Although the Dragon consists only of very faint stars which meander around the celestial pole, it is one of the oldest and largest constellations. Previously, also the stars of the Little Dipper were part of the Dragon – in Mesopotamia they symbolized the wings of the dragon. In some Mesopotamian depictions the dragon drew a chariot (the Big Dipper) that belonged to the sky god Enlil. The dragon contains a number of galaxies which unfortunately are all too faint for binoculars.
α Draconis (Thuban) was our pole star 5,000 years ago – in the year 2830 BC, the celestial pole was only 10 arc minutes away from the 3.6m bright star. Due to the precession of the Earth‘s axis the celestial pole is now close to the brighter Polaris. Thuban is a 309 light-years distant single star and easy to find between the star pair Mizar and Alcor in the Big Dipper and the box of stars of the Little Dipper.
ν Draconis or Kuma is not only considered one of the most beautiful double stars for binoculars, it also depicts the Head of the Dragon together with β, γ and ξ Draconis. Kuma is a 100 light-years distant binary star of two pure white, 4.9m bright stars. They are separated by 62 seconds of arc from each other, which corresponds to 2,280 AU. Since 1833 their position has not changed, still they are thought to be a physical double star.
1.5 arc minutes separate the two stars 16 and 17 Draconis. Nevertheless, this wide pair of stars forms a physical double star – at least they are moving at the same speed in the same direction. The two stars are 5.4 and 5.5m bright. The somewhat brighter star is 17 Draconis. It has an additional 6.4m bright companion, but this one cannot be resolved in binoculars. 400 light-years separate us from this star system.
The Cat‘s Eye Nebula NGC 6543 is an 18 arcseconds large planetary nebula which can be found as a greenish or bluish star between δ and ζ Draconis. Binoculars only show an 8.8m bright star. The 3,000 light-years distant nebula arose around 1,000 years ago and has a diameter of 20,000 AE. In its vicinity is the pole of the ecliptic, so that it is also in the center of the circle which the northern celestial pole describes in the course of 25,850 years.