ERIDANUS "The River" pronounced eh-RID-a-nas

Chart showing Eridanus

This constellation meanders from Taurus (the Bull) in the northern sky, to Hydrus in the southern sky. In mythology, Eridanus was the river into which Phaeton fell after trying to drive the chariot of his father, the Sun God. It is also said to represent a real river such as the Euphrates, or the Nile, the unknown source of which was symbolised with the disappearance of the winding train of stars below the southern horizon (as seen from the northern hemisphere) to its termination in Achernar, (pronounced AY-kuh-nar) now α Eri.

Originally Eridanus included the stars of what is now Fornax, and it stretched only as far as θ Eridani, which was then known as Achernar, from the Arabic meaning End of the River. The present name of θ Eri, Acamar, comes from Achernar. In recent times Eridanus has been extended southwards below the horizon visible to the ancient Greeks, and another star has been assigned to Achernar.

To find Eridanus, look to Rigel in Orion, and follow the meandering line of stars to Achernar. The Southern Cross points towards Achernar, and about halfway between Achernar and the Cross is due south.

Chart showing Eridanus as seen to the north at about 11 pm NZDT on January 1.


Constellation Sculptor Constellation Phoenix Constellation Hydrus Constellation Reticulum Constellation Horologium Constellation Caelum Constellation Fornax Constellation Dorado Constellation Cetus Constellation Puppis Constellation Pictor Constellation Mensa Constellation Volans Constellation Carina Constellation Columba Constellation Lepus Constellation Canis Major Constellation Orion Constellation Taurus

Details of some of the objects shown in the chart.

α Eridani (Achernar),(the End of the River) is a magnitude 0.5 blue-white star 85 light years away.

β Eri (Cursa), (the footstool, referring to its position under the foot of Orion) is a magnitude 2.8 blue-white star 91 light years away.

ε Eri is a magnitude 3.7 star and the most like the Sun of the nearby stars. This yellow dwarf star was one of the first stars to be sent radio signals in case there is life there. It is only 10.5 light years away, so radio signals would take this long to reach it.

θ Eri (Acamar), is a striking pair of blue-white stars of magnitudes 3.2 and 4.4, 55 light years away. The two stars are only separated by just over 8 arc-seconds, so would need a small telescope to be seen separately.

32 Eri is a beautiful double star for small telescopes, consisting of a magnitude 5 yellow star and a blue-green magnitude 6.3 companion 220 light years away. Their separation is just under 7 arc-seconds, slightly closer than the two stars forming Acamar.

ο2 Eri (also known as 40 Eridani) is a remarkable triple star 15.9 light years away. A small telescope shows that the magnitude 4.4 yellow primary, a star similar to our Sun, has a widely separated magnitude 9.6 white dwarf companion, being the most easily seen white dwarf star in the sky. The separation is about 83 arc-seconds. Bigger telescopes reveal that the white dwarf has a 11th magnitude red dwarf companion, at present about 9 arc-seconds from the white dwarf.
In addition the whole system is relatively quite close to us and has a large proper motion of just over 4 arc-seconds per year. This means the star would move a distance equal to the diameter of the Moon in "only" 450 years compared to more distan background stars.

NGC 1535 is a small 9th magnitude planetary nebula 2150 light years away, appearing in a nice field of scattered stars. While the central star cannot be seen, an OIII filter helps to find and see this dying star remnant.


Eridanus ranges over almost 60° of declination from Archenar in the south to the equator near Cursa. Archenar is sufficiently far south for it to be always visible from New Zealand, although rather low to the south in winter evenings. In mid December, Archenar is at its highest at about 10 pm NZDT when it has an altitude of about 75°, to the south.

As is fitting for a river flowing north, Eridanus then winds its way as a narrow constellation northwards before broadening out as it approaches the equator. The equatorial portion of Eridanus precedes Rigel in Orion into the sky and is to the north later in the evening in December and soon after the sky becomes dark in January.

VIRGO, pronounced VUR-go

Chart showing the constellation.

