Object name: Gemini Constellation
Symbolism: The Twins
R.A. position: 7h
Dec. position: +20°
Distance from earth: The average distance is 887 light-years
Area: 514 sq. deg.
Brightest star: Pollux (β Gem)
Visible at: Latitudes between +90° and −60°
Best viewed: During the month of February at 9.00 pm
The Gemini constellation is one of the twelve constellations of the Zodiac. It is also known as the Twins and has its roots in Greek mythology. It appears in the fascinating story of the Gemini twins mythology, Pollux and Castor.
Gemini is easy to spot in the sky. It lies northeast of Orion and between Taurus and Cancer. It has two bright stars, with the Gemini twin names, each indicating the position of their heads.
You can see Gemini in both hemispheres and it is a great constellation for home stargazers to view. It contains a number of interesting objects, including Messier 35.
It is also known for the incredibly beautiful Medusa Nebula, named after a dreadful Greek Gemini mythological character. Read on to find out all about the Gemini twins and Gemini constellation facts.
Gemini is an easy constellation to spot in the sky. If you think of a child’s drawing of two stick-men holding hands, you will find the image. The name comes from the word Gemini in Latin, which means ‘twins.’
The Latin genitive of the constellation name is “Geminorum”. This name is used to identify some of the brightest stars in this constellation. For example, α Geminorum is the Gemini brightest star and 20 Geminorum is the 20th brightest star.
The Gemini constellation is the 30th largest constellation. It occupies an area of 514 square degrees. It was officially listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Claudius Ptolemy.
For home astronomers, the constellation Gemini offers some interesting objects. It contains the bright stars Pollux and Castor. It also gives rise to the lovely Geminids Meteor Shower. This shower is only one of two major meteor showers that originate from an asteroid and not a comet.
Gemini is one of the larger Zodiac constellations, together with Libra and Cancer. In the case of Gemini, both the constellation and the Zodiac sign have the same name. The age of Gemini Greek mythology dates back over 3000 years.
Here is another interesting Gemini constellation story! Gemini was the namesake of the Gemini program, a NASA space mission of the 1960s. It launched pairs of astronauts into space in the Gemini spacecraft.
What does Gemini constellation look like?
The Gemini Constellation looks like two twins standing in the sky, holding hands with arms outstretched. They resemble a child’s drawing of two stick-men. Each twin has a bright star that identifies his head. The body is a straight line that splits at the base into two legs. Each leg has stars that pinpoint the feet.
You can see the constellation Gemini in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
First, locate the two head stars, Pollux and Castor. Draw a line straight down for the body and imagine arms outstretched. The stars Propus and Alhena alternatively pinpoint the right feet.
Remember that in the Southern hemisphere, constellations appear upside down. So the twins seem to stand on their heads!
How far is Gemini constellation from earth?
The Gemini constellation is made of a myriad of celestial objects. It contains stars, nebula, Messier objects, and deep sky objects.
Each of these lies at a different distance measured in light-years from the Earth. When we look at a constellation, all the objects appear to be on a level plane, creating the picture we see. In fact, each object is at a different distance from the earth.
To give you a better idea, Gemini’s brightest star is Pollux and lies about 33.78 light-years away. Castor is the second brightest star in Gemini and is about 51 light-years from our solar system.
The interesting Messier 35 (NGC 2168), an open star cluster, is much further away, at 2,800 light-years.
Xi Geminorum is a yellow-white subgiant star that marks one of the four feet of the Gemini twins. It is bright enough to see without binoculars. It is about 58.7 light-years away. The Medusa Nebula is another planetary nebula, around 1,500 light-years distant.
Taking into account the objects and their individual distances, the average distance to the main stars of the Gemini constellation from Earth is 887 light-years.
Gemini is the third sign of twelve in the Zodiac family and represents people born between May 21 and June 21. It is one of the three air signs, the others being Libra and Aquarius.
The Gemini star constellation has three other zodiac constellations as neighbors in the night sky. Cancer, the Crab, lies above the twin’s heads. Taurus, the Bull, and Orion, the Hunter, are under their feet.
