Friday, November 22, 2013

PISCIS AUSTRALIS - The Southern Fish

For me, fall means the reappearance of the lonely star in the southern sky with a funny name: FOMALHAUT.  Some people pronounce it, "Foam-a-lot," and others say, "Foam-a-low" but any way you cut it, it's a fascinating star.  Look south after sunset about 1/4 of the way up in the sky and you'll see Fomalhaut.  It's the only bright star in this area.  Check out this star's color very closely.  Most astronomers will say that stars cannot be green in color, but I swear Fomalhaut flickers blue, white, and GREEN. Check it out and see if you agree.

Recently astronomers discovered a planet in orbit around Fomalhaut.  At least we think it is.  Check out the picture to see if you can find it (I know it looks like the Eye of Sauron, but that's the way the instruments have to mask the star to detect very faint objects). 

Fomalhaut means, "The Fish's Mouth," and it is part of a cute, little fall constellation swimming in the southern sky. Piscis Australis (or Piscis Austrinus) is the southern fish, big daddy to the two fish tied together in the zodiacal 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?

Ancient Arabic astronomers called Fomalhaut, "The First Frog," (more evidence in my mind that it is green :).  The Second Frog is a star 25 degrees up and to the left called Deneb Kaitos (the tail of the whale) which rises after Fomalhaut - thus it's second. 

Check out the fish and frogs and star colors tonight.  There's a lot to see!