International Star Registry

All Constellations

Auriga - Charioteer

The seventh brightest star in the sky, Capella, with a magnitude of .1, is in Auriga. Capella, the she-goat, is in the Charioteer’s left shoulder, brilliant yellow in color. The Flaming Star (I.C. 405) is in Auriga and can be seen with binoculars in the winter.

The Greeks gave various accounts for this constellation. Some supposed it to be Erichthonius, the fourth king of Athens, son of Vulcan and Minerva, whose many inventions earned him his place among the constellations.

He was described as looking like a monster, which did not make him very popular, but it was Auriga who invented the chariot and the book. Maybe that is why it has been said “don’t judge a book by its cover.” It is written that Auriga was excellent in his management of horses. Both Virgil and Dryden wrote about him. Said Dryden of his chariot:

“Bold Erichthonius was the first who join’d

Four horses for the rapid race designed

And o’er the dusty wheels presiding sate.”

Other writers say Boötes invented the chariot, and that Auriga was the son of Mercury and charioteer to Oenomaus, king of Pisa. He so excelled in charioteering that he outraced everyone in Greece. But neither of these fables account for how he came to have a goat and one of her kids as his companion. They are said to be the goats of Almathaea and her sister, Melissa, who fed Jupiter goat’s milk during his infancy. As a reward for their kindness, Jupiter laced them in the arms of Auriga. Mythology has become clouded over the centuries and is at fault for this confusion.

Other mythologists insist that since it was Boötes who invented the chariot, Auriga does not appear with one. There is also the story of how Auriga’s daughter, Hippodameia, arranged for Auriga to lose his chariot and his life.

Hippodameia was very beautiful and had so many suitors that her father devised a way to dispose of them. He decreed that anyone who wanted to marry her first had to win a chariot race with him. If the suitor lost he would be put to death. Naturally, that slimmed down the number of boyfriends hanging around the palace.

Then, along came Pelops. So taken was Hippodameia with this god-like lad, she spoke to her father’s charioteer, Myrtilus. Flashing a promise of love for him if he would fix the race, Myrtilus pulled some of the spokes off of her father’s chariot. Not only did her father lose the race, he lost his life as well. She married Pelops who took over the kingdom of Arcadia, the peninsula which we now call the Peloponnesos of Greece.
Right Ascension 05:28
Diameter (°)15
Area (square °)657
Opposition Dec 14
Size Rank 21st
Brightness Rank 6th