Here's what Canis Minor looks like.

enter image description here

To me, all I see is two stars. Canis Minor is a constellation of the giant Orion's hunting dog. Two stars can give quite a meaning. Two stars can mean a stick, a telescope, et cetera. But how could that be interpreted as a dog?

Since this is a Greek constellation, are there any sources that explain why ancient Greeks considered those two stars to represent a dog?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ It could represent a sausage dog (Dachshund) ;) $\endgroup$
    – Beta Decay
    Aug 31 '17 at 14:51
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ To be honest, I can't see 80% of the constellations as what they are named. Naming a constellation a stick however, seems too mundane. $\endgroup$ Aug 31 '17 at 16:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There was a funny bit in a movie or cartoon or something (I can't recall which one), one guy was showing the other constellations and he pointed to a single star, just one dot and called it "the chariot race". $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Aug 31 '17 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ H.A. Rey drew constellations that somewhat resembled their names, but he had to use fainter stars to do it. Stellarium (and many other pieces of software) let you view his constellation lines. $\endgroup$
    – user21
    Sep 1 '17 at 3:08

Quoting from wikipedia:

Canis Minor was one of the original 48 constellations formulated by Ptolemy in his second-century Almagest, in which it was defined as a specific pattern (asterism) of stars; Ptolemy identified only two stars and hence no depiction was possible. The Ancient Greeks called the constellation προκυων/Procyon, "coming before the dog", transliterated into Latin as Antecanis, Praecanis, or variations thereof, by Cicero and others. Roman writers also appended the descriptors parvus, minor or minusculus ("small" or "lesser", for its faintness), septentrionalis ("northerly", for its position in relation to Canis Major), primus (rising "first") or sinister (rising to the "left") to its name Canis.

It looks like the original (Greek) identification of the constellation by Ptolemy didn't attribute anything to it, let alone a dog. But over time, the constellation became known based on its proximity to Canis Major. Originally known as Procyon meaning "coming before the dog", i.e., it rises before Canis Major. This relation to Canis Major seems to have led it to being considered as a representation of a dog as well. The Minor attribute appears to be due to the fact that it is fainter overall than Canis Major.

Really though, you can't pick apart constellation patterns too much. Much of them don't look that much like their attributions and only evolved over thousands of years of stories and imagination. It's not like one guy sat down one day and said, what does this pattern of stars remind me of, and that was that.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ $\alpha$ Canis Minoris is, of course, now known as Procyon $\endgroup$ Sep 3 '17 at 17:08

While there's no hope for Canis Minor (unless you're willing to look at fainter stars, at which point you might be able to pull it off), here's H. A. Rey's vision of some of the nearby constellations:

enter image description here

H. A. Rey sees Canis Minor as a dog's leash (maybe for one of those invisible pretend dogs?)

And, if you really want to give it a go, here are all the stars in Canis Minor that are magnitude 5.5 or brighter:

enter image description here


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