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Until about a century ago, the constellations went through many changes. They were created, erased, expanded, contracted, and resculpted. And one constellation that went through most of those steps slides across the southern evening sky at this time of year.
Sculptor was created in the 1750s by Nicolas Louis de la Caille. The French astronomer had traveled to the Cape of Good Hope. He cataloged more than 10,000 stars that were too far south to see from much of the northern hemisphere. From that work, he created 14 constellations.
His original name for Sculptor was Apparatus Sculptoris — the sculptor’s studio. It included a table, a block of granite, tools, and a carved head.
A half-century later, German astronomer Johann Bode made some changes. He rearranged the objects in the studio, then took away half of the constellation to make a new one. It represented a generator used for experiments.
That didn’t catch on, though. The studio was returned to its original configuration. The only change came in the mid-1800s, when the name was shortened to Sculptor.
Like all the other present-day constellations, it was formalized by astronomers in 1930 — blocking any more changes.
Sculptor has no bright stars, so you need to get away from city lights to see any of the constellation. It’s in the south at nightfall, to the lower left of Fomalhaut, the only bright star in that part of the sky.
More about Sculptor tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield