Riding the wave

Auriga (the Charioteer)

The Auriga, also called the Charioteer, is a constellation of the northern sky introduced by Ptolemy.

It is close to the Great Bear and to the naked eye appears as an almost regular pentagon, with a clearly visible star at each vertex.

The most relevant (a Aurigae) is Capella (the "Kid"), a very bright star (magnitude 0.2), the fourth in the sky after Sirius, Canopus and Vega. Capella is associated with the mythological she-goat Amalthea. It forms an asterism with the adjacent stars, known as the Haedi (the Kids).

According to the most popular Greek myth, Auriga represents Hephaestus, the blacksmith god, who was lame and therefore invented the chariot so as to be carried wherever he wanted.

Graphically the constellation is represented as a chariot driven by a shepherd, who wears a pointed cap and carries a goat flung over his left shoulder, with two kids nearby.

The goat represents Amalthea, who breast-fed Zeus after his mother Rhea had him expelled from Olympus, to escape the fury of his father Chronus. Therefore Zeus placed it in the sky out of gratitude, giving it the brightest star in the constellation.

constellation Auriga