S Sculptoris

S Sculptoris is a Mira-type long-period variable. It fluctuates from 6.0 to about 13.6 magnitude every 367 days. Thus once a year, roughly the same time of year (around the last week in October), it becomes barely naked-eye visible but easily seen in binoculars.

To find the star first locate zeta Sculptoris, due west from alpha two binocular fields of view: zeta.

You might want to pause here to admire the two kappa stars: kappa1 and kappa2 (just slightly to the east), a yellow-white giant and an orange giant, not gravitationally bound: kappa1 is 224 light years away, kappa2 580 light years, and they are going off in totally different directions as well.

Kappa1AB is a fine binary (BU 391)AB: 6.1, 6.2; 259º, 1.4".


S Sculptoris is a little over a binocular field southeast: binoculars.


In the same field is theta Sculptoris. If you place theta on the northern edge of your glasses, at the extreme southern edge will appear the spiral galaxy NGC 55.

Burnham calls NGC 55 ‘one of the outstanding galaxies of the southern heavens’ (p. 1733). This is a spiral galaxy seen nearly on-edge with an apparent visual magnitude of 7.9. However this figure is misleading, as the object is extremely difficult to see except with large telescopes.
     There has been much conjecture over the distance of NGC 55 from the Solar System; while one of the nearest galaxies to ourselves, it is still about 7 million light years away.
     It has long been believed that NGC 55 is a member of the Sculptor Group of Galaxies, however this association has been put in doubt in a recent study which considers the galaxy more in the foreground rather than a part of the main group.

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