Pyxis Constellation: Facts & Myths

The field of Astrology has been the hotspot for human research and discoveries since time immemorial. Studying of stars, finding patterns from them, using them to find directions during long voyages were some among the many aspects of Astrology on which a lot of focus was given. Formulation of constellations from a group of stars that yield imaginary and meaningful patterns and some of them later on forming the zodiac signs has been a vast field of research in today’s time. This article is based on one of the 88 registered modern constellations named Pyxis.

Some basics of Pyxis

Discovered by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the 18th century, Pyxis is a small and faintly visible constellation found in the southern sky. It derives its name from the Latin term Pyxis Nautica which means a mariner’s compass. It lies on the plane of Milky Way Galaxy and has three brightest stars named Alpha, Beta and Gamma Pyxidis. Alpha Pyxidis is the brightest star of the entire constellation at a magnitude of 3.68, 880 light years distant and 22000 times as luminous as the Sun. Pyxis contains a number of notable deep sky objects, including nebula NGC 2818, open cluster NGC 2627 and barred spiral galaxy NGC 2613. It belongs to the family of Heavenly Waters constellations and is ranked 65th constellation in size, thus occupying an area of 221 square degrees.

History associated

The constellation Pyxis was named and discovered by the French Astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1751-52 during his exploration of the southern skies. The constellation represents the magnetic compass used by the navigators in the early days. It lies in the vicinity of three constellations that were earlier known as Argo Navis, the ship of Jason and the Argonauts. The International Astronomical Union(IAU) finally acknowledged Pyxis as a part of the 88 modern constellations.

Major Stars of Pyxis

The following are the major stars in Pyxis: –

  • Alpha Pyxidis- It is a giant blue star of the spectral class B1.5III. It has a magnitude of 3.68 and is 880 light years away. It has more than 10 solar masses, radius nearly about six times that of the sun and is about 10000 times more luminous than the Sun.
  • Beta Pyxidis- It is a binary star with a magnitude of 3.954 and distance of 420 light years. It is the second brightest star of Pyxis and it has a radius of about 28 times that of the Sun.
  • Gamma Pyxidis- It is the third brightest star of the constellation and is the orange star of spectral type K3III. It is 209 light years apart.
  • T Pyxidis- It is a binary star with the visual magnitude of 15.5. It is 3260 light years distant and has been increasing in mass for many years. The two stars of the system lie close and experience periodic eruptions.
  • Kappa Pyxidis- It has multiple stars of spectral classification K5III. It has a combined magnitude of 4.62 and is 487 light years distant. The brightest component is an orange giant.
  • Theta Pyxidis- It is a red giant of magnitude 4.71 and distance of 522 light years.
  • Zeta Pyxidis- It is another multiple star with a distance of 236 light years from the Sun.
  • Delta Pyxidis- It is another multiple star with a magnitude of 4.87 and 226 light years apart.

Deep Sky Objects

NGC 2818, NGC 2627 and NGC 2613 are the notable deep sky objects present nearby the constellation with an average distance of 10000 light years. These are by nature planetary nebula, open cluster and barred spiral galaxy respectively.