Cor Caroli is the brightest star in the constellation Canes Venatici the Hunting Dogs. This star and Chara, Canes Venatici’s second brightest star, are probably the only two stars you’ll ever come to know within the boundaries of this tiny constellation. The two stars of Canes Venatici are fairly easy to find, however, because they parallel the two end stars of the handle of the Big Dipper.
Though not bright, Cor Caroli is fairly easy to see in a dark country sky. The star is also called Alpha Canum Venaticorum because it is the brightest star in the northern constellation Canes Venatici.
Cor Caroli means Heart of Charles. Some say the star was named to honor King Charles I of England, who was beheaded in 1649 during the English Civil War. These sources claim Cor Caroli was labeled on old star charts as Cor Caroli Regis Martyris, or Heart of Charles the Martyr King.
Meanwhile, others say the star was named for Charles I’s son, Charles II. Sir Charles Scarborough, physician to Charles II, is sometimes given credit for having coined the name. It’s said Scarborough claimed the star shone with exceptional brilliance on the night of Charles II’s return to England in 1660 to restore the monarchy.
A small telescope reveals Cor Caroli to be a double star. So it’s easy to imagine father and son peacefully reunited in the heavens, after all their tumultuous years on Earth.
By the way, Cor Caroli is a true binary star – two stars revolving around a common center of mass. The pair lies some 110 light-years away, and its two components are estimated to be 650 times the sun/Earth distance apart. One orbital period period may take as long as 7,900 years.
Sky chart of Canes Venatici the Hunting Dogs
Bottom line: The star Cor Caroli, or Alpha Canum Venaticorum, is a binary star and the brightest star in the northern constellation Canes Venatici.