Constellation of Pheonix

Pheonix star map

Abbreviation: Phe

Genitive: Phoenicis

English: The Phoenix

Size Ranking: 37th

Area: 469 square degrees.

Fully visible S of 32°N.

The constellation this month, Phoenix, is relatively inconspicuous and lies near the southern end of neighbouring Eridanus, close to the bright star, Achernar, αEri. It is the largest of the twelve ‘Southern Bird’ constellations invented in the 16th century by the Dutch navigators Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman, and represents the mythical bird that was regularly reborn from its own ashes.

To locate Phoenix, start by referring to earlier CoM’s, Eridanus, Jan. 2004 and Grus, Oct. 2004. Create a line linking Achernar, αEri, and Alnair, αGru. Make this line the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle, with the right angle away from the SCP. The distance αEri to Ankaa, αPhe, is approximately 0.55 the distance αEri to αGru. The line, αGru to αPhe, also passes through βGru.

Features of Interest:

αPhe, named Ankaa, is an orange giant star of magnitude 2.4 and is 77ly away.

βPhe, appears to the naked eye as a yellow star of magnitude 3.3. In fact, it is a close double with well matched components of 4.0 and 4.2, separation 1.4”, PA 346°. Probably, only larger aperture telescopes will split this pair. They are 185ly distant.

γPhe, magnitude 3.4, is an orange giant 234ly away.

ζPhe, being 280ly away, is a complex variable and multiple star. The main star is a blue-white eclipsing binary of the Algol type that fluctuates between magnitudes 3.9 and 4.4 every 1.67 days. It has an 8th magnitude companion visible in small telescopes, while larger apertures are required to detect the much closer 7th magnitude companion.

References:

1. Redshift 2 – Maris Multimedia

2. The Guinness Book of Astronomy – Patrick Moore

3. Stars and Planets – Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion

4. Sky Charts – Cartes du Ciel V 2.75.

5. Where the Stars Are – Orion..