Heavenly Waters Constellation Family: Pyxis and Eridanus

In this installment of constellations under the Heavenly Waters family, you will find information regarding Pyxis (‘the box’) and Eridanus, which has a few interesting stars and mythological tales attached to it.


This minor constellation found in the south translates into ‘box’ in Latin. At first, this group of stars was called “Pyxix Nautica” by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille (a French astronomer during the 1700s). Some believe that it supposedly signifies the compass of Argo Navis (the ship of the Argonauts), but this thinking is somewhat flawed since the ancient Greeks did not rely on or believe in compasses as an instrument for navigation. If you are looking for a bit of mythology attached to this constellation , there is none , as no independent mythology dating before the 17th century exists.


This particular constellation comes from the ancient Greek name for the Po River (now found in Italy). In mythology, the constellation is connected to Phaeton and is the sixth largest of the 88 modern star groupings. It is also one of the original Ptolemy 48. When taking a look at the astronomical features on Eridanus, there are two that come to mind.

The first is called Achernar (the first magnitude star) and is located at the southern end. You probably don’t think of stars as being flat in shape, but Acherner is odd in this way because it is the flattest of stars. Observations regarding the star include the fact that it possesses a radius that is around 50% larger at the equator than at the poles. Since the star is spinning at an extreme rate, this type of distortion takes place.

Epsilon Eridani is another popular star of Eridanus because it has gained fame within the science fiction scene because it is positioned rather close and possesses characteristics much like the sun. It is known to have at least one planet (extrasolar) that scientists often liken to Jupiter , a gas giant.

The mythological aspect of Eridanus is attached to two different Greek myths with a history most likely created because of its shape. A twisty path marks its appearance. Some have thought that Eridanus was a river that flowed from the waters of Aquarius. Moreover, Eridanus is usually connected to the myth of Phaeton, who grabbed hold of the reins of Helios (the Sun), but could not muster up enough strength to gain control. This caused him to shift in wild directions.

The outcome saw that the chariot sometimes got too close to the earth , this was thought to produce people whose skin looked burned. This was also the myth that the Greeks upheld when explaining the darkness of Ethiopian skin. Finally, Zeus was forced to play a role and took over by striking Phaeton dead with a thunderbolt. It is this constellation that was considered the path that Phaeton drove along. In later times, some thought that the river of the underworld fell into this path.