Constellation guide to the 88 official constellations which divide up the sky. These constellations are used to help navigate the celestial sphere. The Constellations are patterns in the sky which have been to invented and have deep mythology behind them. Constellations cover massive areas in the sky and as such are very easy to find.
Some of the constellations have very familiar names, such as Leo, Gemini, Virgo and Aquarius. There are 12 of these constellations and they form the Zodiac. The Zodiac constellations follow the line of the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the apparent path of the Sun on the celestial sphere.
Eridanus is a mythical river associated with Phaëton, and is the sixth largest of the 88 modern constellations. It was also one of Ptolemy's 48 constellations.
Eridanus is associated with two Greek myths, both likely to be derived from the shape of the constellation — that of a very twisty path. Eridanus was sometimes considered to be a river which flowed from the waters of Aquarius. Eridanus was more usually connected to the myth of Phaeton, who took over the reins of Helios' sky chariot, but didn't have the strength to control it, and so veered wildly in different directions. The result was that sometimes the chariot got too close to earth, creating desert and burning people's skin (a myth they considered to explain the skin of the Ethiopians).
At its southern end is the first magnitude star Achernar (α Eri). Achernar is a very peculiar star because it is one of the flattest stars known. Observations indicate that its radius is about 50% larger at the equator than at the poles. Responsible for this is the fact that Achernar is spinning extremely fast. Another well-known star in Eridanus is ε Eridani, which has been popular in science fiction because it is relatively close and relatively sun-like. It is now known to have at least one planet, which is thought to be a gas giant, like Jupiter.
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