Pyxis Constellation | The Marine Compass

If you’re looking to learn a little more about the Pyxis constellation, then you’re in the right place. This constellation has a ton of different stars in it, so there’s a lot to learn about! It is one of the few constellations that was discovered by French astronomer Nicolas Lacaille whilst he was situated in South Africa. Lets look at some more information about Pyxis.

  • Bordered By; Hydra, Puppis, Vela, Antlia.
  • Named after; The Marine Compass
  • Declination; -30°
  • Brightest Star; Alpha Pyxidis
  • Best seen; January
  • Size rank; 65th
  • Constellation family; Lacaille
  • Pronunciation; PIKES-ISS

Pyxis takes its name from the marine compass that many navigators would have used back in the 18th and 19th Century. At some point, stars in this constellation have actually been used as part of other constellations, like the sail of Jason’s ship, Argo Navis.

This constellation was one of few created by the French astronomer Nicolas Lacaille. Lacaille was known for his travels, and he settled in South Africa for a short period, where he done much of his astronomy work related to the Southern hemisphere. He lated returned to France and released his astronomical stars and constellations, some of which we use today.

If you want to see the constellation Pyxis in the sky, it’s best seen in the start of the year in the Southern hemisphere. Look for it between the months of January and March.

There are many stars within the Pyxis constellation to be aware of. Lets take a look at them – you can match them up with the image below.

  • Alpha Pyxidis (α) – Alpha Pyxidis is the biggest star in this constellation. It is more than 10x more massive than the Sun, and more than 10,000x as luminous.
  • Beta Pyxidis (β) – The next brightest star in this constellation is called Beta Pyxidis. However, even though it’s the second brightest, this isn’t saying much – this is a particularly faint constellation.
  • Gamma Pyxidis (γ) – Gamma Pyxidis is a singular star with a orange hue, situated around 207 light years away from the Sun. It’s a red clump star that is estimated to be more than 4 billion years old. 
  • Kappa Pyxidis (κ) – Another ageing giant star in this constellation, Kappa Pyxidis is more than 520 light years away. It has 927x the luminosity of the Sun.
  • Theta Pyxidis (θ) – This star is estimated to be 54x the size of our Sun, and more than 970x as luminous. It is another red giant star.
  • Lambda Pyxidis (λ) – Lambda Pyxidis is a yellow hued star that is part of a binary system. It’s estimated to be 1.3 billion years old.
  • Zeta Pyxidis (ζ) – Zeta Pyxidis is a binary star that is situated around 244 light years away from the Sun. It is almost 2 billion years old, and has approximately double the mass of the Sun.
  • Delta Pyxidis (δ) – This star is approximately 250 light years away from the Sun, with an estimated temperature of around 8,000K.

All in all, Pyxis is one of the smaller constellations up there in our night sky and one of the faintest too. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look for it! It is easily found, especially if you look at the beginning of the year from the Southern hemisphere.

It’s location next to the old Argo Navis constellation have led to it being referred to as the Marine Compass, which is a common nickname for it. Its lack of stars and meteor shower often lead to it being overlooked, but you can see it up in the night sky.

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