Pictor and Reticulum, the Painter’s Easel and Net

Star chart showing the constellations of Pictor and Reticulum on either side of Dorado and the LMC at bottom.
Pictor and Reticulum are 2 constellations that lie on either side of Dorado, home to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) in the Southern Hemisphere. Image via Chelynne Campion/ EarthSky.

Pictor and Reticulum

Pictor and Reticulum are small constellations that lie on either side of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) in southern skies. And Dorado, the constellation home to the LMC, lies between them. Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille named both these constellations. He named Reticulum for a reticle, or net, referring to the crosshairs of an eyepiece, like those used in a spotting scope. Lacaille named Pictor for a painter’s easel.

Pictor the Painter’s Easel

While Pictor may not have many bright stars itself, it does lie right next to the 2nd-brightest star in the sky, Canopus. So this should help make Pictor easier to find. Plus, a cloudy stretch of the Milky Way lies on one side of Canopus, and Pictor is on the other. Also, you can find Pictor by looking between Canopus and the LMC.

Pictor’s brightest star is Alpha Pictoris at magnitude 3.24. And it lies about 99 light-years away.

Then the 2nd-brightest star is Beta Pictoris at magnitude 3.85. Beta Pictoris lies about 63 light-years away. Scientists discovered a dusty disk around Beta that is approximately 10 times larger than the sun’s solar system. Inside this disk scientists found not only two planets but at least 30 exocomets.

White star chart with black dots for stars representing Pictor the Painter's Easel.
The stars of Pictor the Painter’s Easel. Image via IAU.

Reticulum the Net

Once you’ve found Pictor, you can star hop over Dorado, home to the LMC, to reach Reticulum the Net. Its brightest star, Alpha Reticuli, is magnitude 3.33 and lies 163 light-years away. The 2nd-brightest is Beta Reticuli at magnitude 3.84 and 100 light-years distant.

Only a half degree from Alpha Reticuli is the galaxy NGC 1559. At magnitude 10.5, the barred spiral galaxy will require a telescope for you to spot. Australian amateur astronomer Robert Evans discovered three supernovae in the galaxy, in 1984, 1986, and 2005.

White star chart with black dots representing the stars of Reticulum the Net.
The stars of Reticulum the Net. Image via IAU.

Bottom line: Pictor and Reticulum, the Painter’s Easel and Net, are two constellations in southern skies on either side of the Large Magellanic Cloud.

January 4, 2023

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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