ara constelation

Ara Constellation

20 May 2019

In a Greek myth, Ara signifies and represents the altar of King Lycaon of Arcadia. Listed by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy, Ara was one of the 88 constellations in the 2nd century.

The constellation Ara, the altar, is located in the southern hemisphere of the sky. The origin of this constellation dates back to the time of the Babylonians, with Ara at the time symbolizing the altar honoring the Tower of Babel. The name in Latin means “the altar”. Used by Zeus and other Greek gods to validate as a sign of loyalty before they set for war against Cronus and the Titans.


Ara can be seen by observers located between +25° and -90° of latitude. Though best seen in July it is the 63rd largest constellation, and takes up 237 square degrees, or 0.6% of the southern celestial sphere. Between the constellations of Lupus and Cygnus, Ara can be found lying south of Scorpio’s “tail” with other neighboring constellations including Norma, Telescopium, Apus, Corona, Pavo, Australis, and Triangulum Australe.

Name & Meaning

The legends believed that the Cyclopes originally built the altar as a place to sacrifice to the Olympian gods. And, Centaurus the centaur sacrificed Lupus the wolf was also upon this altar.

Normally, the altar was depicted as upside down, but fewer times it was exposed erect with the smoke wandering away as the Milky Way. Some legends also holds the concept that once a child was sacrificed, as a result of which Zeus turned the child into an immortalized wolf in the stars forming the constellation of Lupus.

Notable Features

Ara has rich star fields because it contains part of the Milky way to the south of Scorpius. The major stars of Ara include the closest of Ara’s stars, Alpha Arae, a blue-white hued with a magnitude of 2.8 at a distance of approximately 242 light-years from Earth. The other is Beta Arae, the brightest star, is an orange-hued supergiant of magnitude 2.8, located 600 light-years from Earth.

Then comes, a blue-hued supergiant, Gamma Arae of magnitude 3.3, positioned 1140 light-years from Earth, while Delta Arae has a blue-white hue, a magnitude of 3.6, and is situated 187 light-years from Earth. A giant magnitude 3.1 contained by Zeta Arae is an orange- hued star, and is set 574 light-years from Earth.

Ara is also home to several Deep Sky Objects.

Deep-Sky Objects

Ara contains a few notable deep-sky objects. The Stingray Nebula is a planetary nebula estimated to be 18,000 light years from Earth. It is illuminated by a white dwarf star at its center. A globular star cluster that contains about 400,000 stars is NGC 6397. NGC 6193 is an open star bunch surrounded in a region of dust and gas. NGC 6362 is also a globular star cluster situated about 24,000 light years away. All these objects are tremendously dim and blurry and can only be seen with large telescopes.