Tucana Constellation | The Toucan

The Tucana constellation is one of the best to see if you’re located in the Southern hemisphere. It’s part of a group of constellations known as the “Southern birds”, along with Pavo, Phoenix and Grus. Along with several stars in the constellation, we can also see the Small Magellanic Cloud, which is another galaxy. Let’s look at some facts about the Tucana constellation.

  • Bordered By; Grus, Indus, Octans, Hydrus, Eridanus, Phoenix.
  • Named after; The Toucan
  • Declination; -56° to -75°
  • Brightest Star; Alpha Tucanae
  • Best seen; Southern Hemisphere, August
  • Size rank; 48th
  • Constellation family; Bayer
  • Pronunciation; TOO-CAA-NAA

Tucana takes it’s name from the Latin word for Toucan. We know that throughout history, this constellation has clearly been depicted a as a toucan. It is one of the group of “southern bird” constellations, along with Pavo, Grus and Phoenix.

Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman were two Dutch navigators and explorers who sailed through South Asia, and they’re responsible for this constellation and 11 others. They discovered Tucana whilst on their travels, and later astronomer Petrus Plancius documented it in his writings.

With it’s declination of more than -56°, it’s best to see Tucana in the Southern hemisphere. Typically, the best months to see Tucana is through August and September.

There are six different main stars in Tucana to talk about, as well as another galaxy which is interesting too. You can match the stars up with their respective names below!

  • Alpha Tucanae (α) – The brightest star in this constellation is known as Alpha Tucanae. It is a binary star system, and it is more than 420x the luminosity of the Sun.
  • Gamma Tucanae (γ) – Gamma Tucanae is around 75 light years away from the Sun, and it’s the 2nd brightest star in Tucana. It’s estimated to be 1.4 billion years old.
  • Zeta Tucanae (ζ) – We know Zeta Tucanae for it’s similarity to our Sun, as it has around the same mass, although it is younger than our Sun at only 3 billion years age!
  • Beta Tucanae (β) – Although not the brightest star in this constellation, Beta Tucanae is actually a group of six different stars, which we refer to as β¹ – β³. They are primarily white dwarf main sequence stars.
  • Epsilon Tucanae (ε) – This star is either a blue white main sequence star, or a subgiant star. It is around 373 light years away from the Sun.
  • Delta Tucanae (δ) – Delta Tucanae is a pair of stars that have an estimated 3x radius of the Sun.

As well as the stars in Tucana, you can also see the Small Magellanic Cloud. This is actually another small galaxy, which we refer to as a “dwarf galaxy”. It is approximately 200,000 light years away from us, it’s actually quite close to the Milky Way. The Small Magellanic Cloud is actually no that bright, so you won’t be able to see it without a telescope. And if you do want to see it with a telescope, you’ll need to ensure there are clear skies and you’re in an area with low light pollution.

You can also find 47 Tucanae in the Tucana constellation. This is one of the brightest globular clusters in the solar system, exceeded only by Omega Centauri. This cluster is filled with millions of stars, this cluster is quite easy to see, as in the right conditions it is as larger as the moon.

Tucana is one of the constellations in the Southern hemisphere that is very easy to identify what it is – even other cultures and countries have this constellation documented as the “bird’s beak” throughout history.

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