LEPUS (pronounced LEP-uss) and COLUMBA (pronounced koh-LUM-bah)

Chart showing Lepus and Columba

Lepus, the Hare, is one of the ancient constellations, to which Ptolemy assigned twelve stars. It can be recognised by four prominent stars in a trapezium shape, located at the foot of Orion. Since we are in the Southern hemisphere, Orion appears upside-down; the foot of Orion is above Orion, and so is Lepus.

Columba, the Dove, appeared first as a constellation in Bayer's atlas of 1603,and has been accepted since 1679 when it was included on a list by the Frenchman Augustine Royer. It may represent the dove in Noah's Ark, or the dove that the Argonauts sent ahead to help them pass safely between the Symplegades, the Clashing rocks at the mouth of the Black Sea.

To find these constellations in the evening, look north to find Orion's "belt" stars, that outline the bottom of the "pot", and look above and to the west.

Chart showing Chart showing Lepus and Columba at about 11pm NZDT on February 1.

Chart for Lepus and Columba

Constellation Caelum Constellation Horologium Constellation Eridanus Constellation Puppis Constellation Canis Major Constellation Orion Constellation Monceros

Details of some of the objects shown in the chart.

α Leporus (Arneb, the hare) is a magnitude 2.6 yellow-white supergiant star 950 light years away.

β Lep (Nihal) is a magnitude 2.8 yellow giant star 320 light years away. It has a faint companion star.

γ Lep is an attractive duo able to be seen in binoculars, consisting of a yellow magnitude 3.8 star and an orange companion of magnitude 6.4, 27 light years away.

δ Lep is magnitude 3.8 yellow giant star 160 light years away.

R Lep is a variable star changing every 440 days or so between 6th and 10th magnitude. When near maximum, this star shines like a crimson jewel in a field well sprinkled with stars. It is known as Hind's Crimson Star after the English observer John Russell Hind who described it as 'like a drop of blood on a black field'. Small aperture telescopes show the colour well when it is bright.

M 79 (NGC 1904) is a small but rich globular cluster first discovered by Méchain in 1780. It is visible as a fuzzy 8th magnitude star in small telescopes. Larger telescopes will show the outlying stars faintly, and gleaming points of light right to the centre. Nearby in the same low-power fine field is the binary star Herschel 3752, consisting of a beautiful deep yellow pair.

α Columbae (Phact) is a magnitude 2.6 blue-white star 120 light years away.

β Col is a magnitude 3.1 yellow giant star 86 light years away.

NGC 1792 is bright elongated spiral galaxy in a fine interesting field, with fairly bright stars near the edges.

NGC 1808 is a long bright oval galaxy in a fine interesting field of scattered stars. Visually through a telescope it appears to have a small bright lengthened core, but in photographs it is a large barred spiral with peculiar dust lanes and an unusual starburst nucleus.

NGC 1851 is a beautiful globular cluster rising sharply to a bright centre. It is round but somewhat asymmetrical in larger telescopes.


The two constellations are "above", that is to the south of, Orion and so are visible for much of the Summer months in New Zealand. Columba is very high in the sky early in the evening in January and February, with some part passing directly overhead for much of New Zealand.