Volans – The Flying Fish, by Kim Touzel


Vlans the flying fish


Piscis Volans is a small constellation located in the Southern Sky, south of magnitude    -0.62 Canopus (the second brightest star in the sky). It is bordered on the north and east by the constellation Carina, and to the west by the Large Magellanic Cloud. Beta Carinae is near the eastern border and Epsilon Carinae 5 ° north of Volans.  Use these brighter stars to locate The Flying Fish.

The brightest stars are visible with naked eye, most of these in the 4th magnitude range. With a small telescope there are a couple of nice pairs and a spiral galaxy to observe with a larger telescope.

The constellation was created by Dutch navigators Pieter Keyser and Frederick de Houtman in 1595 -7. Johann Bayer introduced the constellation in his Uranometria of 1603.

Sailors were impressed by fish which had pectoral fins as large as the wings on birds, allowing them to glide across the surface of the water for up to ¼ mile. Piscis Volans was named after these fish.  The constellation is now known only as Volans, “flying”.

Being circumpolar,  located near our Southern Celestial Pole this constellation is never seen north of the Tropics.

Alpha α Volantis is magnitude 4, 124 ly away.

Beta β, mag . 3.8 blue-white star, 108 ly away is an orange giant.

Gamma γ a double of gold and cream colours, mag. 3.8 and 5.7, 142 ly away are a nice pair in a small telescope.

Epsilon ε another double of magnitudes 4.4 and 8 can be observed with a small telescope.

NGC 2442 a near face on barred spiral galaxy is located approximately 2 ° southeast of Delta, and 3 ° southwest of Epsilon. Coordinates are RA 07h 36m 23s, Declination        -69°31’59”. At magnitude 11 and only 6 arc minute in size at least a 12 inch telescope will be required. If you have a friend with a 20 inch, even better as some detail will be seen. 2442 was discovered by JW Herschel in 1834.


Sources: The Starlore Handbook, G. Cornelius 2000, Duncan Baird Publishers; Collins Pocket Guide, Stars & Planets 3rd Ed., .I Ridpath & V. Tirion 1993; Star Atlas Pro, SKYLab Astronomy Software; SkyWatching, DH Levy, 1995;  Image from  The NGC/IC Project Robert E Erdmann, Jr 1996 – 2006 (www.ngcic.org/dss/dss_ngc.asp)