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Title: Thuban  
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Subject: Draco (constellation), GIS Live DVD, Bayer designation, Polaris, Eta Draconis
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Th'uban is also an enemy in the video game Final Fantasy X.
Thuban, α Dra

Location of α Draconis (center right).
Observation data
Epoch J2000      Equinox J2000
Constellation Draco
Right ascension 14h 04m 23.3498s
Declination 64° 22′ 33.062″
Apparent magnitude (V) 3.6452
Spectral type A0III
U−B color index -0.08
B−V color index -0.04
Variable type None
Radial velocity (Rv) -13.0 km/s
Proper motion (μ) RA: -56.34 mas/yr
Dec.: 17.21 mas/yr
Parallax (π) 10.76 ± 0.17 mas
Distance 303 ± 5 ly
(93 ± 1 pc)
Absolute magnitude (MV) -1.20
Mass 2.8 + 2.2[1] M
Radius 3.4[2] R
Luminosity 120[3] L
Surface gravity (log g) 3.95[3] cgs
Temperature 10,371[3] K
Metallicity -0.19[3]
Rotation 25[4]
Companion Alpha Draconis B
Period (P) 0.13963 yr
Other designations
Alpha Draconis, GSC 04174-01262, 2MASS J14042335+6422331, 11 Dra, HD 123299, AG+64° 666, PLX 3209, TYC 4174-1262-1, BD+65° 978, FK5 521, HIP 68756, PPM 18861, GC 19019, HR 5291, IRAS 14030+6436, SAO 16273
Database references

Thuban, also known by its Bayer designation Alpha Draconis (α Draconis, α Dra), is a star (or star system) in the constellation of Draco. A relatively inconspicuous star in the night sky of the Northern Hemisphere, it is historically significant as having been the north pole star in ancient times. Thuban is an Arabic word for snake ثعبان thuʿbān.

Even though Johann Bayer gave Thuban the designation Alpha, its apparent magnitude of 3.65 is 3.7 times fainter than the brightest star in the constellation, Gamma Draconis (Eltanin), whose apparent magnitude is 2.24.


Given good viewing conditions, Thuban is relatively easy to spot in the night sky, due to its location in relation to the Big Dipper asterism of Ursa Major. While it is well known that the two outer stars of the 'dipper' point to the modern-day pole star Polaris, it is less well known that the two inner stars, Phecda and Megrez, point to Thuban, just 15 degrees of arc from Megrez. Thuban is not bright enough to be viewed from badly light-polluted areas.

Pole star

Precession of the equinoxes for the Pole Star. Thuban is toward the right of the image, below the -2000 mark.

Due to the precession of Earth's rotational axis, Thuban was the naked-eye star closest to the north pole from 3942 BC, when it moved farther north than Theta Boötis, until 1793 BC, when it was superseded by Kappa Draconis. It was closest to the pole in 2830 BC, when it was less than ten arc-minutes away from the pole.[5] It remained within one degree of true north for nearly 200 years afterwards, and even 900 years after its closest approach, was just five degrees off the pole. Thuban was considered the pole star until about 1900 BC, when the much brighter Kochab began to approach the pole as well.

Having gradually drifted away from the pole over the last 4,800 years, Thuban is now seen in the night sky at a declination of 64° 20' 45.6", RA 14h 04m 33.58s. After moving nearly 47 degrees off the pole by 10000 AD, Thuban will gradually move back toward the north celestial pole. In 20346 AD, it will again be the pole star, that year reaching a maximum declination of 88° 43' 17.3", RA 19h 08m 54.17s.

Preceded by Pole Star Succeeded by
(unknown) c. 4000 BC–1900 BC Kochab & Pherkad


Thuban has a spectral class of A0III, indicating its similarity to Vega in temperature and spectrum, but more luminous and more massive. Thuban is not a main sequence star; it has now ceased hydrogen fusion in its core and is fusing helium. That makes it a white giant star, being 250 times more luminous than our Sun but over 300 light-years distant.

Thuban has no real anomalies other than the relative rarity of being a giant star in the A class, which is usually reserved for main sequence stars and the occasional supergiant. This indicates that Thuban has not been a giant star for very long and may well still be in the process of expanding, probably to eventually become a K class red-orange giant of the Aldebaran sort. It may also mean that it has recently run out of helium to fuse and is contracting before starting to burn carbon, in which case it may end up a blue giant such as Beta Centauri.

Thuban is a binary star, with a companion star in a 51-day orbit. The companion has not been directly imaged, and from its mass is probably a red dwarf or a low mass white dwarf.


In Chinese, 紫微右垣 (Zǐ Wēi Yòu Yuán), meaning Right Wall of Purple Forbidden Enclosure, refers to an asterism consisting of α Draconis, κ Draconis, λ Draconis, 24 Ursae Majoris, 43 Camelopardalis, α Camelopardalis and BK Camelopardalis.[6] Consequently, α Draconis itself is known as 紫微右垣一 (Zǐ Wēi Yòu Yuán yī, English: the First Star of Right Wall of Purple Forbidden Enclosure.),[7] representing 右樞 (Yòushū), meaning Right Pivot.[8] 右樞 (Yòushū) is westernized into Yu Choo by R.H. Allen with the same meaning.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Kallinger, T.; Iliev, I.; Lehmann, H.; Weiss, W. W. (2005). "The puzzling Maia candidate star $\alpha$ Draconis". Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 2004.  
  2. ^ a b c d Philippe Prugniel; Isabelle Vauglin; Mina Koleva (2011). "The atmospheric parameters and spectral interpolator for the stars of MILES". arXiv:1104.4952v1 [astro-ph.CO].
  3. ^ Adelman, S. J. (2005). "The physical properties of normal a stars". Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 2004.  
  4. ^ Moore Patrick (2005). "The Observer's Year: 366 Nights in the Universe". p. 283. 
  5. ^ (Chinese) 中國星座神話, written by 陳久金. Published by 台灣書房出版有限公司, 2005, ISBN 978-986-7332-25-7.
  6. ^ (Chinese) 香港太空館 - 研究資源 - 亮星中英對照表, Hong Kong Space Museum. Retrieved 2010-11-23.
  7. ^ (Chinese) English-Chinese Glossary of Chinese Star Regions, Asterisms and Star Name, Hong Kong Space Museum. Retrieved 2010-11-23.
  8. ^  

External links

  • Jim Kaler's Stars, University of Illinois:THUBAN (Alpha Draconis)
  • NASA's: History of Precession
  • Crystalinks:Precession of the Equinoxes

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