The Pisces Constellation

Pisces is a constellation of the zodiac. Its name is the Latin plural for fish. Pisces is located northeast of Aquarius and to the northwest of the constellation Cetus the Sea-monster. Other constellations bordering Pisces are Triangulum, Andromeda, Pegasus and Aries. The ecliptic and the celestial equator intersect within this constellation and in Virgo. It occupies 889 square degrees, making it the 14th largest constellation overall. Its stars are faint — none are brighter than fourth magnitude — making it challenging to see in the sky with the naked eye. Pisces is notable for containing the point at which the sun crosses the celestial equator into the Northern Hemisphere around March 20 each year. This point, called the vernal equinox, used to lie in Aries, but has moved into Pices because of the Earth’s wobble on its axis, called precession, according to astronomer and author Ian Ridpath. Pisces is in the first quadrant of the Northern Hemisphere and covers a large V-shaped region. Northern Hemisphere observers are able to see Pisces most clearly in early autumn. It is located at right ascension, 0.85 hours, declination, 11.08 degrees. Visible between latitudes 90 degrees and minus 65 degrees and best viewed: at 9 p.m. between Nov. 6 and Nov. 9. One of the key ways to identify Pisces is to find the Circlet of Pisces — also known as the head of the Western Fish — to the south of the Square of Pegasus. The Eastern Fish can be seen leaping upward to the east of the Square of Pegasus.

Eta Piscium, also known as Alpherg or Kullat Nunu, is Pisces’ brightest star. It is a bright giant star (G class) that is 294 light-years from Earth and has a luminosity that is 316 times that of the sun. The constellation’s second brightest star is a yellow giant about 130 light-years from Earth known as Gamma Piscium. Alpha Piscium is the third brightest star in Pisces and is made up of a pair of white dwarf stars in close proximity. It is also called Alrescha (“the cord”) as it illuminates the spot where it appears that the tails of the two fish are tied together. Also known as Fum al Samakah, Arabic for “mouth of the fish,” Beta Piscium has a magnitude of 4.53 and is about 492 light-years from Earth.

M74 is a loosely wound (type Sc) spiral galaxy in Pisces, found at a distance of 30 million light-years (redshift 0.0022). It has many clusters of young stars and the associated nebulae, showing extensive regions of star formation. It was discovered by Pierre Méchain, a French astronomer, in 1780. A type II-P supernova was discovered in the outer regions of M74 by Robert Evans in June 2003; the star that underwent the supernova was later identified as a red supergiant with a mass of 8 solar masses. NGC 488 is an isolated face-on prototypical spiral galaxy. NGC 520 is a pair of colliding galaxies located 90 million lightyears away. CL 0024+1654 is a massive galaxy cluster that lenses the galaxy behind it, creating arc-shaped images of the background galaxy. The cluster is primarily made up of yellow elliptical and spiral galaxies, at a distance of 3.6 billion light-years from Earth (redshift 0.4), half as far away as the background galaxy, which is at a distance of 5.7 billion light-years (redshift 1.67). 3C 31 is an active galaxy and radio source in Perseus located at a distance of 237 million light-years from Earth (redshift 0.0173). Its jets, caused by the supermassive black hole at its centre, extend several million light-years in both directions, making them some of the largest objects in the universe. CGCG 436-030 is a spiral galaxy in Pisces. It has an apparent magnitude of 14.9 and is approximately 400 million light years distant. Arp 284 is a pair of interacting galaxies in Pisces, discovered by the English astronomer John Herschel in September 1830. NGC 7714 is a spiral galaxy with an apparent magnitude of 12.2, and NGC 7715 is thought to be either an edge-on spiral or an irregular galaxy. A supernova, SN 1999dn, was discovered in NGC 7714 in September 1999. Credits: Constellation Guide, Space.com, Wikipedia.