Boötes, pronounced boh-OH-teez, the Herdsman

Chart showing the constellation.

This constellation dates from ancient times, represents either a ploughman or a herdsman driving a Bear (Ursa Major) around the sky. The herdsman is often depicted holding the leash of the hunting dogs (Canes Venatici). The constellation's brightest star Arcturus means bearkeeper in Greek. Arcturus is the brightest appearing star in the northern hemisphere sky.

All the constellation cannot be seen from New Zealand. The chart shows the northern horizon for Auckland. More southerly places will see a little less of the constellation. From Invercargill β Boo rises only 4° above the horizon when due north and at its highest.

An abundant meteor shower called the Quadrantids appear to come from a northern point in Boötes. This area of the sky was once the constellation of Quadrans Muralis, the Mural Quadrant and the meteor shower is named after this defunct constellation. The Quadrantis meteors reach a peak of about 100 meteors per hour on January 3rd to 4th each year, although they are not spectacularly bright.

To find Boötes look north in the late evening sky, and find the bright orange-red star Arcturus.

Chart showing Boötes as seen to the north at about 9.00 pm (NZST) mid June.

Bootes and surrounding constellations

Serpens constellation Ophiuchus constellation Hercules constellation Virgo constellation Corona Borealis Canes Venatici Leo constellation Coma Berenices

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation

α Boötis (Arcturus), pronounced ark-TOO-russ, is the fourth brightest appearing star in the entire sky. Its magnitude is 0.05. It is a red giant, twenty seven times the diameter of the Sun, and lies 36.7 light years away. It appears orange-red to the unaided eye, so is easily recognised. Arcturus has a mass similar to that of the Sun, and it is believed that the Sun will swell up to become like Arcturus in around 5000 million years.

β Boo (Nekkar, corrupted from Arabic, meaning herdsman) is a magnitude 3.5 yellow giant star 219 light years away. It can not be seen from the south of the country.

γ Boo (Haris or Seginus), is a magnitude 3.0 yellow giant star 85 light years away.

δ Boo is a magnitude 3.5 white star 117 light years away

ε Boo (Izar, meaning girdle) is a celebrated double star, first measured by F. G. W. Struve in 1830. It is a yellow giant primary, with a white or bluish companion (by contrast) and when split by 100 power or more has an appearance that led to alternative name 'Pulcherrima' meaning most beautiful.

NGC 5466 is an uncondensed scattered globular cluster of faint stars needing a moderate telescope to be seen. It lies around 50,000 light years away


Arcturus, α Boo, is to the north and highest in the sky at about 11.30 pm mid May, 9.30 pm mid June and 7.30 pm mid July. From Auckland its height above the horizon is 34°, while β Boo reaches about 13°.

The stars are nearly 10° lower as seen from the south of New Zealand at Invercargill, so that β skims the horizon with a maximum elevation of less than 3°.