Sextans, "The Sextant" is one of a number of constellations
devised by Johannes Hevelius, and published posthumously in 1690.
For further remarks on Hevelius, see "Lacerta".
Rather than rely on the telescope, Hevelius usually used the sextant to
do his viewing. Thus he commemorates the instrument here. The simple asterism shows two straight lines. The Bayer stars here are fragmentary and only
fourth and fifth magnitude.
Gamma Sextantis is a multiple binary.
AB is a close double, with orbit of 77.5 years: 5.4, 6.4; 49º, 0.5".
C is much fainter and wider: visual magnitude 12.3; 333º, 36.9".
There are no variable stars of interest to the amateur astronomer.
Deep Sky Objects:
NGC 3115 is a bright galaxy seen edge-on, looking like a fuzzy
flying saucer. It may be over 20 million light years away.
The galaxy lies midway between epsilon Sextantis and gamma Sextantis and
very slightly north. The easiest way to find it is start from Regulus
(alpha Leonis). From this bright star drop south through alpha Sextantis
(12.5º) then continue south another 7.5º.
For a more detailed appreciation of Sextans visit the Binocular Section.
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© Richard Dibon-Smith.