In this article, we’ll be sharing with you everything you need to know about the constellation of Sculptor, including how to find it, deep space objects contained within it and how to use it to find other night sky objects more easily.

The Constellation of Sculptor 

Sculptor is one of the constellations invented by French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille (1713-1762) to help fill in part of the southern night sky.

Originally this constellation was known as ‘The Sculptor’s Studio’ or ‘Apparatus Sculptoris’ in Latin. In 1845 the Latinized name was shortened to ‘Sculptor’, which means exactly what you think it does in English, i.e. ‘sculptor’.

There are no myths associated with this modern constellation. 

To help you spot Sculptor, here’s what SkySafari 6 shows.

Sculptor as shown by SkySafari
Sculptor as shown by SkySafari. Click for full-screen.

Despite being a visually uninspiring collection of stars, Sculptor has an area of 475 square degrees making it the 36th largest of the 88 recognized constellations.

Sculptor is often depicted as a carved head on a table with a sculptor’s mallet and two chisels, as shown in the image above. The four brightest stars outline an elongated kite shape.

Interestingly, the South Galactic Pole (the southern end of the Milky Way’s axis) passes through the constellation of Sculptor, not far from Alpha Sculptoris.

The boundaries and neighboring constellations for Sculptor
The boundaries and neighboring constellations for Sculptor. Click for full-screen.

In the next section discover how to find Sculptor.

How To Find Sculptor In The Night Sky

Sculptor is part of the Lacaille family of constellations and is visible to observers at latitudes between +50° and -90°. Northern Hemisphere observers south of 50° north and Southern Hemisphere observers can see it from August through December.

In mid-US latitudes, this constellation is only 20° above the horizon at its highest.

The constellation of Sculptor is bordered by the constellations Aquarius, Cetus, Fornax, Grus, Phoenix and Piscis Austrinus. Sculptor is located in a sparsely populated region of the night sky.

Sculptor at 9:00 p.m. in mid-November
Sculptor at 9:00 p.m. in mid-November. Click for full-screen.

To find Sculptor, do a naked-eye search for The Great Square of Pegasus. Draw an imaginary line ~12° long from Scheat to Markab, extend this line ~44° to Fomalhaut then hop ~11° east to Beta Sculptoris. Alpha Sculptoris is ~15° farther east. You can measure these angular distances with your hand at arm’s length.

To find Sculptor’s exact position for your location on any night, use software such as Stellarium (free) or SkySafari.

Sculptor’s Brightest Stars 

Sculptor is a faint constellation and only contains five stars shining at magnitude five and none of those is brighter than magnitude four. Each of them is shown in the sky chart below and, underneath that, we look at each of these stars in detail.

The brightest stars of Sculptor
The brightest stars of Sculptor. Click for full-screen.

Alpha Sculptoris – This magnitude 4.30 blue-white giant is the brightest star in Sculptor. It’s 2.7° southeast of the South Galactic Pole. This rotating variable ranges in magnitude from 4.31 to 4.35 and is 670 light-years away from us.

Beta Sculptoris – This magnitude 4.38 blue-white subgiant is the second brightest star in Sculptor. It is 66 times brighter than our sun but only three times as big. It is 174 light-years away. 

Gamma Sculptoris – This magnitude 4.40 orange giant is the third brightest star in Sculptor. It’s 182 light-years away. Its mass is similar to the sun’s, although its diameter is 14 times larger.

Delta Sculptoris – This double star is the fourth brightest star in Sculptor and is 137 light-years away. The magnitude 4.57 white main-sequence primary and its magnitude 11.60 secondary component are 3.4 arcseconds apart.

Eta Sculptoris – This magnitude 4.86 orange-red giant star is a pulsating variable that ranges in magnitude from 4.80 to 4.90. It’s 452 light-years away. 

Zeta Sculptoris – is another double star, this one is 503 light-years away from Earth. The magnitude 5.03 blue-white giant primary and its magnitude 13.00 secondary component are 3.0 arcseconds apart.

Star Hopping From Sculptor 

Sculptor is the starting point for two well-known star hops.

NGC 288 – This 8th magnitude globular cluster can be reached by hopping ~3° northwest of Alpha Sculptoris

NGC 253 – In the same binocular view is this galaxy, the brightest of the Sculptor group at magnitude 7.0. It is ~2° northwest of NGC 288.

More details for both of these objects can be seen in the next section.

Objects To See Within Sculptor 

Sculptor doesn’t contain any Messier objects but there are some other deep sky objects suitable for small telescope users. 

NGC 55 (C 72) – This spiral galaxy has a magnitude of 7.86 and an apparent size of 29.9 x 3.0 arcminutes. It’s 7.0 million light-years away and is at right ascension 00h 16m 06s and declination -39° 03’ 55”.

NGC 253 (C 65, Sculptor Galaxy, Silver Dollar Galaxy) – This spiral galaxy has a magnitude of 6.99 and an apparent size of 26.8 x 4.6 arcminutes. It’s 10.0 million light-years away and is at right ascension 00h 48m 43s and declination -25° 09’ 33”.

NGC 288 – This globular cluster has a magnitude of 8.09 and an apparent size of 13.0 arcminutes. It’s 28,700 light-years away and is at right ascension 00h 53m 54s and declination -26° 27’ 15”.

NGC 300 (C 70) – This spiral galaxy has a magnitude of 7.87 and an apparent size of 19.4 x 13.1 arcminutes. It’s 6.5 million light-years away and is at right ascension 00h 56m 01s and declination -37° 33’ 22”.

NGC 613 – This spiral galaxy has a magnitude of 9.96 and an apparent size of 5.5 x 4.5 arcminutes. It’s 86 million light-years away and is at right ascension 01h 35m 24s and declination -29° 17’ 49”.

NGC 7793 – This spiral galaxy has a magnitude of 9.15 and an apparent size of 10.4 x 6.0 arcminutes. It’s 8 million light-years away and is at right ascension 23h 59m 03s and declination -32° 27’ 35”.

Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy – This elliptical galaxy has a magnitude of 9.51 and an apparent size of 1.1 x 0.9 arcminutes. It’s 275 thousand light-years away and is at right ascension 01h 01m 17s and declination -33° 34’ 53”.

Blanco 1 – This open cluster has an apparent size of 70.0 arcminutes. It’s 877 light-years away and is at right ascension 00h 05m 19s and declination -28° 42’ 6”.

Summary

Sculptor is a faint constellation in a region of the southern sky with a low star density.

While it doesn’t contain many notable stars, there is a decent handful of deep sky objects for small telescope users. Look for it between Cetus and Piscis Austrinus this fall.

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