The Eridanus Constellation

Eridanus is a constellation in the southern hemisphere. It is represented as a river. It was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy, and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations. It is the sixth largest of the modern constellations. The same name was later taken as a Latin name for the real Po River and also for the name of a minor river in Athens. Eridanus is depicted in ancient sky charts as a flowing river, starting from Orion and flowing in a meandering fashion past Cetus and Fornax and into the southern hemispheric stars. Johann Bayer’s Uranometria depicts the river constellation as a flowing river.

At its southern end is the magnitude 0.5 star Achernar, designated Alpha Eridani. 144 light-years from Earth, it is a blue-white hued main sequence star whose traditional name means “the river’s end”. Achernar is a very peculiar star because it is one of the flattest stars known. Observations indicate that its radius is about 50% larger at the equator than at the poles. This distortion occurs because the star is spinning extremely rapidly. There are several other noteworthy stars in Eridanus, including some double stars. Beta Eridani, traditionally called Cursa, is a blue-white star of magnitude 2.8, 89 light-years from Earth. Its place to the south of Orion’s foot gives it its name, which means “the footstool.” Theta Eridani, called Acamar, is a binary star with blue-white components, and 161 light-years from Earth. The primary is of magnitude 3.2 and the secondary is of magnitude 4.3. 32 Eridani is a binary star 290 light-years from Earth. The primary is a yellow-hued star of magnitude 4.8 and the secondary is a blue-green star of magnitude 6.1. 39 Eridani is a binary star also, 206 light-years from Earth. The primary is an orange-hued giant star of magnitude 4.9 and the secondary is of magnitude 8. 40 Eridani is a triple star system consisting of an orange main-sequence star, a white dwarf, and a red dwarf. The orange main-sequence star is the primary of magnitude 4.4, and the white secondary of magnitude 9.5 is the most easily visible white dwarf. The red dwarf, of magnitude 11, orbits the white dwarf every 250 years. The 40 Eridani system is 16 light-years from Earth. p Eridani is a binary star with two orange components, 27 light-years from Earth. The magnitude 5.8 primary and 5.9 secondary have an orbital period of 500 years. Epsilon Eridani is a star with one extrasolar planet similar to Jupiter. It is an orange-hued main-sequence star of magnitude 3.7, 10.5 light-years from Earth. Its one planet, with an approximate mass of one Jupiter mass, has a period of 7 years.

The Eridanus Supervoid is a large supervoid (an area of the universe devoid of galaxies) discovered as of 2007. At a diameter of about one billion light-years, it is the second largest known void, superseded only by the Giant Void in Canes Venatici. It was discovered by linking a “cold spot” in the cosmic microwave background to an absence of radio galaxies in data of the United States National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array Sky Survey. There is some speculation that the void may be due to quantum entanglement between our universe and another.

NGC 1535 is a small blue-grey planetary nebula with a disk. 2000 light-years away, it is of the 9th magnitude. IC 2118 is a faint reflection nebula believed to be an ancient supernova remnant or gas cloud illuminated by nearby supergiant star Rigel in Orion. Eridanus contains the galaxies NGC 1232, NGC 1234, NGC 1291 and NGC 1300; a grand design barred spiral galaxy. NGC 1300 is a face-on barred spiral galaxy located 61 (plus or minus 8) million light-years away. The centre of the bar shows an unusual structure: within the overall spiral structure, a grand design spiral that is 3,300 light-years in diameter exists. Its spiral arms are tightly wound

The Nu Eridanids, a recently discovered meteor shower, radiate from the constellation between August 30 and September 12 every year; the shower’s parent body is an unidentified Oort cloud object. Another meteor shower in Eridanus is the Omicron Eridanids, which peak between November 1 and 10. Credit: Wikipedia.