Monday, November 8, 2010

Piscis Australis - The Southern Fish

A cute, little fall constellation seemingly swims alone on the southern sky this month. Piscis Australis (or Piscis Austrinus) is the southern fish, big daddy to the two fish tied together in the zodiac constellation Pisces. The mythology on these stars is sketchy at best. One account says that a goddess fell into a lake near the Euphrates River and was saved by this fish. In most drawings of Piscis Australis the waters dumped by the constellation Aquarius flow right into his big mouth. Does a fish really need to drink?

Piscis Australis is easy to find because it has one really bright star called Fomalhaut (pronounced foam-a-low) which means, "fish's mouth." Look to the south right after sunset and you'll see one lonely bright star just a 1/4 the way up in the sky. That's Fomalhaut. The other stars are faint but look a little like a line-drawing of a goldfish.  Fomalhaut is a great indication for fall and it has the most unique color of all bright stars. Most astronomers will say that stars cannot be green, but if you look closely you might see it flicker blue, white, and GREEN. Most recently a planet was seen in orbit around Fomalhaut (see picture) so could this be a place for alien fish to thrive?