February 11, 2011

The constellation Indus

A Native Facebook friend recently said she's getting a tattoo with stars. I'm interested in Natives and astronomy, and that reminded me of a little-known constellation.

Indus (constellation)Indus is a constellation in the southern sky. Created in the sixteenth century, it represents an Indian, a word that could refer at the time to any native of Asia or the Americas.

Notable features

The brightest star in the constellation, Alpha Indi, is visual magnitude 3.11.

Epsilon Indi is one of the closest stars to Earth, approximately 11.82 light years away. The system has been discovered to contain a pair of binary brown dwarfs, and has long been a prime candidate in SETI studies.


The constellation was one of twelve created by Petrus Plancius from the observations of Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman and it first appeared on a 35-cm diameter celestial globe published in 1597 (or 1598) in Amsterdam by Plancius with Jodocus Hondius. The first depiction of this constellation in a celestial atlas was in Johann Bayer's Uranometria of 1603. Plancius portrayed the figure as a nude male with arrows in both hands but no bow.

Indus in Military

USS Indus (AKN-1) is a United States Navy ship.
Indus the IndianIt is not known whether he is supposed to be a native of the East Indies, or possibly southern Africa or Madagascar (where the Dutch fleet stayed for several months on their way east); perhaps the figure is symbolic, representing all the indigenous peoples the explorers encountered on their various travels, from South America to the Indies. The constellation’s brightest stars are of third magnitude, but none are named.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Asteroids Given LuiseƱo Names.

Below:  "Indus, an Indian holding a spear and arrows, as shown in the Uranographia of Johann Bode."

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