Pictor – the painter’s easel

December 11, 2016

Astronomy

puppyvangoghPictor is part of the Lacaille Group, the handful of constellations named after a bunch of 18th century stuff by a 18th century French guy. In this case it is the easel which held the artist’s canvas in the days before Photoshop. Fun fact, the word “easel” is the old german word for “donkey” and can be traced back to the latin word for “ass.”

The brightest star in Pictor (Alpha Pictoris) is young and a hottie. Other than that there is not a lot to say about it. If you dig deep you’ll find out it’s the South Pole Star on the planet Mercury. If you are ever lost while navigating the southern regions of Mercury that bit might come in handy. But if that’s the case I think you have worse problems to consider.
babyvangogh
pic_kapteynPerhaps the most interesting star here is one named Kapteyn’s Star. It moves relative to other stars on our maps rather quickly, forcing us to update them on a regular basis. It held the distinction of the fastest changing part of our maps for only 18 years though. Barnard’s Star was discovered in 1916 and took first place.

One reason Kapteyn’s Star is moving so fast compared to us is that it is going the wrong way. It’s retrograding the galaxy. That’s understandable because it’s actually not one of the stars of the galactic disk at all, it’s a halo star just passing through on its way to the other side. Those halo stars don’t get to town very often and they tend to ignore local traffic laws.

There are other trivial facts you should memorize to qualify for Kapteyn Fan Club membership. The star came within 7 light years of our solar system only a little over 10,000 years ago. We’ve updated our maps several times since then.
donkeyvangogh
Carpe Noctem

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