Like all the Zodiac constellations, the twins’ constellation lies on the ecliptic path. This is the path that the sun takes as it moves across the sky during the year. Gemini represents the seasonal elements of Spring.
Gemini the Twins, and Orion the Hunter rise in the sky at around the same time. In the myth, the twins represent the inherent duality of life, mortality, and immortality. In the sky, they are forever intertwined and you will never see them apart.
Major stars in Gemini
Here is a list of the most important stars in Gemini.
Castor – Geminorum (Alpha Geminorum)
Image Credit: NASA/Rogelio Bernal Andreo
Castor gets its name from one of the Gemini twins. It is the 2nd brightest stars of Gemini and the 44th brightest star in the sky. The star is made up of 6 components. Together they have a combined apparent magnitude of 1.58. Castor marks the head of the twin. Castor is a bluish-white star and you can see it without a telescope. It lies 50.88 light-years away.
Pollux – Geminorum (Beta Geminorum)
You may ask – what is the brightest star in Gemini? It is Pollux. Pollux gets its name from the second twin in the Greek myth. It is a red giant star about 33.78 light-years from Earth. Pollux is also the 17th brightest star in the night sky.
Its name in Arabic is Al-Ras al-Tau’am al-Mu’akhar, which means “The Head of the Second Twin.” Pollux, as one of the Gemini constellation stars, is interesting in that it has an exoplanet that orbits it. The planet is Pollux b, discovered in 2006.
Alhena (Almeisan) – Geminorum (Gamma Geminorum)
Alhena (Gamma Geminorum) is another interesting Gemini star. It is the third brightest star in Gemini. It is a white subgiant and lies about 109 light-years away. The star has an apparent magnitude of 1.915. Size-wise, it is 4 times larger than the sun and 123 times brighter. The name comes from the Arabic, Almeisan, which means “the shining one.”
Mebsuta – Geminorum (Epsilon Geminorum)
Mebsuta is a double star, consisting of a magnitude 3.4 brilliant white and a 9.5 magnitude cerulean blue. These stars in Gemini constellation sit at the right knee of the twin Castor. The name comes from the Arabic Mebsuta, which means “the Outstretched,” and originally marked the paw of the Arabic Lion constellation.
Tejat Posterior – Geminorum (Mu Geminorum)
Mu Geminorum is a red giant and is the fourth brightest star in the Gemini star constellation. It has a visual magnitude of 2.857 and is about 230 light-years away. The traditional name is Tejat Posterior, which means “the back foot.” It lies at Castor’s foot. The star is also known by another Latin name, Calx, which means “the heel.”
Tejat Prior – Geminorum (Eta Geminorum)
Eta Geminorum is another important star in Gemini. It is also known as Tejat Prior. It is a multiple star about 350 light-years away. It is made up of a binary star and a dwarf star that orbit the pair once in 700 years. With an apparent visual magnitude of 3.15, it is the seventh brightest of the Gemini stars in the constellation Gemini. Eta Geminorum is about 3.16 times more luminous than our Sun.
Alzirr – Geminorum (Xi Geminorum)
The name Alzirr in Arabic means “button” and marks one of the four feet of the star twins. It has an apparent magnitude of 3.35 and you can see it without a telescope. The star lies about 58.7 light-years away. This yellow-white subgiant is about 11 times brighter than our Sun.
Propus – Geminorum (Iota Geminorum)
The name Propus comes from the Greek meaning “forward foot,” and the star indicates the foot of the twin, Castor. Propus has an apparent magnitude of 3.78 and is approximately 326 light-years away. It is a binary star system and is a red color.
Wasat – Geminorum (Delta Geminorum)
Delta Geminorum is also known as Wasat. The name means “middle” in Arabic. It has a visual magnitude of 3.53 and you can see it with the naked eye. The star is a triple star system and lies about 60.5 light-years from our solar system. Wasat is about 1.6 billion years old. The star indicates the middle of Pollux’s body.