Virgo the Virgin is the second largest constellation in the sky. Many myths are associated with this constellation, which is usually seen as a beautiful or virtuous maiden. (There are only three female figures amongst the constellations). We know the maiden as Astraea, the Roman goddess of justice, but other legends have associated Virgo with successful harvests, and so she is pictured as holding an ear of wheat (the star Spica), in her left hand and a palm leaf in her right hand. In these legends she is identified with the Greek harvest goddess emeter (the Roman Ceres) or more usually with her daughter Persephone (the Roman Prosperpine).

Virgo contains a rich cluster of galaxies which is the nearest major galaxy cluster to us. The Virgo Galaxy Cluster lies about 65 million light years away and contains about 3000 members. Virgo also contains the brightest quasar 3C 273. In an 8" telescope or bigger 3C 273 appears as a 13th magnitude star. It is estimated to lie 2000 million light years away.

To find Virgo look north early evening and find Spica.

Chart showing the constellation as seen to the north soon after 9 pm at the start of June.

Virgo and surrounding constellations

Constellation Crater Constellation Corvus Constellation Hydra Constellation Libra Constellation Scorpius Constellation Serpens Constellation Bootes Coma Berenices Constellation Leo

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation

α Virginis (Spica) is a magnitude 1.0 blue-white star 262 light years away. It is an eclipsing binary varying in brightness by a very small amount every 4 days.

γ Vir (Porrima, named after a Roman goddess of prophecy) is a celebrated double star 39 light years away. Together the stars shine as magnitude 2.8, but small telescopes show γ Vir as a matching pair of yellow-white stars of magnitude 3.6.

δ Vir (Auva)is a magnitude 3.4 red giant star 202 light years away.

ε (epsilon) Vir (Vindmiatrix, grape gatherer), is a magnitude 2.8 yellow giant star 102 light years away.

τ Vir consists of two unrelated stars that appear close together. This is called an optical double star. The main magnitude 4.3 star is 218 light years away. The fainter star appearing close is of magnitude 9.5.

φ Vir is a magnitude 4.8 yellow giant star 135 light years away with a magnitude 9.2 orange companion star. This is not easy to see in small telescopes because of the magnitude contrast.

θ Vir is a double star visible in small telescopes, consisting of blue-white components of magnitudes 4.4 and 8.6. In 1976, the brighter star was found to be a very close pair, by speckle interferometry. This system is 415 light years away.

M 49 (NGC 4472) is a 9th magnitude elliptical giant galaxy visible in 75 mm telescopes or larger under low power. It is one of the brightest members of the Virgo cluster of galaxies.

M 58 (NGC 4579) is a 9th magnitude spiral galaxy with a noticeably brighter core.

M 60 (NGC 4649) appears as a symmetrical round haze, rising to a bright centre. It is a 9th magnitude giant elliptical galaxy.

M 84 (NGC 4374) is an elliptical galaxy discovered in 1781 by Messier, and appears as a round bright and conspicuous haze, rising to a small diffuse nucleus. It appears in the same telescopic field as M 86.

M 86 (NGC 4406) is a Seyfert galaxy showing as a narrow spindle. Seyfert galaxies are active galaxies with a bright nucleus and thought to be related to quasars.

M 87 (NGC 4486) is a fine large round object for small telescopes. Photographs reveal a giant elliptical galaxy with many globular clusters in its halo. A straight jet proceeds from the nucleus giving intense radio emission, making this known to radio astronomers as Virgo A.

The Sombrero galaxy M 104 (NGC4594) is a beautiful spiral galaxy with a large nucleus and a dense lane of dust. It lies about 35 million light years away.

Quasar 3C 273 is the brightest known quasar with a magnitude 12.8. It is about 3.5° NE of η Vir ( Zaniah) and 4.7° NW of γ (gamma) Vir (Porrima).  The position of the quasar is RA 12h 29.1m, Dec +2° 03'.

Detailed Chart showing the star field near 3C 273.

The circle round 3C 273 has a diameter of half a degree. Stars to magnitude 13.5 are shown, with those brighter than magnitude 11 labelled, plus a few fainter ones near 3C 273.

The brightest star on the chart, magnitude 7.32 is at RA 12h 26.0m, Dec +2° 03'.   The double star near the top of the chart has a separation about 50", and is at RA 12h 31.2m, Dec +1° 20'.  The chart gives a southern hemisphere view with south at the top and east to the right.

