Pyxis constellation is a small southern hemisphere constellation that represents a mariner’s compass. It was introduced by Ptolemy in the 2nd century but as part of the larger Argo Navis constellation. Later on, thanks to famous French astronomer Nicolas de Lacaille did the Argo Navis split into three more constellations, and that is how the Pyxis was created. De Lacaille referred to it as Pyxis Nautica at first, but the name was later on shortened to Pyxis. The constellation is now recognized and accepted by IAU, and part of its 88 modern constellations list.
How to find Pyxis constellation?
The location of Pyxis constellation is near the former Argo Navis constellation which is linked to the story of Jason and the Argonauts. Later on, the Argo Navis was divided into several smaller constellations, and Pyxis is one of them.
Pyxis is the 65th constellation in size, and it is set in the second quadrant of the southern hemisphere. The constellation is visible to all observers at latitudes between +50° and -90°, and it is bordered by Antlia, Vela, Puppis, and Hydra constellations.
Major stars in Pyxis constellation
This constellation contains several deep-sky objects like the barred spiral galaxy NGC 2613, the planetary nebula NGC 2818 and the open cluster NGC 2627. Pyxis is a home of three stars with its planets and contains no Messier objects. There are no meteor showers that are linked to Pyxis constellation. The brightest star in Pyxis is Alpha with a magnitude of 3.68.
Mythology of the Pyxis constellation
This constellation was known to Ptolemy, but not by name Puppis, but as a shield around Argo Navis constellation that was associated with the story of Jason and the Argonauts and their quest to steal the fur for Jason’s throne. Argo Navis was the name of the ship that was in command of Greek hero Jason who he used to go on a trip to Colchis to steal the fur of the Aries (the Golden Fierce). He had help from Castor, Pollux, and Hercules. Jason wanted to steal the fur so he can give it to his brother Pelias who was at the throne as a present that could help him win the throne back. The Golden Fierce was guarded by a dragon, but Medea helped Jason and the Argonauts to steal the fur. In honor, both Fierce and Argo Navis was placed at the night sky as constellations.
Pyxis was first introduced by French astronomer Nicolas de Lacaille during the mid-18th century. He first named it Pixis Nautica, but the name was eventually shortened to just Pyxis. The constellation got its name from the magnetic compass that navigators and seamen used. Pyxis was never to be part of the Argo Navis since Ptolemy depicted it now as part of Argo Navis but as the stars that are located around the ship forming the shape of a shield. Pyxis is however sometimes mentioned as the forth Argo Navis constellation, along with Carina, Puppis, and Vela constellations.
In 1844. Herschel suggested renaming the constellation with Malus which meant the mast since the constellation is a subdivision of Argo Navis. This suggestion was never accepted by the astronomical community, but Pyxis was later on listed as one of the 88 modern-known constellations by the International Astronomical Union.