History of the Constellations

Stars and Constellations

Piscis Austrinus

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Contents of this page: | Description | Skylore | Modern Culture | Origin and History | Special Stars | Submit new info... |

Images (at bottom of page): | Piscis Austrinus Chart: (Figure 1) | Bayer, 1661, page zZz: (Figure 2) | Bayer, 1661, page zzzAaa: (Figure 3) | Bayer, 1697, page O1r: (Figure 4) | Bayer, 1697, page O1v: (Figure 5) | Bayer, 1697, page O1v: (Figure 6) | Bayer, 1697, page O2r: (Figure 7) | Bode, 1801, page l: (Figure 8) | Bode, 1801, page r: (Figure 9) | Bode, 1801, page r: (Figure 10) | Images digitized by Hannah Magruder.

Constellation Data

Description

The Southern Fish is also called Piscis Australis. Unlike Pisces, the zodiac constellation which consists of two fish held together by a string, Piscis Austrinus is a single fish. Piscis Austrinus is a very faint constellation located south of Aquarius, and is often depicted as drinking from Aquarius’ water jar (but why would a fish want to drink water??). Except for the bright star Formalhaut, Piscis Austrinus is rather unremarkable.

Skylore and Literature

An ancient constellation, representing the Babylonian fish-god Oannes, who came to Earth to teach humans how to become civilized (do we need him to return now?).

Modern Culture

Origin and History

Piscis Austrinus is included in the ancient star catalogs of Eudoxos of Knidos, Aratos of Soli, and Ptolemy. Also called Piscis Notius by Bode (to be distinguished from Bode’s Piscis Volans also shown here next to Argo Navis).

Special Stars

Alpha-Piscis Austrini, better known as Formalhaut (Arabic for "mouth of the fish"), is one of the southernmost bright, first-magnitude stars visible to northern latitudes. Declination: -30 degrees south. Distance: 22 LY. Locate Formalhaut by tracing south from beta-Pegasis through alpha-Pegasi, across Pisces and Aquarius. Formalhaut is surrounded by a cloud of cool gas, possibly planet-forming material, according to 1983 measurements by the Infra-Red Astronomical Satellite.

Submit new info...

Many excellent websites provide a variety of information about constellations for amateur astronomers and telescope users (see sidebar links for a few of these). These constellation pages are not intended to duplicate those efforts, but are devoted to two aims: First, they are intended to assist the beginning skywatcher, including students in history of science survey courses, in becoming familiar with Basic Celestial Phenomena (BCP). Second, these pages are devoted to the history of the constellations and the history of astronomy. They are intended to serve as a repository for collaborative use and reference. Do you have additional historical information about the stars or constellation described on this page? Please submit additional information to kmagruder@ou.edu. Submissions will be attributed. Editors for historical information are Kerry Magruder, JoAnn Palmeri, Peter Barker, and Laura Gibbs.

Oklahoma History of Science exhibits: http://hos.ou.edu/exhibits/. Page revised 4/15/04

Bad links, misplaced images, or questions? Contact Kerry Magruder. Thank you.

"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown. But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile." R. W. Emerson, Nature

Images

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PsA Chart
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Bayer, 1661

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Bayer, 1661

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Bayer, 1697

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Bayer, 1697

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Bayer, 1697

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Figure 7 Figure 7 - Return to Text

Bayer, 1697

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Figure 8 Figure 8 - Return to Text

Bode, 1801

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Figure 9 Figure 9 - Return to Text

Bode, 1801

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Figure 10 Figure 10 - Return to Text

Bode, 1801

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Exhibit credit: Kerry Magruder.

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These teaching resources provided by the History of Science Department at the University of Oklahoma.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries. Image Terms of Use.

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