Deep sky objects in Gemini
Messier 35 (NGC 2168)
Image credit: NASA/Chris Schur
The spectacular Messier 35, M35, is a large open star cluster that contains several hundred stars. The cluster has an apparent magnitude of 5.3 and lies at an approximate distance of 2,800 light-years from Earth. Swiss astronomer Philippe Loys de Chéseaux discovered it in 1745. The estimated age of M35 is about 110 million years. Messier 35 is the only Messier object in Gemini. The best time to see it is in the winter months in the northern hemisphere.
NGC 2158 is an open star cluster that lies close to the famous Messier 35 as seen from Earth. In reality, it is about four times more distant. Its age is around 1.05 billion years. The cluster originally was made up of many bright blue stars. Over millions of years, they have self-destructed, and the cluster is now dominated by yellower stars.
Eskimo Nebula (NGC 2392, Caldwell 39)
The Eskimo Nebula is a spectacular sight. It was the first celestial object photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope after a successful servicing mission in 1999. The name comes from the shape which resembles an Eskimo face surrounded by a fur-collared parka. The nebula lies about 2,870 light-years away. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 10.1, and home stargazers can see it with an entry-level home telescope.
Jellyfish Nebula – IC 443 (Sharpless 248)
The Jellyfish Nebula is the remains of a supernova that lies about 5,000 light-years from Earth. It can be found near the bright star Eta Geminorum. The name comes from the patterns which resemble the tendrils of a jellyfish. They are, in fact, complex filaments that are emitting light from neon, iron, silicon, oxygen atoms, and dust particles, which are heated by the blast from the supernova event.
In Gemini astronomy, this beautiful nebula gets its name from the dreadful Gorgon Medusa in Greek mythology. Medusa was a hideous creature with snakes in place of hair. The nebula is also known as Sharpless 2-274 and lies about 1500 light-years away. It is very dim and you need a strong telescope to appreciate its beauty. The snake images are the long flowing filaments of glowing gas. The red glow comes from the hydrogen gas, and the fainter green emissions arise from the oxygen gas.
Exoplanets in Gemini
Exoplanets are planets that revolve around stars other than our star, the sun. Exoplanets excite astronomers as they may offer conditions similar to our solar system, with the possibility of life.
Orbiting the giant star Pollux is a Gemini planet, or exoplanet, known as Pollux b or Thestias. This gas giant has a mass twice that of Jupiter. It orbits Pollux at a distance of 1.65 astronomical units, Which is a little farther from its star than Mars is from the Sun.
HD 50554 b
Another exoplanet in Gemini is the planet HD 50554 b that revolves around the star HD 50554. It is a gas giant with a mass of about 5 times that of Jupiter’s. The planet takes 3.5 years to complete an orbit around its star.
Meteor showers in Gemini
Meteor showers occur when Earth crosses the orbital path of a comet. Bits of dust and debris from the remnants of the comet light up the sky when they enter and burn up in our atmosphere.
The Geminids is a spectacular meteor shower that runs from 4 December to 17 December, with a peak on the 13 and 14 December. This massive shower offers up to 120 to 160 meteors per hour. You can see the Geminids in both the southern and northern hemispheres.
The meteors penetrate deep into the atmosphere and as they burn, beautiful long arcs flash across the sky, lasting for up to one or two seconds. Unlike most meteor showers that originate from a comet, this shower originates from an asteroid. The asteroid is the 3200 Phaethon, which takes about 1.4 years to orbit the Sun.
The Rho Geminids
This is a smaller, less spectacular meteor shower that runs from 28 December to 28 January, with a peak on 8 January. It offers up to 8 meteors per hour.
Location and visibility
Where is Gemini constellation located?
Where is the constellation Gemini located? Gemini is one of the more easily identified constellations. You can see some of the bright stars that define the Twins with the naked eye.
The Gemini constellation is the 30th largest constellation. It occupies an area of 514 square degrees. The Gemini constellation location is in the second quadrant of the northern hemisphere, NQ2.
