Universe Guide

Capella (Alpha Aurigae, 13 Aurigae) Star Facts

Capella Facts

  • Capella is a variable star that can be located in the constellation of Auriga. The description is based on the spectral class.
  • Capella is a main star of the constellation outline.
  • Based on the spectral type (M1: comp) of the star, the star's colour is red .
  • Capella is the 6th brightest star in the night sky and is the brightest star in Auriga based on the Hipparcos 2007 apparent magnitude. The star can be seen with the naked eye, that is, you don't need a telescope/binoculars to see it.
  • Using the most recent figures given by the 2007 Hipparcos data, the star is 42.80 light years away from us. Distance

Capella's Alternative Names

Alpha Aurigae (Alf Aur) is the Bayer Classification for the star. The Bayer Classification was created by Johann Bayer in 1603. The brightest star in the constellation is normally given the Alpha designation, there are exceptions such as Pollux which is Beta Geminorum.

The Id of the star in the Yale Bright Star Catalogue is HR1708. HIP24608 is the reference name for the star in the Hipparcos Star Catalogue. The Id of the star in the Henry Draper catalogue is HD34029. The Gliese ID of the star is GL 194A. The star was part of the original catalogue devised by German Astronomer Wilheim Gliese of stars located within 20 parsecs of Earth. Star Names

Capella has alternative name(s) :- , NSV 01897.

Flamsteed designations are named after the creator, Sir John Flamsteed. Sir John named the stars in the constellation with a number and its latin name, this star's Flamsteed designation is 13 Aurigae. The Flamsteed name can be shortened to 13 Aur.

BD number is the number that the star was filed under in the Durchmusterung or Bonner Durchmusterung, a star catalogue that was put together by the Bonn Observatory between 1859 to 1903. The star's BD Number is BD+45 1077.

More details on objects' alternative names can be found at Star Names .

Location of Capella

The location of the variable star in the night sky is determined by the Right Ascension (R.A.) and Declination (Dec.), these are equivalent to the Longitude and Latitude on the Earth. The Right Ascension is how far expressed in time (hh:mm:ss) the star is along the celestial equator. If the R.A. is positive then its eastwards. The Declination is how far north or south the object is compared to the celestial equator and is expressed in degrees. For Capella, the location is 05h 16m 41.30 and +45° 59` 56.5 .

Radial Velocity and Proper Motion of Capella

Proper Motion

All stars like planets orbit round a central spot, in the case of planets, its the central star such as the Sun. In the case of a star, its the galactic centre. The constellations that we see today will be different than they were 50,000 years ago or 50,000 years from now. Proper Motion details the movements of these stars and are measured in milliarcseconds. The star is moving -426.89 ± 0.31 milliarcseconds/year towards the north and 75.25 ± 0.46 milliarcseconds/year east if we saw them in the horizon.

Radial Velocity

The Radial Velocity, that is the speed at which the star is moving away/towards the Sun is 29.19000 km/s with an error of about 0.07 km/s . When the value is negative then the star and the Sun are getting closer to one another, likewise, a positive number means that two stars are moving away. Its nothing to fear as the stars are so far apart, they won't collide in our life-time, if ever.

Physical Properties of Capella

Capella Colour and Temperature

Based on the star's spectral type of M1: comp , Capella's colour and type is red variable star. The star's effective temperature is 5,356 Kelvin which is cooler than our own Sun's effective Temperature which is 5,777 Kelvin

Capella Luminosity

Luminosity is the amount of energy that a star pumps out and its relative to the amount that our star, the Sun gives out. The figure of 163.25 that I have given is based on the value in the Simbad Hipparcos Extended Catalogue at the University of Strasbourg from 2012.

Capella Radius

Capella estimated radius has been calculated as being 13.09 times bigger than the Sun. The Sun's radius is 695,800km, therefore the star's radius is an estimated 9,110,795.73.km. If you need the diameter of the star, you just need to multiple the radius by 2. However with the 2007 release of updated Hipparcos files, the radius is now calculated at being round 13.276150888524866196406083366. The figure is derived at by using the formula from SDSS rather than peer reviewed papers. It has been known to produce widely incorrect figures.

Capella Iron Abundance

Capella Iron Abundance is -0.27 with an error value of 9.99 Fe/H with the Sun has a value of 1 to put it into context. The value comes from the Hipparcos Extended Catalog.

Capella Apparent and Absolute Magnitudes

Capella has an apparent magnitude of 0.08 which is how bright we see the star from Earth. Apparent Magnitude is also known as Visual Magnitude. If you used the 1997 Parallax value, you would get an absolute magnitude of -0.48 If you used the 2007 Parallax value, you would get an absolute magnitude of -0.51. Magnitude, whether it be apparent/visual or absolute magnitude is measured by a number, the smaller the number, the brighter the Star is. Our own Sun is the brightest star and therefore has the lowest of all magnitudes, -26.74. A faint star will have a high number.

Distance to Capella

Using the original Hipparcos data that was released in 1997, the parallax to the star was given as 77.29000 which gave the calculated distance to Capella as 42.20 light years away from Earth or 12.94 parsecs. If you want that in miles, it is about 248,077,990,748,348.34, based on 1 Ly = 5,878,625,373,183.61 miles.

