Pictor is a constellation located in the Southern Celestial Hemisphere, which can be found between the star Canopus and the Large Magellanic Cloud. The name of the constellation means Painter in Latin and is an abbreviation of the older name of the constellation Equuleus Pictoris.  In Latin, Equuleus Pictoris means the “painter’s easel.”

Normally represented as an easel in the nights sky, Pictor was named by Abbé Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille in the 18th century. The constellation’s brightest star is Alpha Pictoris, which is a white main-sequence star located about 97 light-years away from Earth.

Pictor has attracted attention because of its second-brightest star Beta Pictoris, which is 63.4 light-years distant from Earth. Beta Pictoris has been observed to be surrounded by an unusual dust disk rich in carbon, as well as an exoplanet. An additional five stars in the constellation have been observed to have planets.

As a result of its location in the Southern Celestial Hemisphere, Pictor can be visible to observers south of latitude 26°N, and parts are circumpolar south of latitude 35°S.

Applicable Information
Visibility In Pacific NorthwestNot Visible
Best Times To ViewNot Visible
Right Ascension4.53h –  6.85h
Declination−43° – −64°
Area247 square degrees
Main Stars3
Brightest Objectα Pic
Meteor showers0
Messier objects0
Neighboring ConstellationsCaelum, Carina, Columba, Dorado, Puppis, Volans

The Name

The French astronomer Abbé Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille first described Pictor as le Chevalet et la Palette, which means the easel and palette in French in 1756. This was during Lacaille’s 2 year stay in the Cape of Good Hope, during which time that he observed and catalogued 10,000 southern stars. During this time, he devised 14 new constellations in uncharted regions of the Southern Celestial Hemisphere not visible from Europe, which included Pictor. 10 stars in Pictor were given Bayer designations, now named Alpha to Nu Pictoris. 

Lacaille labelled the constellation Equuleus Pictorius on his 1763 chart, with the word “Equuleus” meaning small horse, or easel. The German astronomer Johann Bode called it Pluteum Pictoris. The name was shortened to its current form in 1845 by the English astronomer Francis Baily on the suggestion of his countryman Sir John Herschel.[1]


Pictor is a faint constellation; its three brightest stars can be seen near the prominent Canopus. Within the constellation’s borders, there are 49 stars brighter than or equal to apparent magnitude 6.5.

NGC 1705 is an irregular dwarf galaxy 17 million light-years from Earth. It is one of the most active star forming galaxies in the nearby universe. Pictor A, around 485 million light-years away, is a double-lobed radio galaxy and a powerful source of radio waves in the Southern Celestial Hemisphere.

GRB 060729 was a gamma-ray burst that was first observed on 29 July 2006. It is likely the signal of a type Ic supernova—the core collapse of a massive star.

Make sure to check out other articles on the site, including a brief introduction to constellations, other constellation articles, and more!


[1] = Ridpath, Ian (1988). “Pictor”Star Tales.

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