The Volans Constellation

Volans is a constellation in the southern sky. It represents a flying fish; its name is a shortened form of its original name, Piscis Volans. Volans was one of twelve constellations created by Petrus Plancius from the observations of Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman and it first appeared on a 35-cm diameter celestial globe published in 1597 (or 1598) in Amsterdam by Plancius with Jodocus Hondius. The first depiction of this constellation in a celestial atlas was in Johann Bayer’s Uranometria of 1603. Volans is the 76th constellation in size, occupying an area of 141 square degrees. It is located in the second quadrant of the southern sky (SQ2) and can be seen at latitudes between +15° and -90°. The neighbouring constellations are Carina, Chamaeleon, Dorado, Mensa and Pictor. Volans belongs to the Johann Bayer family of constellations, along with Apus, Chamaeleon, Dorado, Grus, Hydrus, Indus, Musca, Pavo, Phoenix and Tucana.

There are two double stars within the constellation, Gamma Volantis and Epsilon Volantis, along with two galaxies which may be more difficult to see clearly, NGC 2442 and NGC 2434. The magnitudes of the Gamma Volantis stars are 3.8 and 5.6 and of Epsilon Volantis 4.4 and 7.3. Beta Volantis is the brightest star in Volans constellation. It has an apparent magnitude of 3.77 and is 107.5 light years distant from the Sun. It is an orange giant with the stellar classification K1III. It has 1.62 solar masses and is 41 times more luminous than the Sun. HD 76700 is a yellow dwarf with the stellar classification G6V. It has an apparent magnitude of 8.13 and is 194.6 light years distant from Earth. The star has a mass similar to the Sun but is much brighter and older. A planet was recently discovered orbiting the star with a period of 3.97097 days. It has a mass 0.233 times that of Jupiter.

Volans has several deep-sky objects within its borders. NGC 2397 is a spiral galaxy in Volans. It has an apparent magnitude of 12.68 and is approximately 60 million light years distant from Earth. The galaxy’s nucleus contains old red and yellow stars, and the outer spiral arms are regions where star formation has recently taken place. The galaxy was discovered by the English astronomer and mathematician John Herschel on February 21, 1835. A late-stage supernova, SN 2006bc, was discovered in NGC 2397 in 2006. The Lindsay-Shapley ring, also categorized as AM0644-741, is an unbarred lenticular galaxy located 300 million light-years from Earth. Named for its discoverers, the Lindsay-Shapley ring was found near the Large Magellanic Cloud in 1960. Like the Cartwheel Galaxy in Sculptor, the unusual shape of this galaxy results from a collision many millions of years ago. The blue ring, 150,000 light-years in diameter, was formed when a shock wave from the collision created a ring of hot blue stars; the yellow core is an amalgamation of the progenitors’ cores. NGC 2442 is an intermediate spiral galaxy in Volans. It was discovered by John Herschel, who described one of the galaxy’s spiral arms as hook-like. The galaxy’s distorted appearance is believed to be the result of an encounter with a smaller galaxy. The galaxy has a visual magnitude of 11.2 and is approximately 50 million light years distant from Earth. Its visible disk and spiral arms span approximately 150,000 light years. NGC 2434 is an elliptical galaxy in Volans. It has a visual magnitude of 11.3 and is 21,898 Mpc distant from Earth. The galaxy was discovered by John Herschel on December 23, 1834.

 Credits: Constellation Guide, Wikipedia.