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Editorial Office, E. Caelum. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/55704 (accessed on 21 April 2024).
Editorial Office E. Caelum. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/55704. Accessed April 21, 2024.
Editorial Office, Encyclopedia. "Caelum" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/55704 (accessed April 21, 2024).
Editorial Office, E. (2024, February 29). Caelum. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/55704
Editorial Office, Encyclopedia. "Caelum." Encyclopedia. Web. 29 February, 2024.
Caelum
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Caelum, recognized by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), is a faint and small constellation in the southern celestial hemisphere. It was introduced by the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the 18th century, representing a chisel, part of the sculptor's tools, in his constellation sketches.

IAU constellation astronomy

1. Introduction

Caelum, a diminutive constellation in the southern celestial hemisphere, holds a modest yet intriguing position in the night sky. Introduced by the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the 18th century, Caelum is one of the 14 constellations that Lacaille added to modern astronomy, representing various scientific and artistic instruments. Its name, Latin for "chisel," reflects its depiction as a sculptor's tool in Lacaille's constellation sketches.

Caelum occupies a relatively small area of the sky, nestled between the constellations of Columba, Eridanus, and Dorado. Its celestial coordinates lie approximately between right ascension 4 hours and 5 hours and declination -35 degrees to -50 degrees (Figure 1). Due to its faintness and lack of prominent stars, Caelum may be challenging to spot without the aid of binoculars or a telescope. However, its inclusion in the official list of constellations by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) underscores its significance in modern astronomy.

Figure 1. IAU chart of Caelum. Source: https://www.iau.org/static/archives/images/screen/cae.jpg. Credit: IAU and Sky & Telescope. Reproduced under CC BY 4.0 license.

Despite its modest size, Caelum has historical and cultural significance, particularly in the context of Lacaille's celestial cartography. Lacaille's comprehensive cataloging efforts during his astronomical expedition to the southern hemisphere contributed significantly to our understanding of the southern skies. By delineating and naming previously undocumented constellations like Caelum, Lacaille left a lasting legacy in the field of astronomy.

In modern times, Caelum serves as a point of interest for amateur astronomers and celestial enthusiasts seeking to explore lesser-known regions of the night sky. While its faint stars may not stand out amidst the brilliance of neighboring constellations, Caelum offers a unique opportunity for observation and study, adding to the rich tapestry of celestial objects that populate our universe.

2. Historical Background

Caelum, while a relatively minor constellation in terms of its prominence in the night sky, has an intriguing historical background and mythological significance. Originating in the 18th century with the work of the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, Caelum holds a unique place in the annals of celestial cartography and cultural symbolism.

The historical background of Caelum begins with Lacaille's ambitious astronomical expedition to the southern hemisphere. In the mid-18th century, Lacaille embarked on a mission to observe and catalog the stars and constellations visible from the southern latitudes. During his expedition, Lacaille meticulously recorded the positions and characteristics of celestial objects, creating a comprehensive catalog that would significantly expand humanity's understanding of the southern skies.

As part of his cataloging efforts, Lacaille introduced several new constellations to modern astronomy, including Caelum. Inspired by his fascination with science and art, Lacaille depicted Caelum as a chisel, a tool used by sculptors to shape and carve stone. This choice reflected Lacaille's belief in the unity of art and science, as well as his admiration for the creative process.

While Caelum may lack the rich mythological narratives and cultural associations of some other constellations, its inclusion in Lacaille's celestial atlas highlights its importance as a symbol of human ingenuity and exploration. Caelum serves as a testament to humanity's enduring quest to understand and navigate the cosmos, as well as our capacity for creativity and innovation.

In terms of mythology, Caelum is not traditionally associated with specific myths or legends from ancient cultures. Unlike constellations such as Orion or Ursa Major, which have rich narratives rooted in Greek and Roman mythology, Caelum's mythological significance is more abstract and open to interpretation.

3. Notable Stars

As Caelum is a relatively small and faint constellation, it does not contain many notable stars or deep-sky objects. It has no star brighter than magnitude 4 and only two stars brighter than magnitude 5.

Alpha Caeli (α Cae): Alpha Caeli, despite being the brightest star in the constellation, is relatively faint, with a visual magnitude of around 4.45. It is a binary star system composed of two main-sequence stars orbiting each other. The primary star, Alpha Caeli A, is a spectral type F5V star, while the companion star, Alpha Caeli B, is a spectral type K5V star. They orbit each other with a period of about 92 years.

Beta Caeli (β Cae): Beta Caeli is another binary star system in the constellation, with a visual magnitude of approximately 5.05. The primary star, Beta Caeli A, is a spectral type F2V star, while the companion star, Beta Caeli B, is a spectral type G8V star. The two stars orbit each other with a period of about 41 years.

Gamma Caeli (γ Cae): Gamma Caeli is a triple star system located in Caelum, with a visual magnitude of around 4.56. The primary star, Gamma Caeli A, is a spectral type K0III star, while the companion stars, Gamma Caeli B and Gamma Caeli C, are both fainter stars orbiting each other. Gamma Caeli A is an orange giant star nearing the end of its life cycle.

Delta Caeli (δ Cae): Delta Caeli is a binary star system consisting of two main-sequence stars. The primary star, Delta Caeli A, is a spectral type F2V star, while the companion star, Delta Caeli B, is a fainter spectral type K0V star. The system is located approximately 97 light-years away from Earth.

Epsilon Caeli (ε Cae): Epsilon Caeli is a binary star system with a visual magnitude of about 4.87. The primary star, Epsilon Caeli A, is a spectral type A1V star, while the companion star, Epsilon Caeli B, is a spectral type A2V star. The two stars orbit each other with a period of about 31 years. 

Deep-Sky Objects 

NGC 1679: NGC 1679 is a faint spiral galaxy located in the constellation Caelum. It is classified as a barred spiral galaxy and is situated approximately 65 million light-years away from Earth. NGC 1679 has a relatively low surface brightness, making it challenging to observe visually without the aid of telescopes. However, it can be a rewarding target for astrophotography.

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