Star Names:

Pyxis


Map of The Constellation of Pyxis
Please hover over any star to get more information
Pyxis, or the Mariner's Compass, is a small, inconspicuous constellation in the southern hemisphere. It was first listed in the 18th century by the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, who named it Pyxis Nautica. The name was later shortened to Pyxis, the compass box. There are no myths associated with the constellation.

Pyxis lies near the stern of what used to be Argo Navis, a large constellation that represented the Argonauts’ ship, but was subdivided into the smaller constellations, Carina (the keel), Puppis (the stern), and Vela (the sails) by Lacaille. In the 19th century, English astronomer John Herschel proposed that Pyxis be renamed to Malus, the mast, and become another subdivision of Argo Navis. His suggestion was not accepted and the constellation retained the name Pyxis.

The constellation Pyxis occupies an area of 221 square degrees and contains three stars with known planets. It can be seen at latitudes between +50° and -90° and is best visible at 9 p.m. during the month of March.

Pyxis does not contain any stars brighter than fourth magnitude. The brightest star in the constellation is [7194] alpha Pyxidis, a hot, blue variable giant star, 845 light-years distant. Its visual magnitude is 3.68 and would be closer to magnitude 3 if it wasn’t for the interstellar dust obscuring the star.

The most notable star in the constellation is probably T Pyxidis, a cataclysmic variable star or recurrent nova. The star is composed of a white dwarf and a companion star, lying approximately 6,000 light-years away from Earth. It erupted in 1890, 1902, 1920, 1944 and 1967, so the next outburst should be very bright because more time has passed since the last one and more fuel has been able to accumulate on the white dwarf.

The second brightest star in Pyxis is [7195] beta Pyxidis, a binary star approximately 390 light-years distant, that appears to be a G-class giant.

[7196] gamma Pyxidis, the third brightest star, is another giant, similar in composition to the Sun. It lies approximately 209 light-years away from our solar system.

Pyxis contains a couple of interesting deep sky objects. NGC 2613 is a spiral galaxy similar in type and size to the Milky Way, approximately 60 million light-years distant. It can be seen near [7194] alpha Pyxidis and appears almost edge-on.

NGC 2818 is an open galactic cluster that can also be seen close to [7194] alpha Pyxidis. The cluster contains a small planetary nebula, PN 261+8.1.

Pyxis belongs to the Heavenly Waters family of constellations, along with Delphinus, Equuleus, Eridanus, Piscis Austrinus, Carina, Puppis, Vela and Columba.

Constellations directly bordering Pyxis are Hydra, Puppis, Vela and Antlia.



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