Constellations: Apus 'the Bird of Paradise'
Created | Updated Mar 4, 2014
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
|Name:||Apus (Latin: 'bird of paradise')|
|Area:||206 sq deg|
|Co-ordinates1:||Right Ascension 16h, Declination −75°|
Apus, the Bird of Paradise, is a southern, circumpolar constellation lying between the southern celestial pole constellation of Octans and the prominent triangle of stars that make up Triangulum Australe, the 'Southern Triangle' constellation. Apus is faint and does not present any readily identifiable shape, although three of its brighter stars can be seen as a small triangle.
In the late 16th Century, the Dutch East India Company were exploring the far southern hemisphere latitudes for trading opportunities. During the 1595 expedition, Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Friedrich de Houtmann recorded the positions of 196 stars near the south celestial pole that had previously been unseen by northern-based astronomers. These stars were later formed into twelve new constellations and were adopted by astronomer Johann Bayer in his star atlas of 1603, Uranometria, to fill in unnamed areas of the southern sky. Bayer attributed the name Apus Indica - or Bird of India - to tales by early Dutch seafarers, who had recorded that gifts of live birds were made to European travellers.
It is the Bird of Paradise that is depicted in Uranometria, but another interpretation originates from the Greek word 'apous', meaning without feet. This refers to the European Swift, which was reputed not to have any legs as it was always seen to be in flight and never alighting.
Because of its far south position in the sky, near to the southern celestial pole, the stars of Apus were not seen by the ancient astronomers. Consequently none of its stars were given proper names, and are therefore known only by their attributed Greek letter classification.
None of the stars in Apus are brighter than alpha Aps - an orange giant at +3.81 magnitude. Delta Aps is a widely spaced double star, both components of which are orange giants that can be readily seen with binoculars; the primary of the pair is an irregular variable between +4.7 and +4.9 magnitude2 with an orange colour biased towards red, while the secondary is +5.3 magnitude and orange in colour.
Kappa Aps is another double, although slightly fainter with magnitudes of +5.37 and +5.62. Theta Aps is a variable star of +6.4 magnitude, dimming to +8.6 every 119 days.
|α Aps||alpha Aps||+3.81||413||Orange|
|γ Aps||gamma Aps||+3.84||160||Yellow G-type giant|
|β Aps||beta Aps||+4.21||159||Double. Orange primary|
|δ Aps||delta Aps||+4.65 and +5.3||767||Double star. Orange/Red giants|
|κ Aps||kappa Aps||+5.37 and +5.62||1019 and 741||Double star|
|θ Aps||theta Aps||+6.4 to +8.6||329||Variable star|
Globular Star Cluster
NGC 6101 is a faint globular star cluster of about 9th magnitude that lies north of gamma Aps.
|NGC 6101||Globular cluster||+9.1||+50,000 stars|
In 2011 some extrasolar planets were discovered in Apus. HD 137388 b orbits its parent star, orange dwarf HD 137388, in 330 days. The star HD 134606 boasts three planets, two hot Super-Earths and one gas giant in its habitable zone.
Another Bird of Paradise
In addition to the constellation Apus, there is also a remarkable flower that has been named from the avian Bird of Paradise. The Strelitzia shares the name due to its beautiful crimson, orange and yellow flower that resembles the plumage of the bird. It is very difficult to grow the flower outside of South Africa, its home environment.