Quasar 3C 273


Spica in Virgo is due north in early June at about 9 pm from New Zealand. The constellation first becomes visible at 9 pm in the evening early in April. It is close to setting at 9 pm early in August.

VELA "The Sails" pronounced VEE-lah

Chart showing Vela.

This constellation was formerly part of the very large constellation Argo Narvis - the ship of the Jason and the Argonauts who sort the Golden Fleece, which was broken up in 1877 by Gould. Since Vela is only part of a once-larger constellation, there are no stars labelled α or β.

The stars κ and δ Velorum, in conjunction with ι and ε Carinae, form the "False Cross" that is sometimes mistaken for the real Southern Cross (Crux).

Vela lies in a part of the Milky Way rich in faint nebulosity, visible in long exposure photographs, known as the Gum Nebula, after the Australian astronomer Colin S. Gum, who drew attention to it in 1952. Near the centre of the gigantic Gum nebula lies the Vela Supernova remnant (SNR), which photographs show as a beautiful intricate network of filaments spreading over an area equal to the diameter of nearly 16 Full Moons. Within the remnant is the Vela pulsar, lying about 1500 light years away.

To find Vela look towards the zenith in the late evening sky, and look a little north of a line between the Southern Cross and Canopus.

Chart showing the constellation.

Vela constellation

Constellation Carina Constellation Hydra Constellation Antlia Constellation Pyxis Constellation Puppis Constellation Columba Constellation Pictor Constellation Dorado Constellation Reticulum Constellation Hydrus Constellation Mensa Constellation Volans Constellation Chamaeleon Constellation Musca Constellation Crux Constellation Centaurus

Details of some of the objects shown in the chart.

γ Velorum is an interesting multiple star. Binoculars or a small telescope will show that it consists of two blue-white companions of magnitudes 1.8 and 4.3. The brighter star is by far the brightest Wolf-Rayet (pronounced Volf Ray-eh) star known. These stars are a rare class with very hot surfaces that seem to be ejecting gas. There are also two wider companion stars.

δ Vel is magnitude 2.0 white star 68 light years away with a close magnitude 6.5 companion star.

λ Vel is a magnitude 2.2 yellow supergiant star 490 years away.

μ Vel is a magnitude 2.7 yellow giant star 98 light years away.

κ Vel is a magnitude 2.5 blue-white star 390 light years away.

NGC 2547 is a cluster of about 50 stars just visible to the unaided eye, but best seen in binoculars. Many stars are in chains and loops, and there are many pairs and small groups of stars, including a somewhat skew version of the Southern Cross.

IC 2391 is a bright scattered cluster of 20 stars, 850 light years away, scattered around the 4th magnitude star ο Velorum. It is visible to the unaided eye as a misty patch, but best in binoculars or small wide field telescopes.

IC 2395 is a binocular cluster of about 16 stars, 4,500 light years away. Also visible to the south is the 9th magnitude cluster NGC 2670.

NGC 2736 is a faint long narrow nebular streak in a rich star field. It is an isolated easterly filament of the Vela supernova remnant. An OIII filter helps see this object.

NGC 3132 or "Eight Burst" nebula, is a bright annular planetary nebula estimated as being 2000 light years away. Photographs show an intricate, somewhat concentric structure, as if several outbursts of gaseous material had emerged from the star. The prominent central star, is not the true star exciting the nebulous glow. This hotter star is of magnitude 16 discovered in 1976.

NGC 3201 is a globular cluster, less condensed than most. Some of the stars appear in short curved rays like jets of water from a fountain.


The most southerly parts of Vela are circumpolar from all of New Zealand and so are visible all night. From the North Island this applies to only the extreme south of the constellation. From the extreme south of the country most of the constellation remains above the horizon at all times.

The constellation is highest about 10pm (NZDT) or 9pm (NZST) at the end of March and in April. At its highest some part of the constellation passes overhead or almost overhead from all parts of New Zealand south of Hamilton.

URSA MAJOR "The Great Bear" pronounced UR-sah MAY-jer

Chart showing the constellation.

