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.