A quadrant is essentially a quarter of a circle, which allows astronomers to measure the altitude of objects above the horizon. You can see the constellation at latitudes +90° and -60°.
To know more about the Gemini constellation location – the main neighboring constellations are Cancer, Taurus, and Orion. Cancer lies above the twin’s heads. Taurus and Orion lie at the feet.
When is Gemini constellation visible?
When is Gemini visible and where can the Gemini constellation be seen? This is great news for home stargazers around the globe! You can view Gemini in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Like most celestial objects, the best views are away from bright city lights.
In the northern hemisphere in December, you can spot the Twins at around 9 pm as they move slowly westward until daybreak.
For the kids, viewing is best from January to March as they can be seen earlier, at around 7 pm. In April, the constellation appears overhead at 8 pm.
In the southern hemisphere, Gemini can be seen in December low on the northeast horizon at around 1.00 am. From January to March, it is visible from 10 pm to 4 am when it sinks below the horizon. April makes great viewing for the family as it appears at 8.00 pm and dips slowly to vanish at midnight.
How to find Gemini constellation?
Read on to see how to find out where is Gemini.
In the northern hemisphere – where is the Gemini constellation located?
- The easiest way to find Gemini is to locate the three bright stars of Orion’s belt
- Now look left for the bright star, Betelgeuse which indicates Orion’s shield
- Draw an imaginary line to the left to the two bright stars of castor and pollux
- They are fairly close together and indicate the head of each twin
- Once you have these stars, you can imagine the two stick-men type bodies standing at an angle with feet downwards
In the Southern Hemisphere, all constellations appear upside down, so where is Gemini located?
- The easiest way to find the Gemini location is to locate the three bright stars of Orion’s belt
- Now look right for the bright star, Betelgeuse which indicates Orion’s shield
- Draw an imaginary line to the right to the two bright stars of Pollux and Castor, which are the Gemini twins names
- These stars in Gemini are fairly close together and indicate the head of each twin
- Once you have the twin stars, you can imagine the two stick-men type bodies standing at an angle with feet pointing upwards
How to view Gemini Constellation?
If you are out and about in a relatively dark area, you can spot the bright stars of Gemini with the naked eye. Using a powerful pair of binos will give you a better chance of viewing the Twins.
The best way to enjoy Gemini astronomy is through a telescope. For amateurs, there is a great choice of well-priced scopes that will give you fabulous Gemini constellation images, even in your city garden.
Depending on your budget, you can spend from around $250 to $900 on a telescope that will last for many years.
The Meade Polaris 130mm German Equatorial Reflector Telescope offers a large 5.1” aperture for bright views.
This reflector telescope is ideal for beginner to intermediate stargazers and will last for years. It has a very stable Equatorial mount with slow-motion controls. This allows you to keep an object in view very easily without it jumping around in your eyepiece.
The scope comes with 3 eyepieces that provide a choice of low (26mm), medium (9mm), and a high (6,3mm) powered magnification.
To add to the excitement, it comes with a Bonus Autostar Suite Astronomy planetarium DVD, which offers over 10,000 celestial objects. It is lightweight and easy to take along on the weekend away for stargazing.
History of observation
Who discovered Gemini constellation?
Ancient Gemini history shows that the Twins existed in Greek Gemini myths that date back 3000 years. The Greeks wrote about twins who were inseparable and placed into the sky by Zeus, King of the Gods.
Ancient Egyptians saw the myth of Gemini as two goats who return to their goat herd at dawn. They included the two stars in their Ramesside Hour Tables, which are also known as Star Clocks.
Around the years 1500BC, Vedic books from India spoke about a Gemini legend. Twin stars of Gemini origin, called Nakula and Sahadeva, after two of the Ashvin horseman of Indian folklore.
The Mithuna, an Indian constellation in which the two horsemen appear, is almost an exact match to the Gemini constellation history of the Greeks.
