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Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand

Sculptor - A Constellation for October and November

Contributed by Paul Rodmell, Southland Astronomical Society

SCULPTOR "The "Sculptor" pronounced SKULP-ter.

Chart showing the constellation.

This constellation, originally L'Atelier du Sculpteur, the sculptor's workshop was formed by Lacaille in 1752 from a group of inconspicuous stars between Cetus and Phoenix to fill in the Southern hemisphere. Although its stars are dim, it contains the South Galactic Pole. Thus when viewing Sculptor we are looking at right angles to the Milky Way and deep into space, unobscured by stars or gas. Many galaxies both bright and faint are visible. Many are members of the Sculptor group. Also in the group is NGC 247 in Cetus.

Sculptor contains the faint "Cartwheel" galaxy, a minute ring galaxy with faint "spokes" radiating from the bright nucleus. Accompanying it are two small companion galaxies, one of which produced the transformation from a normal disk galaxy to the cartwheel as it passed.

To find Sculptor look high in the north in the late evening sky, and find the bright star Fomalhaut in Pisces Astrinus. Sculptor is slightly east and slightly towards the northern horizon.

Chart showing Sculptor as seen to the east, early evening in mid October.

Sculptor chart

Constellation Capricornus Piscis Austrinus Constellation Grus Constellation Tucana Constellation Phoenix Constellation Eridanus Constellation Fornax Constellation Cetus Constellation Pisces Constellation Aquarius

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation

α Sculptoris is a 4.3 magnitude blue-white star 420 light years away.

β Sclis a magnitude 4.4 blue-white star 250 light years away.

γ Sclis a magnitude 4.4 yellow giant star 150 light years away.

ε Scl, 98 light years away is a double star of magnitudes 5.3 and 9.4, visible in small telescopes.

κ1 Scl, 91 light years away, is a close double star with whitish-yellow components of magnitudes 6.2 and 6.3 magnitude which can be split with telescopes of 100 mm and larger.

NGC 253 is the best example of an edgewise spiral galaxy popularly known as the Silver Coin galaxy. This bright (for a galaxy) galaxy is a starburst galaxy that can be picked up in binoculars from a dark sky site but needs a moderate telescope to see structure.

NGC 55 is 9th magnitude barred spiral galaxy of the Magellanic type seen nearly edge-on similar in size and shape to NGC 253, though not as bright.

NGC 300 is a large and loosely-structured spiral galaxy. It needs a telescope of greater than 300 mm to show more than a diffuse haze.

NGC 288 is an open type globular cluster appearing in a star sprinkled field. A 100 mm telescope will show very faint stars in a dim haze.

Visibility

Sculptor is at its highest to the north late evening mid October and as it gets dark mid November. The constellation will then have rotated anti-clockwise compared to how shown in the chart, so that α and δ Scl are almost at the same level.

By the time the sky darkens following sunset at end of November the constellation will be to the northwest and rotated further anti-clcockwise.


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