URSA MAJOR "The Great Bear", also known as the Big Dipper or the Plough is third largest constellation in size. It is an ancient and well-known star group to which the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in 150 AD assigned 27 stars. The Big Dipper or Plough figure made by the seven brightest stars is well known by every northern astronomer. References to it are found in writings dating back to the dawn of civilisation. In Europe the pattern was seen as a wagon or chariot, possibly associated with King Arthur or the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemange. Others, notably the Arabs, viewed the dipper shape not as a bear, but as a bier or coffin. Some of the stars of the Big Dipper are at similar distances from us and are moving together through space.

Ursa Major is rather low in the northern sky, and not all the constellation is visible from New Zealand. The horizon on the chart is for Auckland; residents of Invercargill may just see from Tania Borealis up.

To find Ursa Major look very low to the north under an area under Leo the Lion, between Pollux and Castor, the Twins and Arcturus. The Big Dipper would appear upside-down to us but is below the horizon.

Chart showing the constellation as seen to the north at about 10.00 pm (NZST) in mid April.

The horizon shown is for Auckland, the horizon for Invercargill goes through λ UMa.

Ursa Major.

Constellation Cancer Constellation Leo Leo Minor Constellation Gemini Constellation Lynx Constellation Hydra Coma Berenices Canes Venatici Constellation Bootes Constellation Virgo

Details of some of the objects shown in the chart.

Alula Australis, ξ Ursæ Majoris is a magnitude 4.3 yellow star.

Alula Borealis, ν UMa is a magnitude 3.5 orange star 421 light years away.
These two stars are named from the Arabic al Ula, meaning first leap of the Gazelle. Australis means south, and Borealis means north.

Tania Australis, μ UMa is a magnitude 3.06 red star 249 light years away.

Tania Borealis, λ UMa is a magnitude 3.45 blue star 134 light years away.

These two stars are named from the Arabic Ath-Thaniyah, being the "second leap" of the Gazelle. Together the stars were Al Kafzah al Thaniyah the second spring of the Gazelle.

Talitha, ι UMa is a magnitude 3.1 blue star 48 light years away. Talitha comes from the Arabic "Third leap" of the Gazelle or Ath-Thalithah.

Phecda, γ UMa and Dubhe, α UMa are two stars of the Big Dipper. Phecda just rises as seen from north Northland but not from Auckland southwards. Dubhe is below the horizon for all parts of New Zealand


The parts of this northerly constellation which are visible from New Zealand are only above the horizon for a few hours at the most. Talitha, ι UMa, has a maximum altitude of 5° from Auckland and just rises for all the North Island. It is not visible from the South Island

The two Tania stars are to the north and highest at 9 pm in mid April in New Zealand, while the two Alula stars, in the most southerly parts of the constellation, are highest at 9 pm early in May.

TUCANA: the "Toucan", pronounced TOO-kayna.

Chart showing the constellations.

This constellation near the south pole of the sky, was introduced on the star chart of Johann Bayer in 1603. It represents the Toucan, the American bird with a large beak. Its most notable features are the Small Magellanic Cloud - a nearby galaxy, and the beautiful globular cluster NGC 104.

To find Tucana, look south, about halfway up the sky. Find Achernar, (the Southern Cross points towards Achernar), and find the fuzzy appearing Small Magellanic Cloud.

Chart showing Tucana as seen in mid October soon after 10 pm NZDT.

Tucana chart

Constellation Phoenix Constellation Eridanus Constellation Hydrus Constellation Octans Constellation Pavo Constellation Horologium Constellation Indus

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation

α Tucanae is a magnitude 2.9 orange giant star 110 light years away.

β Tuc is a multiple star in a beautiful field. β1,2 is very bright wide pair. β3 is slightly to the south-east. All these three stars are themselves close pairs, making this a sextuple system. The two almost identical magnitude 4.5 blue-white stars β1 and β2 can be seen in binoculars or small telescopes.

δ Tuc is a beautiful bright blue-white star 250 light years away, with a 9th magnitude reddish companion, visible in small telescopes.

κ Tuc is a double star with yellow and orange components 78 light years away. The stars are magnitudes 5.1 and 7.3, so small telescope users should be able to observe them. The angle and separation are slowly diminishing, so the pair will repay periodic observations.