In 2007, Hipparcos data was revised with a new parallax of 76.20000 which put Capella at a distance of 42.80 light years or 13.12 parsecs. It should not be taken as though the star is moving closer or further away from us. It is purely that the distance was recalculated.

Using the 2007 distance, the star is roughly 2,706,175.40 Astronomical Units from the Earth/Sun give or take a few. An Astronomical Unit is the distance between Earth and the Sun. The number of A.U. is the number of times that the star is from the Earth compared to the Sun. The star's Galacto-Centric Distance is 7,412.00 Parsecs or 24,175.23 Light Years. The Galacto-Centric Distance is the distance from the star to the Centre of the Galaxy which is Sagittarius A*.

Travel Time to Capella

The time it will take to travel to this star is dependent on how fast you are going. U.G. has done some calculations as to how long it will take going at differing speeds. A note about the calculations, when I'm talking about years, I'm talking non-leap years only (365 days).

The New Horizons space probe is the fastest probe that we've sent into space at the time of writing. Its primary mission was to visit Pluto which at the time of launch (2006), Pluto was still a planet.

DescriptionSpeed (m.p.h.)Time (years)
Airbus A38073638,997,814.84
Speed of Sound (Mach 1)767.26937,408,512.17
Concorde (Mach 2)1,534.5418,704,231.71
New Horizons Probe33,000869,769.45
Speed of Light670,616,629.0042.80
Capella brightness ranges from a magnitude of 0.253 to a magnitude of 0.216 over its variable period. The smaller the magnitude, the brighter the star. Its variable/pulsating period lasts for 0.0 days (variability).

Source of Information

The source of the information if it has a Hip I.D. is from Simbad, the Hipparcos data library based at the University at Strasbourg, France. Hipparcos was a E.S.A. satellite operation launched in 1989 for four years. The items in red are values that I've calculated so they could well be wrong. Information regarding Metallicity and/or Mass is from the E.U. Exoplanets. The information was obtained as of 12th Feb 2017.

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Additional Capella Facts and Figures

Visual Facts

Primary / Proper / Traditional NameCapella
Alternative NamesAlpha Aurigae, Alf Aur, HD 34029, HIP 24608, HR 1708, 13 Aurigae, 13 Aur, BD+45 1077, Gliese 194A, NSV 01897
Spectral TypeM1: comp
Constellation's Main StarYes
Multiple Star SystemYes
Star TypeVariable Star
GalaxyMilky Way
Absolute Magnitude -0.48 / -0.51
Visual / Apparent Magnitude0.08
Naked Eye VisibleYes - Magnitudes
Right Ascension (R.A.)05h 16m 41.30
Declination (Dec.)+45° 59` 56.5
Galactic Latitude4.56687535 degrees
Galactic Longitude162.58751310 degrees
1997 Distance from Earth77.29000 Parallax (milliarcseconds)
 42.20 Light Years
 12.94 Parsecs
2007 Distance from Earth76.20000 Parallax (milliarcseconds)
  42.80 Light Years
 13.12 Parsecs
 2,706,175.40 Astronomical Units
Galacto-Centric Distance24,175.23 Light Years / 7,412.00 Parsecs
Proper Motion Dec.-426.89000 ± 0.31000 milliarcseconds/year
Proper Motion RA.75.25000 ± 0.46000 milliarcseconds/year
B-V Index0.79
Radial Velocity29.19000 ± 0.07 km/s
Iron Abundance-0.2700 ± 9.99 Fe/H
Semi-Major Axis7486.0000000
Stellar Luminosity (Lsun)163.2500000
Orbital Period (Days)104.02200
Argument Of Periastron0.00000
Brightest in Night Sky6th
Associated / Clustered StarsCapella Ab

Companions (Multi-Star and Exoplanets) Facts

Exoplanet CountNone/Unaware

Variable Star Details

Mean Variability Period in Days0.029
Variable Magnitude Range (Brighter - Dimmer)0.216 - 0.253

Estimated Calculated Facts

Radius (x the Sun)13.28
Effective Temperature5,444 Kelvin

Sources and Links

SIMBAD SourceLink

Multi-Star System

The star has been identified as being a multi-star system, one in which there is at least one star in close orbit to another star or two or more stars orbiting a central point. The stars may be of equal mass, unequal mass where one star is stronger than the other or be in groups orbiting a central point which doesn't necessarily have to be a star. More information can be found on my dedicated multiple star systems page. The source of the info is Simbad. The file is dated 2000 so any differences between this and any other source will be down to the actual source from where the information came from.

Proper Motion mas/yr
H.D. IdB.D. IdStar CodeMagnitudeR.A.Dec.SpectrumColourYear
34029+45 1077.0A2.1000081.00000-423.00000G0Yellow
+45 1076.0G10.1000020.00000-58.00000FOYellow/White1895

Location of Capella in Auriga

Capella Location in Auriga

The map was generated using Night Vision, an awesome free application by Brian Simpson.

Auriga Main Stars

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