Constellations: Indus 'the Native American Indian' Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Constellations: Indus 'the Native American Indian'

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The shield of the Science, Mathematics and Engineering faculty of the h2g2 University.Constellations: Overview | Andromeda | Antlia | Apus | Aquarius | Aquila | Ara | Aries | Auriga | Boötes | Caelum
Camelopardalis | Cancer | Canes Venatici | Canis Major | Canis Minor | Capricornus | Carina | Cassiopeia | Centaurus
Cepheus | Cetus | Chamæleon | Circinus | Columba | Coma Berenices | Corona Australis | Corona Borealis | Corvus
Crater | Crux | Cygnus | Delphinus | Dorado | Draco | Equuleus | Eridanus | Fornax | Gemini | Grus | Hercules | Horologium
Hydra | Hydrus | Indus | Lacerta | Leo | Leo Minor | Lepus | Libra | Lupus | Lynx | Lyra | Mensa | Microscopium | Monoceros
Musca | Norma | Octans | Ophiuchus | Orion | Pavo | Pegasus | Perseus | Phoenix | Pictor | Pisces | Piscis Austrinus
Puppis | Pyxis | Reticulum | Sagitta | Sagittarius | Scorpius | Sculptor | Scutum | Serpens | Sextans | Taurus
Telescopium | Triangulum | Triangulum Australe | Tucana | Ursa Major | Ursa Minor | Vela | Virgo | Volans | Vulpecula
I call to the South, to the land down below.
Turtle stands silent, as man strings his bow
to hunt food and fur for his kin before snow.

– Spirit Wind

Short form:Ind
Area:294 sq deg
Co-ordinates1:Right Ascension 21h, Declination −53°

Indus is a small southern constellation which made its debut in the 1603 Uranometria of Johann Bayer. It has no bright stars, but does boast some attractive galaxies. Indus is bordered by Pavo, Grus, Tucana, Microscopium, Octans, and Telescopium.

The constellation was named after the race of people who originally lived in the Americas. The first Native Americans in Tierra Del Fuego2 were members of four tribes. These were the Yaghan, the Ono, the Alacaloof, and the Aush. It was their fires that gave the region its name. Early explorers believed that all land from the Bahamas westward were part of the Indies. This is why they named the residents Indians, and when creating a constellation honouring the natives, used that name. The image associated with the first maps of this constellation was of a native man holding some arrows. Unfortunately, in both North and South America the natives have been victims of diseases brought by the white man and also victim of the colonial expansion of white settlers. It is a tribute to their tenacity that Native Americans still exist.

Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser

This Dutchman (born sometime in 1540) spent many hours in the crow's nest mapping the southern sky. Indus is one of a dozen constellations delineated by him and his friend Frederick de Houtman during their voyage to the southern seas between 1595 and 1597 on board the Hollandia. One year before the ship returned to Holland he was taken ill and died off Java. His fellow mapmaker de Houtman returned the information to Holland after Dirkszoon Keyser's death.


About 400 years ago Johann Bayer first started putting lower case Greek letters to the brightest stars, a naming convention that is still in use. In the table below you will find the Bayer designations in the Greek alphabet for this constellation.

Alpha Indi

This orange giant was once known as 'The Persian Star'. It is part of a multiple system. Telescopes first managed to split the image of alpha Indi in the year 1896. The three stars in the system are spaced just over one arc minute apart. The second and third component stars are +12.0 and +13.5 magnitude respectively.

Epsilon Indi

The epsilon Indi system, which is just 12 light years away, has a primary star, twin brown dwarfs3, and possibly planets. The brown dwarfs mass about 43 jovian units4 each and orbit around each other about two Astronomical Units5 apart at 1,500 AU from the primary star. The now-abandoned Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) Observatory was scheduled to examine epsilon Indi as one of its prime targets.

Nu Indi

Nu Indi is a tight binary system. A blue-white +6.0 magnitude star is separated from a +6.1 magnitude yellowish-white star by only 0.1 seconds of arc.

StarDesignationCatalogue NumberBrightness (m)Distance
αalphaHR 7879+3.11101K0
βbetaHR 7986+3.65603K1
θthetaHR 8140+4.3997A5
δdeltaHR 8368+4.4185F0
εepsilonHR 8387+4.6912K4
ζzetaHR 7952+4.89404K5
ηetaHR 7920+4.5179A7
ιiotaHR 7968+5.05567K1
κ1kappa1HR 8409+5.62514K4
μmuHR 8055+5.16349K2
νnuHD 211998+5.296110A3+F9
οomicronHR 8333+5.53558K2
ρrhoHD 216437+6.0686G4
γgammaHR 8188+6.12415F1
κ2kappa2HR 8369+6.12217F3

Deep Space Objects

The NGC (New General Catalogue) is continually updated by the NGC/IC Project.

NGC 7038

Perhaps the prettiest deep space object in this constellation is the galaxy NGC 7038. This object occupies 1.1 x 0.6 arcminutes in size. In 1983 a supernova was seen in this galaxy.

(mega-light years)
NGC 7029Galaxy+11.5116Fuzzy elliptical
NGC 7038Galaxy+12.0210Nice spiral
NGC 7041Galaxy+11.279Angular elliptical
NGC 7125Galaxy+12.0134Barred spiral
IC 5152Galaxy+10.25.8Dwarf galaxy

Extrasolar Planets

A planetary system was found in this constellation 86.3 light years from Earth circling the star rho Indi. In that system the planet HD 216437 b circles at a distance of 2.7 Astronomical Units and has a mass of 2.1 jovian units.

Red dwarf GJ 832 is just 16 light years from Earth. In 2008 a gas giant, GJ 832 b, just over half Jupiter's mass, was found to be orbiting the star at a distance of 3.4AU (3,416 days).

In 2011 the hot gas giant WASP-46 b was detected orbiting a yellow dwarf similar in mass to our own Sun. WASP-73 b and WASP-88 b were discovered by the transit method in 2013. HIP 107773 b, twice the mass of Jupiter, orbits its star, an orange giant, in only 144 days.

1Current IAU guidelines use a plus sign (+) for northern constellations and a minus sign (−) for southern ones.2 Spanish for 'land of fire'.3A brown dwarf is a star which is too small to fuse hydrogen but shines in the infra-red region by deuterium fusion and by gravitational heating.4A jovian unit is equal to the mass of the planet Jupiter.5An Astronomical Unit (AU) is the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun, approximately 150m km (93m miles).6Combined value.

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