History of the Constellations

Stars and Constellations

Eridanus

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Contents of this page: | Description | Skylore | Modern Culture | Origin and History | Asterisms | Special Stars | Submit new info... |

Images (at bottom of page): | Eridanus Chart: (Figure 1) | Bayer, 1661, page zMm: (Figure 2) | Bayer, 1697, page M1v: (Figure 3) | Bayer, 1697, page M2r: (Figure 4) | Bode, 1801, page l: (Figure 5) | Bode, 1801, page r: (Figure 6) | Bode, 1801, page r: (Figure 7) | Bode, 1801, page l: (Figure 8) | Images digitized by Hannah Magruder.

Constellation Data

Description

The River Eridanus flows northward (like the Nile) from the bright star Achernar (Arabic for "End of the River") to Kursa (beta-Eridani) near Rigel in Orion. Eridanus is the longest (not largest) constellation, spanning over 50 degrees of declination, and its many faint stars glitter like reflecting light off the surface of its waves.

Skylore and Literature

The Nile to the Egyptians, the Po to Italians, and the Yellow River to the Chinese.

The ancient astronomer Hipparchos (ca. 150 B.C.) called Eridanus the "River of Orion."

Modern Culture

Origin and History

Eridanus is included in the ancient star catalogs of Eudoxos of Knidos, Aratos of Soli, and Ptolemy.

Asterisms

Sceptrum Brandenburgicum

Special Stars

Achernar, alpha-Eridani, is the 10th brightest star, but is not visible from most of the United States. No brighter star than Achernar is closer to the south celestial pole, which lies midway between Achernar and Crux the Southern Cross. Distance: 85 LY. Apparent magnitude: 0.5. Declination: -57 degrees south.

Kursa (beta-Eridani). Distance: 100 LY. Apparent magnitude: 2.8. Declination: -05 degrees south (near Rigel).

Epsilon Eridani is one of two nearby stars that resemble the Sun. Perhaps it also is surrounded by planets! (The other is Tau Ceti in Cetus the Whale.) Distance: 10.7 LY. Apparent magnitude: 3.7. Declination: -10 degrees south.

Submit new info...

Many excellent websites provide a variety of information about constellations for amateur astronomers and telescope users (see sidebar links for a few of these). These constellation pages are not intended to duplicate those efforts, but are devoted to two aims: First, they are intended to assist the beginning skywatcher, including students in history of science survey courses, in becoming familiar with Basic Celestial Phenomena (BCP). Second, these pages are devoted to the history of the constellations and the history of astronomy. They are intended to serve as a repository for collaborative use and reference. Do you have additional historical information about the stars or constellation described on this page? Please submit additional information to kmagruder@ou.edu. Submissions will be attributed. Editors for historical information are Kerry Magruder, JoAnn Palmeri, Peter Barker, and Laura Gibbs.

Oklahoma History of Science exhibits: http://hos.ou.edu/exhibits/. Page revised 4/15/04

Bad links, misplaced images, or questions? Contact Kerry Magruder. Thank you.

"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown. But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile." R. W. Emerson, Nature

Images

Figure 1 Figure 1 - Return to Text

Eri Chart
Figure 2 Figure 2 - Return to Text

Bayer, 1661

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Figure 3 Figure 3 - Return to Text

Bayer, 1697

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Figure 4 Figure 4 - Return to Text

Bayer, 1697

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Bode, 1801

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Bode, 1801

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Figure 7 Figure 7 - Return to Text

Bode, 1801

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Figure 8 Figure 8 - Return to Text

Bode, 1801

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Exhibit credit: Kerry Magruder.

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These teaching resources provided by the History of Science Department at the University of Oklahoma.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries. Image Terms of Use.

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