Pisces is one of the trickiest constellations to view in the night sky due to its dimness.
- Pisces is a large but faint constellation containing no bright stars.
- The constellation is only fully visible in areas away from light pollution.
- Pisces is visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
- In the Northern hemisphere Pisces can be seen from August to January.
- In the Southern hemisphere Pisces can be viewed in the months of Spring, it will appear upside down in comparison to how it appears in the Northern hemisphere.
- PIsces isn't home to any notable deep sky objects, the most interesting object is M74, a spiral galaxy some 30 million light years from
Earth which is faintly visible through a telescope.
- In Latin Pisces means fishes.
- Pisces is one of the twelve signs of the astrological zodiac.
- Pisces has been recognized as a constellation for over 3,000 years although the ancient Babylonians associated it with a swallow bird.
The constellation represents the Greek Gods Aphrodite and Eros disguised as fish.
The constellation of Pisces is based on a tale from Greek mythology and involves three main characters. Firstly we have Typhon, son of the Earth Goddess Gaia. Typhon was a gigantic monster who was as tall and wide as the mountains with the head of a hundred dragons. Typhon could breathe fire from his many eyes and was capable of destruction on a massive scale, he was the most fierce and the most feared monster in Greek mythology.
One day Gaia ordered Typhon to destroy Olympus, home of the Gods. On his approach to Olympus the Gods began to flee including the other two characters in the tale, Aphrodite the Goddess of Beauty and her son Eros, the God of Love. After reaching a river bank Aphrodite and Eros tie a rope to each other and turn themselves into fish before leaping into the water, the rope prevented them from becoming separated as they eventually swam to safety. To celebrate the event the figures of two fish were later placed amongst the stars.
Main Stars in the Pisces Constellation
The number next to each star is its apparent magnitude, its brightness from our point of view
on Earth, the lower the number the brighter the star in the night sky.
Eta PIscium is a yellow giant star around 300 light years from Earth, it is around 26 times larger in radius than the sun with 4 times its mass.
It is the brightest star in the constellation even though its apparent magnitude is only 3.62.
Also known as Alpha Piscium, Alrisha is a binary star system consisting of two blue-white main sequence stars, the two stars are separated by a distance
of around 11 billion miles (18 billion km) and take around 700 years to orbit each other, the Alpha Piscium system is around 140 light years from Earth.
Omega Piscium is a yellow-white main sequence star around 100 light years from Earth with twice the mass of the Sun.
Gamma Piscium is a yellow giant star around 140 light years from Earth, it has around the same mass as the Sun but is 10 times larger in radius.
Finding Pisces - Northern Hemisphere
The chart shows the position of Pisces over most of the United States in January at 9pm. This chart can also be applied to other areas of the Northern hemisphere such as Canada, the UK and Europe.
You will need dark skies away from light pollution to fully view the constellation.
In August and September the constellation will be appear low in the eastern horizon around 11pm, by around 3am it will be high in the southern night sky before moving off towards the western horizon.
In October it will appear low in the eastern horizon around 8pm, by midnight it will high in the southern night sky then continue towards the western horizon until day break.
In November it will be visible in the eastern night sky from around 7pm, at around 10pm it will be high in the southern night sky and begin to dip below the western horizon at around 3am.
In December and January Pisces will first appear high in the southern sky around 6 to 7pm, by around midnight it will begin to dip below the western horizon.
Finding Pisces - Southern Hemisphere
The chart shows the position of Pisces over most of Australia in mid spring at 11pm. This chart can also be applied to other areas of the Southern hemisphere such as New Zealand, South Africa and South America.
In the Southern hemisphere Pisces is visible in the northern night sky but you will need dark skies to fully appreciate it.
In October Pisces becomes visible at around 9pm low in the eastern horizon, by around 1am it will be in the northern night sky before moving towards the western horizon.
In November the constellation will appear in the north-eastern night sky at around 10pm, by midnight it will be in the northern night sky before beginning to dip below the western horizon at around 4am.
In December it will be briefly visible in the north-western night sky between the hours of 11pm and 2am.