Sometimes called the River Po, part of Eridanus lies between Orion and the Whale. This is an enormous constellation. It resembles the shape of the northern stream and flows from Rigel in the foot of Orion to the Cetus, the whale. There, it makes a complete circuit and returns to its source until it disappears below the horizon.
Eridanus is the longest constellation and the sixth largest in this celestial kaleidoscope. It is bordered by the constellations of Caelum, Cetus, Fornax, Horologium, Hydrus, Lepus, Orion, Phoenix, Taurus, and Tucana.
Achernar, meaning “End of the River,” is a blue-white star and the 9th brightest star in the sky. Achernar, being very southerly, can be seen in New Orleans at Thanksgiving time.
The Beta star, Cursa, marks the other end of the river. Cursa is a topaz-yellow star with a 2.9 magnitude. It is next to Rigel and sometimes called Orion’s footstool.
Eridanus is the name of celebrated river in Northern Italy, known today as the Po River. Virgil called it the king of rivers.
Right Ascension: 03:18
Diameter (°): 52
Area (square °): 1138
Opposition: Nov 14
Size Rank: 6th
Brightness Rank: 9th
Major or notable stars in Eridanus
Achernar – α Eridani (Alpha Eridani)
Cursa – β Eridani (Beta Eridani)
Acamar – θ Eridani (Theta Eridani)
Zaurak – γ Eridani (Gamma Eridani)
Rana – δ Eridani (Delta Eridani)
Ran – ε Eridani (Epsilon Eridani)
Angetenar – Tau2 Eridani
Beid – Omicron¹ Eridani
Keid – Omicron2 Eridani
82 G. Eridani (HD 20794, e Eridani)
Deep Sky Objects in Eridanus
Witch Head Nebula – IC 2118
Eridanus Group (Eridanus Cloud)
NGC 1531 and NGC 1532
Eridanus Supervoid (CBM Cold Spot/WMAP Cold Spot)
Mythology of the Constellation Eridanus
The Latin poets have immortalized it in connection with the fable of Phaeton, boastful son of the sun god Phoebus (Helios) and the sea nymph, Clymene. Phaeton was also a favorite of Venus, who entrusted him with the care of one of her temples. Becoming vain at the honor, he asked his father to give him an unmistakable public sign of his love so the world would be sure to know who he was. Phoebus balked at first, but then gave in and said OK.
Thinking of the grandest gesture possible, Phaeton decided to take his father’s place in the sun’s chariot for a day. Phoebus was most distressed at his decision and tried to convince Phaeton how foolishly dangerous it was by describing the incredible force needed to move the stars and planets.
But the impetuous youth was not to be dissuaded. If his father didn’t like the idea, Phaeton concluded, it must be a worthwhile ride. Ignoring his father’s fears and advice, Phaeton leaped into the chariot, took the reins and headed off in an unpredicted direction.
The horses and chariot were too much for Phaeton to control and they soon were off their path. Properly scared, Phaeton decided this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Heaven and Earth were being threatened with a universal conflagration as the fire of the sun spilled out and scorched the Earth.
Jupiter saw what was happening and hurled a thunderbolt at Phaeton, propelling him overboard and into the river, Eridanus. His burned body was found by nymphs who honored him with a hero’s burial. The waters of the river sometimes steams because of Phaeton’s fiery demise and descent. Phaeton’s sisters mourned his unhappy end and were changed by Jupiter into weeping willows.
“All the long night their mournful watch they keep,
And all the day stand round the tomb and weep.”
It is said that the tears of the sisters turned to gold with which the Phoenicians and Carthaginians carried on a lucrative secret trade. The great heat produced when the sun popped out of its usual orbit is said to have produced sterility and barrenness over the greater part of Libya. This fable evidently alludes to some extraordinary periods of heat in a very remote time. Only this confused tradition remains today, but it may have been derived from an actual event.