Phoenix - Pictor - Puppis - Pyxis


An impressive constellation, well-befitting its noble original. Packed with interesting objects of all descriptions, notably several interesting binocular variables. Good fields, especially in the Northern parts.

Groups of stars

1. π (4.4). Fine fields around this star.

2. θ (5.9). Another star in an attractive area.

3. 19h 20m, -63. Beautiful field of tiny stars.

4. 19h 42m, -66. Superb field, extending over several degrees to the North.

Wide doubles

μ1. This forms a fine wide pair with μ2. Delta Pavonis, in the same field, is also a wide double.

Close doubles

ν . The primary is 4.8 and the secondary 3 magnitudes fainter, at a distance of 99" of arc.

σ . A good binocular double of 5.5 and 7.1. Distance is 135".

P.30. This is a fine pair, even for the smallest glasses, both 7m and yellow. Easy at 178"


P.94. Faint but equal, separated by 180". Near the following star.

P.95. Less alike in brightness (6 and 8m) and slightly closer at 163".

P.98. A lovely seventh-magnitude pair, white and orange in colour, and 142 seconds of arc apart.

Variable stars

S (6.7-9.3) A rewarding star to observe of the "SRa" class - that is, a semi-regular variable but with a persistent period. Many red variables spend long periods changing little, or not even varying at all, but this isn't one of them. A chart is supplied for it.

X (7.9-9.3) Another red variable, shown on the same chart.

Y (5.7-8.5) This is also a good star for binoculars, with a large range of light variation, and again a chart is provided.

Z (7.7-9.1) This variable makes a triangle with two other stars of 6.7 and 7.8. A third star of 8.3m lies some way to the East.

KZ (7.7-9.3) The best guide to this red star is the fifth-magnitude o. This makes the sharp point of an isosceles triangle with KZ and a 6.8m star. Between these two are three stars in a horizontal line of 8.2, 9.3 and 9.0.

OW (7.8-8.9) Quite easy to find near the fourth-magnitude pi, the field of this red variable is unfortunately rather devoid of useful stars.

Clusters and Nebulae

NGC 6752. A globular cluster visible as a large misty gleam behind a star of magnitude seven.


Another of the Southern Birds, and a fine group to both the eye and binoculars.

Groups of stars

1. υ (5.2) Fine sweeping around here, especially SE and NW.

2. φ (5.0) lies in a beautiful region of coarse groups of stars.

3.GC 705. An orange star of magnitude 5.9. Note a tiny triple close by, and several long lines of faint stars.

Wide doubles

ι . This has a 6m companion to the S., and a neat little triangle Northwards.

Close doubles

P.142. Forming a long isosceles triangle with two bright stars, this is an attractive orange pair separated by 36", though quite faint.

Variable stars

S (7.4-8.2) This red variable is well-served with useful stars; three, just to the South, of 7.5, 7.7 and 6.7, and a little triangle not far away of (W to E) 8.2, 7.9 and 7.4.

SX (6.5-7.5) A remarkable star to observe, this is a (very) short-period Cepheid of the type known as the RR Lyrae stars. In fact, these stars are also further divided on the basis of period, and this is the prototype of these ultra-short period stars. The period of SX Phe is only just over 1 hour - so you can actually watch it brighten over the course of a few minutes! Take a look at it, for instance, between estimates of other stars, taking note of the time as exactrly as you can. I have supplied a chart for this easy variable - though you might not always catch it on the rise.


An apparently faint group to the eye, though like Camelopardalis in the North, it has many stars just beyond naked-eye visibility. A fine binocular group.

Groups of stars

1. η 1 and 2. A very wide pair, close to a beautiful little bright Y.

2. 05h 25m, -52. Large triangle, including θ. Note a fine V of stars near ζ (5.2) and numerous wide groups.

3. β (3.9). Note an attractive group to the South, of which the southern member is double.

Close doubles

θ . A beautiful object of 6.3 and 6.8m, separated by 38" of arc.

P.19. Another attractive pair, both of 7.4m. Distance is 121".

P.21. A rather harder one this time, on account of the dim (8.0) secondary star. Separation in this case is 64 seconds.

P.109. A lovely bright double of 5.5 and 6.5, 197" apart. Easy with any form of optical aid.

P.110. Mentioned under group (3), the mags. here are 6.4 and 7.6 and the distance is 84".

P.112. Magnitudes of 6.0 and 8.6 make this a difficult object to split, though it is quite wide at 189" of arc.

Variable stars

W (7.5-9.3) This is a deep red star of spectrum N, though if it is faint, the light level will be too low for the cones of the eye to register much in the way of colour. A chart is given.


A really splendid constellation which, though accessible from many Northern countries, seems to belong with Vela and Carina in the good ship Argo.

Groups of stars

1. Large, brilliant distorted hexagon with a bright central star. Includes m, and adjoins another rich area around p, k, 3 and ξ (3.5).

2. Large, rather amorphous group containing 9 and 10.

3. c(3.7). This red star is the centre of the brilliant cluster NGC 2451. A bright wavy line trails from here to zeta, which is one of the hottest stars in the sky.

