The Constellation Mensa

by Dominic Ford
Mensa Mensa
The constellation Mensa. Roll mouse over to see labels.
Source: Stellarium.

Mensa is a small constellation which lies close to the south celestial pole. Across much of the southern hemisphere it is circumpolar, but it appears highest in the evening sky in the months around December.

The name ‘Mensa’ means ‘table’ and refers to Table Mountain, close to Cape Town. It is the only constellation to be named after a real geographic feature on Earth, and was created by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1756. He chose the name because Table Mountain overlooked his observing site when he was charting the southern sky.

Much later, the mountain also overlooked the site used by Sir John Herschel to scan the southern sky for nebulae in 1834–8.

Mensa has the dubious distinction of being the only constellation to contain no stars brighter than fifth magnitude – making it arguably the faintest of all the constellations.

It does, however, have some deep sky objects of interest. One of the Milky Way's two dwarf companion galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud, touches its northern edge. Within this sky area, numerous open and globular clusters are visible.

Date First Appeared
1756 (Lacaille)
Sky Area
0.4% of the sky
153.5 square degrees
Messier Objects
Mensa contains no Messier objects
Caldwell Objects
Mensa contains no Caldwell objects
Neighbors
The following constellations neighbor Mensa: Chamaeleon, Dorado, Hydrus, Octans, Volans.
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Brightest Objects in Mensa

Stars Open Clusters Globular Clusters Galaxies
Stars Open Clusters Globular Clusters Galaxies
α-Men (mag 5.1) NGC 1711 (mag 10.0) NGC 2019 (mag 11.0) NGC 2012
γ-Men (mag 5.2) NGC 1986 (mag 11.0) NGC 2121 (mag 11.2) NGC 2199
β-Men (mag 5.3) NGC 2134 (mag 11.0) NGC 1987 (mag 12.0) IC 2160
κ-Men (mag 5.4) NGC 2065 (mag 11.0) NGC 1841 (mag 12.0) NGC 2144
θ-Men (mag 5.4) NGC 2107 (mag 11.0) NGC 1751 IC 2051
η-Men (mag 5.5) NGC 2058 (mag 12.0) NGC 2133 IC 2164
μ-Men (mag 5.5) NGC 1944 NGC 2190 NGC 1956
ε-Men (mag 5.5) NGC 2016 NGC 1754 NGC 2171
ζ-Men (mag 5.6) NGC 2031 NGC 2161 IC 2103
π-Men (mag 5.7) NGC 2046 NGC 2209
HD 22676 (mag 5.7) NGC 1673 NGC 1651
δ-Men (mag 5.7) NGC 2056 NGC 2173
ν-Men (mag 5.8) NGC 1766 NGC 2213
ξ-Men (mag 5.8) NGC 2059
WX Men (mag 5.8) NGC 1789
ι-Men (mag 6.0) NGC 2072
TZ Men (mag 6.2) NGC 1823
λ-Men (mag 6.5) NGC 1861
IC 2140
NGC 1938
NGC 1950
NGC 2000
NGC 2025
NGC 2036
NGC 2047

Ashburn

Latitude:
Longitude:
Timezone:

39.04°N
77.49°W
EST

Color scheme