The Sextans constellations is one of the more interesting out there. Unlike most other constellations, it doesn’t take it’s name from mythology. It has several stars that are visible from earth without using a telescope. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting details about Sextans.
- Bordered By; Hydra, Leo, Crater.
- Named after; The Sextant
- Declination; 0 degrees
- Brightest Star; Alpha Sextantis
- Best seen; Southern Hemisphere January-May
- Size rank; 47th
- Constellation family; Hercules
- Pronunciation; SEX-TUHNZ
Who Founded the Sextans Constellation?
The Sextans constellation was founded by a Polish man named Johannes Hevelius, who worked as a brewer and local politician, as well as being a respected astronomer. As well as Sextans, he is responsible for founding six other constellations that we still use today; Canes Venatici, Lacerta, Leo Minor, Lynx, Scutum and Vulpecula were all accepted by the IAU (International Astronomical Union). He did find others like Cerberus, but this wasn’t accepted.
What is Sextans named after?
Unlike many other constellations that are named after mythology, the Sextans constellation actually takes it’s name from something else. They’re actually named after Sextants, which used to be a popular large device used by astronomers back in the 16th and 17th Century – however they date back even further than this, and were fist used more than a thousand years ago. A Sextant was used to help us measure the position of stars.
How can I see the Sextans constellation?
The best time of year to see Sextans is probably in February. It is best seen at latitudes between +80° and -90°.
Major Stars of Sextans
Let’s take a look at the major stars which make up the Sextans constellation. You can match them up with their Latin
Alpha Sextantis (α)
The brightest star of Sextans is Alpha Sextantis. It’s so bright that it’s actually sometimes visible without even using a telescope; in fact, the founder Johannes Hevelius would often brag that he was able to identify Sextans without the use of a telescope. Alpha Sextantis is more than 295 million years old, and has an estimated radius of more than 3x the Sun.
Beta Sextantis (β)
Like Alpha Sextantis, it is also possible to see Beta Sextantis without using a telescope or binoculars. It is what is known as a variable star – this means that it’s brightness will change depending on when you look at it. It is almost double the size of the Sun.
Gamma Sextantis (γ)
Gamma Sextantis has a distance from us of around 280 million light years, and it’s actually visible without a telescope (however, it is quite dim so you may not be able to identify it). It’s a binary star, which means that it’s essentially two stars which orbit around another object, known as it’s barycenter.
Delta Sextantis (δ)
Delta Sextantis is another large star, with double the mass of the Sun and it’s visible to the naked eye. It’s more than 322 million light years away from Earth.
LHS 292 is worth mentioning too as one of the major stars in the Sextans constellation. You won’t be able to see it with a telescope like you can Alpha Sextantis, but it’s visible with an amateur telescope. It is quite dim, but this can change and it can get suddenly bright; this is because it’s what is known as a ‘flare star’, which is a star that can brighter sometimes.
Overall, the Sextans constellation is another interesting one to look out for when you’re exploring the night sky. Whilst it’s best seen in the Southern Hemisphere during certain parts of the year, you can still look out for it outside of these times too.