4. Small but bright oval group including q and r, with a splendid group below r, and a wide double in the centre. r is slightly variable and is also known as MX Puppis.

5. Small group attending π including the wide double v2, also known by a variable star name, this time NV Pup.

6. E(5.4) lies in a fine area of pretty groups.

7. F(4.2) is another star in a brilliant region.

8. H(5.1). This is the southern member of a large bright V.

Wide doubles

n. Note a fine wide pair to the South.

h3834. A telescopic double, but with two binocular companions.

GC 8960. This 5.1m star has a delicate wide triple a degree to the S.

2 and 4. An unequal but bright pair in a beautiful field.

k. A star with two companions, of magnitudes 6 and 8.

ξ . This bright object has a yellow neighbour of 5.3m.

11. Good glasses show three faint acolytes attending this fourth-magnitude star.

v2. See above. Magnitudes 4.7 and 5.1. Beautiful.

d1. This has a faint neighbour to the North. d3 nearby is a more equal pair. This whole area is laden with clusters and sprinkles of stars.

Close doubles

Δ38. A bright but close pair: mags 5.8 and 6.9, distance only 26".

h4038. Very difficult, of the same separation as the previous star, but more unequal magnitudes.

h5443. Rather easier, though the companion is still rather faint at 8.0m. Separation is 214".

P.7. A faint pair 134" apart immersed in the cluster NGC2220.

P.9. A fine double, though rather disparate in magnitudes of 5.4 and 7.0 and 61" distance. Beautiful field.

P.10. Another splendid double, near r. Magnitudes 5 and 6, distance 67".

P.22. A attractive red and blue pair 191" apart. Equal magnitudes.

Variable stars

L2 (2.6-6.2) This brightest example of the semi-regular variables needs only the slightest optical aid to show it even at minimum. The following stars, all shown in Nortons 2000, can be used as comparisons: σ (3.3), I(4.5), L1(5.0), C(5.3) and M(6.0).

RU (7.6-9.3) A deep red variable best found from the bright star r Puppis. It is the northern member of a little equilateral of 8.3 and 8.4m stars, and a dim line of 9.4, 9.2 and 9.0 trails westward from RU.

RY (7.0-8.0) This is only a probable range, as there is some doubt as to whether this star is actually variable. So you can try and see for yourself, I have provided a chart.

OT (8.1-9.1) This red star is the easternmost of a neat right-angle (other stars 8.0 and 8.2, between which are two fainter comparisons of 8.8 and 9.1).

QY (6.2-6.7) A peculiar variable which, although of small amplitude, is easy to find between 2 and 6 Pup. It is the North member of an attractive double whose other member is of 6.8m. Observe it once a week.

Clusters and Nebulae

NGC 2477. Visible as a large misty spot attending b (4.5), and in a brilliant region.

NGC 2546. Large glasses will reveal several stars in this cluster, which is in a beautiful field.

M.47(NGC 2422). Most binoculars will show about a dozen stars in this bright cluster, which does not appear as nebulous as most.

M.46(NGC 2437). A rather faint cluster for most binoculars.

M.93(NGC 2447). In 7x50s this appears as about half a dozen stars before a nebulous glow.


A small group, representing the compass of the Argo (I know the Greeks are supposed to have had a word for most things, but did they have one for "compass-box"?) Several good binocular double stars and a notable eruptive variable.

Groups of stars

1. 08h 30m, -32. Small T-shaped asterism that includes a red star.

2. Bright parallellogram that includes α and β .

Close doubles

P.186. A challenging object for large binoculars because of the faintness of the stars. Mags are 8.3 and 9.0, separated by 100". You may see a third star of magnitude 9 here.

P.187. Slightly easier, though still faint; mags 7.5 and 9, distance 122".

P.191. Again, rather difficult because of the faint companion, though a bit wider at 185 seconds.

P.192. Another faint pair, though more equal at 8.2 and 8.7. Readily swept up on a good night closely South of the 4.9m star λ Pyxidis.

P.193. A critical test for good-quality large glasses, this pair is of magnitudes 6.7 and 9.2 separated by 68".

P.194. It is refreshing to turn at last from these testing, faint objects to one not quite so taxing! This is a beautiful equal pair of magnitude 7 whose stars are 162" apart. Can you see the colours of these stars at all? It is readily found between alpha and a 5th-mag. star which is a telescopic pair called h4115, which lies about 2 North of beta.

P.196. These stars of 7.6 and 8.6m are 152" apart.

P.197. Hard for average-sized binoculars, this pair is of magnitudes 7 and 9, and separated by 129 seconds.

Variable stars

T (7-14) This star is actually a species of nova, but one not content with exploding just the once! Its first outburst took place in 1902, and since then it has repeated this errant behaviour on several occasions. At the time of writing (1994) it was long overdue for another rapid surge from obscurity up to easy binocular visibility. It forms a long triangle with two stars of 6.9 and 7.8m which make good comparison stars. Watch the area on every clear night.