Like many southern hemisphere constellations, Caelum was introduced by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the mid-eighteenth century, designed to fill in the southern hemisphere.
The word is ambiguous; in Latin caelum means both "the heavens" and "burin", which is an instrument used for engraving on copper and fine metals. It is this instrument that Lacaille had in mind when he named the constellation.
In fact Lacaille drew two of these instruments in his original map, calling the constellation "Les Burins". Only one has remained.
Caelum is located between Eridanus and
Columba in a particularly bleak part of the southern hemisphere. There
are few Bayer stars here, and none brighter
than fourth magnitude.
Alpha Caeli has an extremely faint companion: 4.5, 13; PA 121º,
Gamma Caeli also has a rather faint companion: 4.6, 8.0; PA 308º,
R Caeli is a Mira-type long period variable, from 6.7 to 13.7
every 391 days. It's located one degree south of beta Caeli, and several
arc minutes west.
X Caeli is a delta Scuti variable, ranging from 6.3 to 6.4
every 3h 14.7m.
Once labelled gamma2 Caeli, the star now generally goes
under its variable designation.
Deep Sky Objects:
Caelum has no deep sky objects (at least mentioned in Tirion's Sky
Atlas). Burnham indicates one spiral galaxy, NGC 1679,
which would be about two degrees south of zeta Caeli.
For a closer appreciation of Caelum, visit the Binocular Section.
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© Richard Dibon-Smith.