In somewhat more recent times, the famous astronomer Ptolemy named the Gemini (constellation). He lived between 90 AD and 168 AD.
How old is Gemini constellation?
Here are some more fascinating Gemini constellation facts.
As long ago as 3000BC, the Greeks wrote about the Gemini story. It tells of twins, pollux and castor, who were inseparable and were placed into the sky by Zeus, King of the Gods.
Around the year 1500BC, Vedic books from India spoke about twin stars called Nakula and Sahadeva, after two of the Ashvin horseman of Indian folklore.
The Mithuna, an Indian constellation in which the two horsemen appear, is almost an exact match to the Gemini constellation myth of the Greeks.
Here are some more Gemini stories! Around 3100BC, ancient Egyptian astrology identified the twin constellation with two goats. In Arabian astrology, it was connected to twin peacocks.
In somewhat more recent times, the famous Ptolemy documented the Gemini constellation name in the 2nd century.
How did Gemini constellation get its name?
Constellation names often come from ancient mythology stories. The word “Gemini” comes from the Latin, which means ‘twins.’ The Gemini constellation answers the question of what do twins symbolize? The twins are Pollux and Castor, who were inseparable, even in death.
The word ‘Gemini’ has few known relatives and comes from the Indo-European root *yem- ‘To pair’. It also relates to geminate, to double or repeat.
Mythology and meaning
Do you want to know – what is the story of the Gemini twins? The Gemini myth dates back to classic Greek mythology. The twin brothers, Castor and pollux Gemini were born of the same mother, Leda, but different fathers. Castor’s father was the mortal King of Sparta. Pollux’s father was the Greek God Zeus, who disguised himself as a swan and seduced Leda.
The twins in Gemini mythology were handsome and adventurous and embarked on many hazardous adventures. Castor was a renowned horseman, while his Gemini twin, Pollux, was known for his great strength. One adventure included traveling with Jason and the Argonauts on their quest to find the Golden Fleece.
When Castor was slain in battle, Pollux was inconsolable in his grief, unable to live without his brother. Because he was immortal, he begged Zeus to make Castor immortal too. Zeus refused this request.
Despite the danger, Pollux followed his brother into the underworld. Zeus was overwhelmed by his action and agreed to his request. But, it came with a condition – they could only spend half of the year on Olympus. The other half was to be spent in the underworld.
In the Gemini story, Zeus placed them both into the heavens as the constellation Gemini. Here, they unite forever, bonded in brotherly love.
What does Gemini symbolize?
Are you fascinated by Gemini the twins and Gemini symbolism? In ancient Greek mythology, the Gemini constellation meaning represents inseparable twins, even at death. They represent brotherly love, unity, and devotion. The twins braved hardships and supported one another through many physical and mental battles.
In astrology, the planet Mercury rules Gemini. Mercury is the name of the Ancient Roman God of Messengers. He was also known as Hermes, the Gemini greek god. He was the Gemini god that guided souls into the underworld.
So, what is a Gemini known for? They are smart and sharp. They enjoy thinking more than doing. Born with a Gemini background of the Air Sign, they like to be free and may be difficult to pin down in a relationship.
They do make great friends with a fun and outgoing outlook on life. The Gemini twins meaning represents a dual-natured personality. It is sometimes contradictory but also adaptable.
Here are some famous personalities born under the Gemini star sign – Marilyn Monroe, Donald Trump, John F. Kennedy, Kanye West, and Natalie Portman.
Future of Gemini constellation
The twins’ constellation offers exciting celestial objects for astronomers to explore. As time progresses and telescopes become more powerful, we will find more exciting sky objects in the Gemini zodiac constellation.
Meteor showers are amazing sights to see and every year, Gemini offers a great show called the Geminids.
This shower starts around 4 December 4 and ends on 16 December, with the peak being on the night of 13 December.
Pollux b is an exoplanet orbiting the giant star Pollux. While the star is currently twice the Sun’s mass, it is expected that in years to come, it will puff off enough of its outer layers to enable its core to collapse into a white dwarf.