ANTLIA, the "Air Pump" and PYXIS the "Compass" (Pronounced ANT-lee-ah and PICK-sis)

Antlia and Pyxis are relatively recent constellations and the product of Nicolas Louis de Lacaille. Antlia was introduced in 1752 as Antlia Pneumatica to commemorate the air pump invented by the famous physicist Robert Boyle. Its name was shortened in 1930 when the constellations were codified. It is a group of inconspicuous stars between Hydra and Vela, and in no way it resembles an air pump. Pyxis is the smallest and least impressive of the four parts into which the ancient constellation of Argo Navis, the Ship, was divided in 1752 by Lacaille. The other sections are Carina, Puppis and Vela.

To find these constellations look toward the highest point in the sky. Pick out the bright stars Canopus and Sirius, and use the chart to orient yourself.

Antlia and Pyxis. Constellation Dorado Constellation Pictor Constellation Carina Constellation Vela Constellation Centaurus Constellation Crater Constellation Sextans Constellation Monoceros Constellation Orion Constellation Lepus Constellation Canis Major Constellation Puppis Constellation Columba Constellation Hydra Constellation Hydra

Details of some of the objects shown in the chart.

α Antliæ, the constellation's brightest star, is a magnitude 4.3 orange giant star 366 light years away.

ζ1, ζ2 Ant is a wide pair of stars with magnitudes 5.8 and 5.9, visible in binoculars. ζ1 Ant is itself a pair of pale yellow stars, able to be effectively split with small apertures.

NGC 3132 is a relatively bright planetary nebula on the border with Vela. This popular planetary nebula called the Eight-burst Nebula appears larger in a telescope than Jupiter.

α Pyxidis, is a magnitude 3.7 blue-white star 845 light years away.

β Pyx is a magnitude 4.0 yellow giant star 388 light years away.

γ Pyx is a magnitude 4.0 orange giant star 209 light years away.


Antlia and Pyxis are well south of the equator and visible from New Zealand during part of the night at all times of year. They are best viewed in the evening during the first half of the year. Parts of the constellations pass overhead for places in Northern New Zealand.

At about 10 pm NZDT in February, the constellations are at mid altitude and to the east, they do not reach their highest altitude until about 1.30 am (NZDT). By mid March they are highest at 11:30 pm and a month later at 8.30 pm (NZST).