The HRI X-ray pointlike source location is ~4" south of Procyon A, on the edge of the 90% confidence error circle, indicating identification with Procyon A rather than Procyon B which was located about 5" north of Procyon A (about 9" from the X-ray source location).
Etymology and cultural significance
Its name comes from the Greek προκύον (prokyon), meaning "before the dog", since it precedes the "Dog Star" Sirius as it travels across the sky due to Earth's rotation. (Although Procyon has a greater right ascension, it also has a more northerly declination, which means it will rise above the horizon earlier than Sirius from most northerly latitudes.) In Greek mythology, Procyon is associated with Maera, a hound belonging to Erigone, daughter of Icarius of Athens.
These two dog stars are referred to in the most ancient literature and were venerated by the Babylonians and the Egyptians: in Babylonian mythology Procyon was known as Nangar the Carpenter, an aspect of Marduk, involved in constructing and organising the celestial sky.
The constellations in Macedonian folklore represented agricultural items and animals, reflecting their village way of life. To them, Procyon and Sirius were Volci "the wolves", circling hungrily around Orion which depicted a plough with oxen.
Rarer names are the Latin translation of Procyon, Antecanis, and the Arabic-derived names Al Shira and Elgomaisa. Medieval astrolabes of England and Western Europe used a variant of this, Algomeiza/Algomeyza. Al Shira derives from الشعرى الشامية aš-ši‘ra aš-šamiyah, "the Syrian sign" (the other sign being Sirius; "Syria" is supposedly a reference to its northern location relative to Sirius); Elgomaisa. derives from الغميصاء al-ghumaisa’ "the bleary-eyed (woman)", in contrast to العبور "the teary-eyed (woman)", which is Sirius. (See Gomeisa.) The modern Arabic name for Procyon is غموص ghumūṣ. It is known as 南河三 (Mandarin nánhésān, the Third Star in the Southern River) in Chinese.
The Hawaiians saw Procyon as part of an asterism Ke ka o Makali'i ("The canoe bailer of Makali'i") that helped them navigate at sea. Called Puana "blossom", it formed this asterism with Capella, Sirius, Castor and Pollux. In Tahitian lore, Procyon was one of the pillars propping up the sky, known as Anâ-tahu'a-vahine-o-toa-te-manava ("star-the-priestess-of-brave-heart"), the pillar for elocution. The Maori knew the star as Puangahori.
The Kalapalo people of Mato Grosso state in Brazil called Procyon and Canopus Kofongo "Duck", with Castor and Pollux representing his hands. The asterism's appearance signified the coming of the rainy season and increase in food staple manioc, used at feasts to feed guests.
Known as Sikuliarsiujuittuq to the Inuit, Procyon was quite significant in their astronomy and mythology. Its eponymous name means "the one who never goes onto the newly formed sea-ice", and refers to a man who stole food from his village's hunters because he was too obese to hunt on ice. He was killed by the other hunters who convinced him to go on the sea ice. Procyon received this designation because it typically appears red (though sometimes slightly greenish) as it rises during the Arctic winter; this red color was associated with Sikuliarsiujuittuq's bloody end.
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