Constellation of Pictor

Abbreviation: Pic

Genitive: Pictoris

English: The Painter’s Easel

Size ranking: 59th

Area: 247 square degrees

Fully Visible: 26°N-90°S

This month the chosen constellation is another of the fainter southern star patterns, Pictor, which is overshadowed by the neighbouring brilliant star, Canopus, αCarina, on one side and the Large Magellanic Cloud in Dorado on the other. These two objects are the suggested guide to Pictor.

Pictor is one of the constellations representing instruments of science and the arts that were introduced in the 18th century by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, who originally called it Equuleus Pictoris, The Painter’s Easel, which has since been shortened.

Probably the most renowned feature of this constellation is the red dwarf known as Kapteyn’s star, named after the Dutch astronomer, Jacobus Kapteyn, who, in 1897, discovered that it has the second largest proper motion of any known star ( the record is held by Barnard’s star in Ophiuchus). Kapteyn’s Star moves 1° in 415 years.

Features of Interest:

αPic, is the brightest star in this constellation at magnitude 3.2. It is a white star 99ly away.

βPic is a blue-white main-sequence star 63ly distant and magnitude 3.9. This star became famous in 1984 when astronomers photographed a disc of dust and gas around it, thought to be a planetary system in the process of formation.

γPic is an orange giant of magnitude 4.5 and 174ly away.

δPic is a blue-white star approximately 1700ly away. It is an eclipsing binary of the β Lyrae type, varying from magnitude 4.7 to 4.9 every 1.67 days.

ιPic is an easy double, 120ly away, of magnitudes 5.6 and 6.4, separation 12.3”, PA 058°.


1. Redshift 2 – Maris Multimedia

2. The Guinness Book of Astronomy – Patrick Moore

3. Stars and Planets – Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion

4. Sky Charts – Cartes du Ciel V 2.75.