NGC 104 (47 Tuc) is a wonderful globular cluster, crowded with innumerable stars steadily increasing to a dense very bright centre. Distance is estimated to be 16,000 light years away. The bright globular is visible to the unaided eye as a fuzzy star (It was originally catalogued as a star in pre-telescope days); can easily be seen in binoculars; while telescopes will show a most impressive and beautiful sight. Many observers find this their best globular cluster, even more impressive than the larger omega Centauri.

NGC 362 is a beautiful globular cluster, well resolved to a bright compressed centre, appearing near the edge of the Small Magellanic Cloud, but not associated with the Cloud. Distance is around 30,000 light years away.

NGC 121 is a small remarkably elongated globular cluster, that is an outlying globular cluster of the Small Magellanic Cloud, rather than our own galaxy the Milky Way. It appears as a moderately bright, oval haze through reasonable sized telescopes.

The Small Magellanic Cloud is an irregular galaxy about 196,000 light years away, and is a genuine satellite galaxy of our galaxy - the Milky Way.
There are some attractive objects for larger apertures, including the star cluster NGC 330, which appears as a knot of very luminous stars.

NGC 346 is a giant emission nebula in a field sown with stars. This is the largest HII region in the Small Magellanic Cloud, and is easily seen through binoculars.


Tucana is a circumpolar constellation for New Zealand and so is visible throughout the year, but will be very low (and inverted) during the evening in late autumn and winter.

Tucana remains well placed for viewing and at its highest, as the sky gets dark during November. By mid December and during January, Tucana will be getting a little lower and will be tilted on its side below Achernar soon after the sky darkens.

In the late autumn and early winter when Tucana is at its lowest in the early evening, alpha Tuc is only about 12° above the horizon from mid South Island and about 5° from Auckland. By late winter it is rising again in the early evening, now being above Achernar.

TRIANGULUM "The Triangle" (Pronounced tri-ANG-gyah-lum).

Chart showing the constellation.

Triangulum is small but distinctive constellation lying below Aries, with three main stars forming a delta shape. It is an ancient constellation to which Ptolemy assigned four stars. The Greeks referred to the constellation as Deltotron.

To find the constellation look north late evening, between the bright star Aldebaran in Taurus and the "Great Square of Pegasus".

Chart showing Triangulum - as seen about 10.00 to 10.30 pm (NZDT) mid December.

Triangulum chart

Constellation Cetus Constellation Auriga Constellation Perseus Constellation Aries Constellation Taurus Constellation Pisces Constellation Pegasus Constellation Andromeda

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation

α Trianguli is a magnitude 3.4 white star 64 light years away.

β Tri is a magnitude 3.0 white star 124 light years away.

γ Tri is a magnitude 4.0 blue white star 118 light years away.

6 Tri is a pair of bright golden yellow stars, dominating a field of faint stars. This pair is an easy object for small apertures. Each star is the system is actually a spectroscopic binary pair of stars with periods of 14.73 and 2.24 days lying 305 light years away.

M 33 (NGC 598) is a spiral galaxy known as the "Pinwheel or Triangulum Galaxy". It is a galaxy seen almost face-on, and was discovered by Messier in 1764. It lies about three million light years away and is the third largest member in size of the Local Group of Galaxies, following the Andromeda Galaxy and our own Milky Way Galaxy. M 33 is best picked up in binoculars or small telescopes using low powers to increase the contrast. Quite large telescopes are needed to trace out the spiral arms.


Triangulum is well north of the equator and does not rise high in New Zealand skies. α Tri reaches an altitude of about 24° in Auckland, but only 14° as seen from Invercargill. Look for the constellation low to the north as soons as the sky is dark following sunset in December and January. It will be to the north close to midnight in mid November.

TAURUS The "Bull" pronounced TOOR-us

Chart showing Taurus and the Pleiades

Taurus is one of the most ancient constellations, having been known to peoples throughout the world since the dawn of civilisation, for the bull's strength and fertility meant that it held an honoured place in ceremony and religion. The head of the bull is depicted with its face being formed by the V-shaped cluster of stars known as the Hyades, and its glinting red eye marked by the star Aldebaran. Its long horns are tipped by the stars β and ζ Tauri. In addition to the Hyades, Taurus contains the celebrated open cluster of the Pleiades, or "Seven Sisters".

