• Dor - Dorado the Swordfish

    IAU Constellation

    Size

    72 of 88

    Astronomical Regions

    Intro and Visual description

    Dorado the Swordfish is a small and obscure but very interesting constellation. It contains the Large Magellenic Cloud (LMC) and the only recent naked-eye supernova. In addition, the south ecliptic pole is located about where the "eye" of the fish would be. The Large and Small Magellenic Clouds are bright enough to be visible even in Moonlight.

  • Eri - Eridanus the River

    IAU Constellation

    Size

    6 of 88

    Astronomical Regions

    Intro and Visual description

    The River Eridanus flows northward (like the Nile) from the bright star Achernar (Arabic for "End of the River") to Kursa (beta-Eridani) near Rigel in Orion. Eridanus is the longest (not largest) constellation, spanning over 50 degrees of declination, and its many faint stars glitter like reflecting light off the surface of its waves.

  • Oct - Octans the Octant

    IAU Constellation

    Size

    50 of 88

    Astronomical Regions

    Intro and Visual description

    Octans the Octant is devoid of bright stars, but three faint stars (not numbered by brightness) make a small triangle.

    The south celestial pole actually lies within Octans. No RA (visible anytime).  

    The nearest easy-to-spot star to the south pole is Beta-Hydri in Hydrus the Little Snake. No brighter star than Achernar (alpha-Eridani) is closer to the south celestial pole, which lies midway between Achernar (Eridanus) and Crux.

  • Nubecula Minor the Small Magellenic Cloud

    Asterism Visual Appearance

    Located between: Hydrus, Tucana.

    Asterism Origin and History

    The Large and Small Magellenic clouds (LMC and SMC) are satellite galaxies bubbled off of the Milky Way like spray from a fountain. However, some astronomers consider them galaxies in their own right (the LMC has a degree of spiral structure). These bright regions of light, observed by Ferdinand Magellan in 1519 and by other early explorers like Amerigo Vespucci and Marco Polo, are also known as Cape Clouds.

    The LMC (166,000 LY away) lies almost between Canopus and the south pole, or on a line from Sirius through Canopus. The LMC contains the Tarantula Nebula.

    The SMC (slightly farther than the LMC) lies almost between Achernar and the south pole in the constellation Tucana the Toucan.

  • Nubecula Major the Large Magellenic Cloud

    Asterism Visual Appearance

    Located between: Hydrus, Mons Mensae, Reticulus, Dorado the Swordfish (Xiphias).

    Asterism Origin and History

    The Large and Small Magellenic clouds (LMC and SMC) are satellite galaxies bubbled off of the Milky Way like spray from a fountain. However, some astronomers consider them galaxies in their own right (the LMC has a degree of spiral structure). These bright regions of light, observed by Ferdinand Magellan in 1519 and by other early explorers like Amerigo Vespucci and Marco Polo, are also known as Cape Clouds.

    The LMC (166,000 LY away) lies almost between Canopus and the south pole, or on a line from Sirius through Canopus. The LMC contains the Tarantula Nebula.

    The SMC (slightly farther than the LMC) lies almost between Achernar and the south pole in the constellation Tucana the Toucan.

    On February 23-24 in 1987 the Large Magellenic Cloud was the site of Supernova 1987A. It "went off like a firecracker" and was observed by two astronomers at a remote mountain observatory near Las Campanas, Chile (29 degrees south latitude). Ian Shelton and Oscar Duhalde both observed this new star flare up only 4 degrees from the south ecliptic pole. At maximum intensity three months later the supernova was at magnitude 2.8, about the same brightness as the fourth brightest star of Crux. Then it grew redder, and by the end of the year diminished to the threshold of naked-eye visibility.

    Supernova 1987A was the first naked-eye supernova in or near our galaxy since the invention of the telescope. The last two were Kepler’s Supernova, which appeared in Ophiuchus in 1604, and Tycho’s Star, which appeared in Cassiopeia in 1572. Tycho’s Star was visible for 16 months, and at its brightest could be seen in full daylight. The Crab Nebula in Taurus is believed by many to be the result of a supernova in 1054.