Constellation Octans (Octans - Oct)

The name, the history, the myth

The constellation Octant was introduced by Nicholas de La Caille to fill the gaps that the skies of the southern sphere had in comparison to those of the northern sphere, so the name is not dedicated to some mythological history of the past, but is dedicated, as often happens for the southern constellations, to one of the instruments used by astronomers -precursor of the sextant- invented in 1731 by John Hadley and used to determine the position of the stars in navigation. Octant" means "the reflection quadrant, used by navigators to measure the height from the horizon to the pole", but also the height of all other stars in general.
But this constellation, apparently born from the need to occupy a void in the maps, acquires a certain relevance since it "contains" the southern north pole.


To locate the constellation is very simple in the austral hemisphere because the Octant is the symmetrical constellation of our Minor Bear. In fact, the Octant contains the Celestial South Pole even if a bright star doesn't exist inside it so that it can indicate the precise point as it happens more or less with our Polaris. From the northern hemisphere it is visible only for latitudes below 15°.

Heavenly bodies

From the telescopic point of view, the Octant is completely devoid of interesting objects.
From the stellar point of view, the brightest star is Nu, with magnitude 3.8 while the one indicated with alpha has magnitude 5.2.
Nu is an orange star about 64 light years away. Alpha is white and is about 250 light years away from us.
The southern counterpart of the Polaris is, instead, Sigma Oct, with magnitude 5.5 and therefore at the limit of visibility to the naked eye and 1° from the South Celestial Pole.

Audio Video Constellation Octans (Octans - Oct)
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