Taurus contained the famous supernova that was seen on Earth in 1054, which gave rise to the Crab Nebula.

To find Taurus, look north in the late evening, low down the sky to find Aldebaran, and the "V" shaped Hyades cluster.

Chart showing Taurus at about 10 pm NZDT early January just as the sky darkens

Taurus and the Pleiades

Constellation Pisces Constellation Cetus Constellation Orion Constellation Perseus Constellation Auriga

Details of some of the objects shown in the chart.

α Tauri, Aldebaran, the follower (of the Pleiades), is a magnitude 0.9 red giant star 68 light years away. Although it appears to be part of the Hyades open cluster, it is in fact an unrelated foreground star.

β Tau (El Nath, meaning 'the butting one') is a magnitude 1.7 blue giant 140 light years away.

ζ Tau is a magnitude 3.0 blue-white star 490 light years away.

θ Tau is an unaided eye or binocular double star 150 light years away in the Hyades cluster consisting of white and yellow giant stars of magnitudes 3.4 and 3.9.

γ Tau (Hyadum 1) is a magnitude 3.7 yellow giant star also about 150 light years away in the Hyades cluster.

κ Tau, 75 light years away, is a white star of magnitude 4.2 that forms an unaided eye or binocular duo with an unrelated white star, 67 Tauri, of magnitude 5.3, 160 light years away.

λ Tau is an eclipsing binary star, varying between magnitudes 3.5 and 4.0, every 4 days.

σ Tau is a wide binocular white double star of magnitudes 4.7 and 5.1.

φ Tau is an optical double star divisible in small telescopes, where the unrelated stars are a magnitude 5.0 orange giant and a white star of magnitude 8.7.

χ Tau is a double star for small telescopes, with blue and gold components of magnitudes 5.4 and 8.2.

The Hyades is a large and important bright nearby cluster of about 200 stars, the brightest of which form a noticeable V shape, easily visible to the unaided eye. In mythology, the Hyades were the daughters of Atlas and Aethra, and half sisters of the Pleiades. Binoculars are best suited for viewing the Hyades, since it covers a large area being nearby astronomically speaking.
Bright Aldebaran is not a member of the cluster, but superimposed on it by chance.

The Pleiades or "Seven Sisters" or M 45 is the brightest and most famous star cluster in the sky. The seven sisters refer to a group of nymphs, the daughters of Atlas and Pleione. Although about six or seven stars are seen by the unaided eye, binoculars bring dozens more into view. There are about 250 stars belonging to the cluster, which lies 415 light years away. The stars in this cluster are younger than the Hyades, and include many young blue giants.

The brightest member of the cluster is η Tauri (Alcyone) at magnitude 2.9. Other brighter members are Celaeno (mag. 5.5), Electra (mag. 3.7), Taygeta (mag. 4.3), Maia (mag. 3.9), Asterope (mag. 5.8), Merope mag. 4.2), Atlas (mag. 3.6) and Pleione (varies between 5.0 and 5.5).

The Pleiades is embedded in faint nebulosity reflected off dust particles. The brightest part of this can be seen round Merope on clear nights in small telescopes. The Maori used the rising of the Pleiades in seasonal planting.

M 1 (NGC 1952) is the celebrated "Crab Nebula", the remains of a star that exploded as the supernova, seen on Earth in 1054. It was discovered by John Bevis in 1731 and again by Charles Messier in 1758 when observing a comet, and this led to his Messier Catalogue of 110 nebulous objects that he thought could be confused with comets. Lord Rosse in Ireland who thought the shape when seen through his 72 inch reflecting telescope in 1848, resembled a crab's pincer, named it the "Crab".


