The Northern Crown is a beautiful star pattern in May

Northern Crown: Six bright stars in bowl shape against a starry sky, Alphecca noticeably brighter.
Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, with its brightest star Alphecca. In fact, this time is year is perfect to see this semicircle of stars in the evening sky. Image via Fred Espenak/ AstroPixels. Used with permission.

The Northern Crown graces the summer skies

Tonight, look for a constellation that’s easy to see on the sky’s dome, if your sky is dark enough. Corona Borealis – aka the Northern Crown – is exciting to find. In fact, it’s easy to pick out as an almost-perfect semicircle of stars. And you’ll find this beautiful star pattern in the evening sky from now until October.

Plus, the constellation Corona Borealis is easy to find since it’s located more or less along a line between two bright stars. The first is Arcturus in the constellation Boötes the Herdsman and the second is Vega in the constellation Lyra the Harp.

Star chart showing stars Vega and Arcturus in corners and small semicircle of stars between them, all labeled.
After nightfall and in the early evening, you’ll see Arcturus fairly high in the east, noticeable for its brightness and yellow-orange color. Next, look for Vega rather low in the northeast. It’s a bright blue-white star. Then look for the Northern Crown between these 2 bright stars. However, it’s closer to Arcturus.

But you’ll need a fairly dark sky to see Corona Borealis between Vega and Arcturus. Then, once you find the semicircle of stars, it’s very noticeable.

The brightest star of the Northern Crown

The brightest star in Corona Borealis is Alphecca, also known as Gemma, sometimes called the Pearl of the Crown. As a matter of fact, the name Alphecca originated with a description of Corona Borealis as the “broken one.” This was in reference to the fact that these stars appear in a semicircle, rather than a full circle. Alphecca is a blue-white star, with an intrinsic luminosity some 60 times that of our sun. And it’s located about 75 light-years from Earth.

Grid with dots and lines showing star patterns.
The C-shaped – or semicircle – constellation Corona Borealis shines between the constellations Boötes and Hercules. Image via IAU. Used with permission.

Some images from our EarthSky Community Photos

Man on rooftop of city looking at outlines of several labeled constellations drawn onto night sky.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Prateek Pandey in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India, captured this photo of Boötes, Virgo and Corona Borealis on March 5, 2021. He wrote: “Spring constellations twinkling in the eastern horizon.” Thank you, Prateek!
Kite-shaped Boötes with star Arcturus at its
View at EarthSky Conmmunity Photos. | Dr Ski in Valencia, Philippines, caught this photo of Arcturus and its constellation Boötes next to the Northern Crown on May 24, 2019. Thanks, Dr Ski!

Bottom line: Look for Corona Borealis – the Northern Crown – between the brilliant stars Arcturus and Vega tonight! In fact, this constellation is very noticeable, if you have a dark sky.

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May 18, 2023

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Deborah Byrd

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