PISCES "The Fishes", pronounced PIE-seez.

Chart showing the constellation.

Pisces is an ancient constellation representing a pair of fishes tied by their tails, the knot being marked by the star a (alpha) Piscium. One legend identifies the constellation with Venus and her son Cupid, who turned themselves into fishes and swam away from the attack of the monster Typhon.

To find Pisces, look towards the middle of the north evening sky to find α Piscium above and to the right of the great square of Pegasus.

Chart showing Pisces as seen to the north soon after the sky darkens mid November.

Pisces chart

Constellation Aquarius Constellation Cetus Constellation Eridanus Constellation Aries Constellation Triangulum Constellation Andromeda Constellation Lacerta Constellation Cygnus Constellation Pegasus

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation

α Piscium (Al Rischa, the cord) is a challenging double star with an orbital period of 720 years. At present the components of magnitude 4.3 and 5.2 are slowly closing, and a good aperture and high magnification are needed to separate them. As well, both stars may be spectroscopic binaries.

β Psc is a magnitude 4.5 blue-white star 320 light years away.

γ Psc is a magnitude 3.7 yellow giant star 160 light years away.

ζ Psc is a wide double star 110 light years away, with components of magnitudes 4.9 and 6.3. It is a lovely sight, visible in small telescopes. Both stars are themselves double, but difficult to see in amateur telescopes.

η Psc, at magnitude 3.6 is the brightest star in the constellation. It is a yellow giant 140 light years away with a faint companion, difficult to see in small telescopes.

κ Psc is a magnitude 4.9 blue-white star 98 light years away, with an unrelated 6th magnitude binocular companion.

ρ Psc is a magnitude 5.4 white star 98 light years away. This star forms a binocular duo with the unrelated magnitude 5.5 orange giant star 94 Piscium 390 light years away.

ψ1 Psc is a wide blue white double star with magnitudes 5.3 and 5.6 visible in small telescopes or good binoculars.

M 74 (NGC 628) is a face on spiral galaxy 22.5 million light years away, discovered in 1780 by Méchain. Photographs show this beautiful symmetrical spiral galaxy has two arms regularly coiled, with many scattered condensations in them. Most amateur telescopes show it only as a dim haze.

NGC 524 is a round very symmetrical galaxy discovered by William Herschel in 1786. Photographs show faint traces of spiral structure in the galaxy with an almost stellar nucleus. It is easily seen in moderate telescopes from a dark sky site.

Visibility

Pisces mostly lies north of the Celestial equator. The arm from α Psc to β Psc runs roughly parallel to, and just north of, the equator. The other arm, from α Psc through η Psc runs towards the north. As a result the stars at the end of this arm (near Adnromeda) are never very high above the horizon as seen from New Zealand in the southern hemisphere.

By mid December, the constellation will be to the north west once the sky is dark after sunset and will have rotated so that α Psc is highest. This upper part of the constellation remains visible shortly after sunset to the north west through to the end of January.

During October, Pisces is visible to the north east soon after sunset, now rotated so that β Psc and the loop of stars near it, are highest.