β Pictoris

Beta Pictoris is very similar to alpha, only slightly less bright at 3.8 visual magnitude, and much closer at 63 light years. It forms the northern terminus of this artist's easel.

The star is northwest of Canopus, a little over a binocular field: binoculars.

Beta Pictoris is the principal star in a group of very young stars called the Beta Pictoris Moving Group. This is the youngest group of stars to the Solar System. Other members are eta Telescopii and 51 Eridani. These stars are estimated to be between 10 and 30 million years old; beta Pictoris being one of the youngest.

Beta Pictoris has been studied recently as it has an extrasolar planet orbiting the star as well as what is described as a ‘dust disk’ containing an abundance of carbon.

In fact this constellation has a number of stars with planets; one such star (HD 40307, 7.2 mag; 6º west of alpha Pic and 2º north) an orange dwarf, has six planets, one of which enjoys habitable conditions.

Theta Pictoris, near the southwestern edge, is a multiple system (DUN 20):
      AB: 6.8, 7.4; 208º, 0.3".
      AB-C: 6.2, 6.7; 288º, 38.3".


Slightly more than one field west brings in four bright stars: binoculars, one of which, at the extreme southern edge, is iota Pictoris, a multiple star system (DUN 18):
      AB: 5.6, 6.2; 59º, 12.8". (two white stars)
      AC: 5.6, 9.1; 48º, 301.5" (white and yellow)


Put the eta stars on your southern edge and move very slightly to the north, about one degree. This seemingly barren part of the skies is actually home to one of the most interesting of stars, Kapteyn's Star. The visual magnitude of 8.8 means that the star is accessible to binoculars.
      At one time Kapteyn's Star was hailed as the ‘fastest star’ known, with a proper motion of over 8 arcseconds/year. However Barnard's Star, at 10".3 per year was discovered in 1916.
      So now the focus on Kapteyn's Star lies in the fact that in 2014 two planets were discovered circling the star—named b and c. Kaypteyn b is in fact a habitable planet, and very old, perhaps 11 billion years old.

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