Taurus is visible to the north as soon as it is dark in January. In December Taurus will be to the north about 11 pm, and to the north-east at dusk. The constellation will remain visible to the north-west at dusk during February and March as the Sun sets progressively earlier during these months. However by the end of March the constellation is getting low in the twilight sky

SEXTANS (The Sextant) pronounced SEX-tanz

Chart showing Sextans

Sextans was formed by Hevelius the astronomer about 1680 in honour of the observatory instrument he had used since 1658 to observe star positions. It is not named after the nautical sextant, because that was invented by Hadley in 1730, well after the constellation was named. Hevelius continued to use his sextant for making unaided eye sightings of star positions long after telescopes were available.

It is a faint constellation with little to distinguish it. To find it look to the north in the evening above Regulus in Leo the Lion and below and to the right of Alphard, the heart of Hydra the Water Snake. The head of Hydra, which is easily made out, is to the left of Sextans.

Chart showing Sextans as seen to the north at about 9 pm (NZST) mid April.

Sextans constellation

Constellation Puppis Constellation Pyxis Constellation Hydra Constellation Crater Constellation Virgo Constellation Leo Constellation Cancer

Details of some of the objects shown in the chart.

α Sextantis is a magnitude 4.5 white star 287 light years away.

β Sex is a magnitude 5.1 blue-white star 345 light years away.

γ Sex is a magnitude 5.1 white star 262 light years away.

δ Sex is a magnitude 5.2 white star 300 light years away

NGC 3115 is a 10th magnitude edge on lenticular galaxy looking like a bright pointed spindle, from which it takes its popular name "The Spindle Galaxy". Moderate sized amateur telescopes show its elongated outline and brighter centre. It lies about 30 million light years away.


The constellation Sextans straddles the celestial equator, with α Sex being less than half a degree south of it. From New Zealand the constellation is due north and highest at about 12 pm (NZDT) at the beginning of April 1 and 8 pm (NZST) at the end of April.

By the end of July that the constellation gets lost in the evening twilight.

SCUTUM (Pronounced SKOO-tem or SKYOO-tem) "The Shield"

Chart showing the constellations.

This constellation was originally Scutum Sobiescianum and represents the shield of the Polish king-hero John Sobieski III. It was introduced by the Polish astronomer Hevelius about 1690, and contains rich star clouds of the Milky Way.

Scutum is a difficult constellation to find visually since its brightest star is rather dim at magnitude 3.85. On a clear dark night way from city lights when the Moon is out of the sky, Scutum may be picked out between the bright stars Altair and Antares.

Chart showing Scutum between Antares and Altair as seen to the north
from New Zealand at about midnight in mid July and 10 pm mid August.

Scutum chart

Constellation Libra Constellation Scorpius Constellation Lupus Constellation Sagittarius Constellation Capricornus Constellation Aquarius Equuleus & Delphiunus Sagitta & Vulpecula Constellation Aquila Constellation Hercules Ophiuchus & Serpens

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation

α Scuti is a magnitude 3.85 orange giant star 174 light years away.

β Sct is a magnitude 4.23 white star 690 years away.

δ Sct is the prototype of a rare class of variable stars which pulsate in size every few hours leading to similar small brightness changes. This star's brightness varies between magnitudes 4.7 and 4.85 every 4 hours 40 minutes. It lies about 187 light years away.

M 11 (NGC 6705), the Wild Duck Cluster, is an attractive open cluster of around 500 stars well suited to small telescopes. Kirch first saw it in 1681 while Messier thought it contained a large number of small stars with a brighter leader. Admiral Smyth thought the cluster resembled a "flight of wild ducks". While it lies in a starry field, it is well separated from it. Binoculars show it as a misty patch and small telescopes show a noticeable fan shape. It lies about 6000 light-years away.

M 26 (NGC 6694) is a cluster of fairly bright stars about 5000 light years away. It appears as a gathering of about 40 stars in a field scattered with stars.

NGC 6712 is a moderately bright globular cluster that can be resolved into stars with a 20 cm. telescope. There seems to be a dark lane running into the eastern region of the cluster, almost appearing to cut off a portion. The distance is estimated at around 25,000 light-years.


At its highest, the small constellation Scutum has an altitude between 50° and 60° as seen from New Zealand. It is due north about 11.30 pm in mid July and at about 8.30 pm by the end of August. The constellation remains visible in the early evening sky until the end of October.

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.


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.