Sextans (The astronomical sextant)

Leo, Hydra, SextansSextans is Latin for astronomical sextant, and was so-named by Johannes Hevelius who frequently used this instrument for his observations. Sextans is very dim as its brightest star barely exceeds 5th magnitude – close to the limit that can be seen with the unaided eye. Sextans is located on the celestial equator below Leo’s front leg, and Hydra slithers along below it. This constellation reaches its highest nightfall ascendance in April, and it contains little else of interest to the amateur astronomer.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sextans

IAU Sextans chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.
IAU Sextans chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Serpens (The serpent)

Serpens Caput, Corona Borealis Sagittarius, Scutum, SerpensSerpens is unique among modern constellations in that it is separated into two parts. Serpens Caput, the head, begins near Corona Borealis, and descends southward until it connects to Ophiuchus (the serpent bearer). Serpens Cauda, the tail, begins on the other side of Ophiuchus and ascends north and eastward, terminating near Aquila. Serpens is often depicted as passing behind Ophiuchus and emerging from the other side. Since Serpens is a lengthy constellation that extends primarily in an east-west direction, it reaches its highest nightfall ascension beginning in June with the head and ending with the tail in August. The entire constellation is situated for best nightfall viewing in July.

Serpens Cauda extends into the Milky Way, so there are several deep sky objects in that section. Two of these are Messier objects, M5, and M16 (the Eagle Nebula, which includes the Pillars of Creation and its associated star cluster). Hoag’s Object is a face-on example of a very rare class of galaxies known as ring galaxy.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpens

IAU Serpens Caput chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnert and Rick Fienbert), March 21, 2012.
IAU Serpens Caput chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienbert), March 21, 2012.
IAU Serpens Cauda chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnertt and Rick Fienberg), March 21, 2012.
IAU Serpens Cauda chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), March 21, 2012.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Scutum (The shield)

Scutum, SagittariusOriginally named Scutum Sobiescianum (Shield of Sobieski) to commemorate the victory of Christian forces led by Polish King John III Sobieski in the Battle of Vienna in 1683, the name was later shortened to Scutum. This is a small, dim constellation located between the tail of Aquila, above the head of Sagittarius, and to the left of Ophiuchus. Scutum reaches its highest nightfall ascension in August. It contains two Messier star clusters, M11 (the Wild Duck Cluster), and M26 (NGC 6694).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scutum

609px-Scutum_IAU.svg
IAU Scutum chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.

 

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Hydra (The water snake)

Hydra, SextansHydra is the largest of the 88 modern constellations, and was one of the 48 constellations cataloged by 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. Hydra’s head lies at a point about halfway between Procyon in Canis Minor and Regulus in Leo. From there, it snakes (pun intended) south and eastward below Leo and Virgo, sharing two stars with Crater along the way, before ending just below the right scale of Libra. Hydra’s head reaches its highest nightfall ascension in March, but the tail does not reach that point until three months later in June. The best over all view of Hydra is in late April. Hydra is home to three Messier objects: M83 (the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy), M68 (a globular star cluster), and M48 (an open star cluster).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydra_(constellation)

IAU Hydra chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.
IAU Hydra chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Crater (The cup)

CraterCrater is Latin for cup, and this constellation represents the cup of Apollo in Greek mythology. This is one of the 48 constellations identified by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. It is located below Leo’s feet, and behind Virgo’s back in the southern sky, sharing two stars with the constellation Hydra. This constellation reaches its highest nightfall ascension in April. Aside from a handful of NGC objects that are a challenge for amateur astronomers, there is not much to see in this constellation.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crater_(constellation)

IAU Crater chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.
IAU Crater chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Pyxis (The mariner’s compass)

Pyxis is a small, dim southern constellation. Locate it by following Canis Major’s tail away from the dog’s body and through and just to the other side of Puppis. This constellation’s deep southern placement makes it difficult to see at all. It reaches its highest nightfall ascension in March. Although the Milky Way runs through this constellation, there are few deep space objects available to the amateur astronomer’s telescope.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyxis

IAU Pyxis chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.
IAU Pyxis chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Monoceros (The unicorn)

MonocerosCCThe unicorn is a dim equatorial constellation that is in very close proximity to several major constellations that steal the show in the region of the sky. Monoceros is south of Canis Minor and Gemini, to the left of Orion, and north of Canis Major, and reaches its highest nightfall ascension in March. There is one Messier object, M50, and four named deep space objects: Rosette Nebula (NGC 2237, 2238, 2239, and 2246), the Christmas Tree Cluster (NGC 2264), the Cone Nebula (NGC 2264), and Hubble’s Nebula (NGC 2261).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monoceros

IAU Monoceros chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.
IAU Monoceros chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Colomba (The dove)

Monoceros, Puppis, ColumbaColomba was originally named Colmba Noachi, latin for Noah’s Dove. This is a small, dim southern constellation located below the feet of Canis Major. It is so far south that it is only visible at nightfall for a few months centered on February, when it reaches its highest nightfall ascension. In addition to being visually uninteresting due to its small size, dimness, and far south placement, it is also telescopically uninteresting as well. Only one unremarkable globular star cluster (NGC 1851) can be found there with medium-sized amateur telescopes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columba_(constellation)

IAU Columba chart, IAU and Sky Telescope magazine, June 5, 2011.
IAU Columba chart, IAU and Sky Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Puppis (The poop deck)

MonocerosPuppis, the poop deck, was once part of a much larger constellation, Argos Navis, the famous ship of Jason and the Argonauts. Puppis is the largest remnant, and Carina (keel and hull) and Vela (the sails) are the other modern constellations that were once part of Argos Navis. Puppis is located to the south and east of Canis Major, or just behind the dog’s tail. This constellation is visible just a few months of the year because of its far southern placement. It reaches its highest nightfall ascension in March, and is only visible at nightfall just a month or two before and after March. The Milky Way runs through Puppis, which accounts for the star clusters that are found there. M46 and M47 are two Messier clusters than can be seen in the same binocular field of view, and there is a third Messier cluster, M93, in the south of Puppis. There are several NGC star clusters in Puppis as well.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puppis

IAU Puppis chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnoff and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.
IAU Puppis chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott and Rick Fienberg), June 5, 2011.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net

Canes Venatici (The hunting dogs)

Canes VenaticiCanes Venatici represents the hunting dogs of Bootes, the herdsman. This is a small northern constellation consisting of only two main stars, and it is located below the Big Dipper’s curved handle and to the right of Bootes. Canes Venatici reaches its highest nightfall ascension in May.

In spite of its small size, Canes Venatici is very interesting in its arrangement of galaxies. The Giant Void, the largest galactic supervoid known, exists along side several other notable galaxies. There are four Messier galaxies: M51 (the Whirlpool Galaxy), M63 (the Sunflower Galaxy), M94, and M106. A fifth Messier object in the M3 globular star cluster, which is bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye under a very dark sky.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canes_Venatici

IAU Canes Venatici chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott & Rick Fienberg), June 4, 2011.
IAU Canes Venatici chart, IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine (Roger Sinnott & Rick Fienberg), June 4, 2011.

© James R. Johnson, 2014.
jim@jrjohnson.net