The brightest of the long string of stars that form the vast but generally rather faint constellation of Hydra, the Water Snake, Alphard forms an approximate equilateral triangle with two more prominent stars to its north: Regulus in Leo and Procyon in Canis Minor. Though only second magnitude, it stands out as the brightest star in its own region of the sky, and this is the reason behind its name: Alphard (often transliterated Alfard) comes from the Arabic for the 'lone' star.
Alphard is notable as being one of the most intrinsically luminous stars known, generating nearly seven hundred times as much energy as the Sun. A giant star of the orange K-type classification, it has a dwarf star, designated Alphard B, in a distant orbit. The outer shell of this immense star (Alphard's diameter is some forty to fifty times greater than the Sun's) shows pulsating patterns that oscillate over periods ranging up to days in length.