Antila is one the constellations named by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille during the mid eighteenth century, designed to chart the southern hemisphere. Antila represents the air pump, which (at the time) had been recently invented by Robert Boyle. Antlia is located in a rather remote and open section of southern hemisphere skies and contains only 9 Bayer/Flamsteed designated stars. The IAU adopted it as one of the 88 modern constellations. Beginning at the north, Antlia is surrounded by the sea snake Hydra, the compass Pyxis, the sails (Vela) of the mythological ship Argo and finally the centaur Centaurus.
Located at RA 10 44 20.9 Dec -33 34 37.2 is 8.3 magnitude HD 93083, a star which contains a planet that might be considered habitable. It is a “Sulfurous Cloud Jovian Planet” and its existence been confirmed. It is position at the inner edge of the habitable zone at a mean orbital distance of 0.47 AU and the estimated radius of the pate is 0.33 the size of Jupiter. The planet itself orbits parent star HD 93083 every 143.58 days and was discovered by C. Lovis, M. Mayor, F. Pepe, D. Queloz, N.C. Santos, D. Sosnowska, S. Udry, W. Benz, J.-L. Bertaux, F. Bouchy, C. Mordasini, J.P. Sivan in 2005.
For telescopes, Antila contains several items of interest. The first is NGC 2997, a spiral galaxy which is inclined 45° to our line of sight and the Antlia Dwarf – a 14.8 magnitude dwarf spheroidal galaxy which belongs to our Local Group of galaxies. It was only discovered as recently as 1997. For more moderately sized telescopes, look for planetary nebula NGC 3132, also known as the “Eightburst Planetary” or “Southern Ring Nebula”. It is very close to the border with Vela. Seen through a 6-inch scope it appears as an elliptical disk with an apparent size larger than that of the planet Jupiter. At its heart is a very cool binary star!
For binoculars, take a look at Alpha Antliae – the brightest star of the constellation. Shining away at magnitude 4.2, it’s located some 360 light years away from Earth. Now move on to Zeta Antliae, it’s a very wide double star easily split with binoculars into its two components of 6th-magnitude. One of the component stars also has a 7th-magnitude companion. For smaller telescopes, try your hand at 5.2 magnitude double star Eta Antliae. Located 110 light years away from Earth. Its two components (magnitudes 5.2 and a disparate magnitude 12) are separated by 31 arcseconds.