History of the Constellations

Stars and Constellations


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

Images (at bottom of page): | Fornax Chart: (Figure 1) | Bode, 1801, page l: (Figure 2) | Aspin, 1825, page Cetus: (Figure 3) | Images digitized by Hannah Magruder.

Constellation Data


A small constellation of faint stars nestled within a bend of the river (Eridanus), low in the south.

Skylore and Literature

Modern Culture

Origin and History

One of 17 constellations created by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1756. Created by Lacaille in 1752 as one of 14 constellations named after scientific instruments. He called it Fornax Chemica, the Chemical Furnace. Bode referred to it as Apparatus Chemicus.

Special Stars

Alpha-Fornacis is only magnitude 3.9. Declination: -29 degrees south.


The "Fornax Dwarf" galaxy is only 420,000 LY away (for comparison, the Andromeda galaxy is 2,200,000 LY). Although extremely close, it is extremely small, only 7,000 LY in diameter. Such dwarf galaxies must be very common, but obviously cannot be seen unless they are very close.

Fornax is crowded with other faint galaxies requiring a deep sky telescope.

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


Figure 1 Figure 1 - Return to Text

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Figure 2 Figure 2 - Return to Text

Bode, 1801

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Figure 3 Figure 3 - Return to Text

Aspin, 1825

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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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