05 July 2021

Fun Facts

1. Columba means ‘the dove’ in Latin
2. Its original name, however, was Columba Noachi, meaning ‘Noah’s dove’
3. It hosts the blue subgiant, Phact, and the runaway star, Mu Columbae
4. Columba belongs to the Heavenly Waters group of constellations
5. Within its confines also lies the barred spiral galaxy, NGC 1808, and global cluster, NGC 1851

An overview

The constellation of Columba makes up a dove in mid-flight, with an olive branch in its beak. The constellation consists of 18 main stars, with the brightest being Phact, which is Arabic for ‘ring dove’.

Columba was first introduced as a constellation by Dutch astronomer, Petrus Plancius in the late 16th century. The constellation is visible in both the northern and southern hemispheres, though can only be clearly seen in the former during the month of February.

The myth

Instead of the common Greek roots that most constellation draw from, Columba instead is one telling of the Abrahamic story of Noah’s Ark.

The tale tells of God sending a Great Flood to rid the earth of all that wasn’t good. He had instructed Noah to build an ark and bring upon two of each creature to repopulate the earth.

After the Great Flood occurred, Noah sent a dove from the Ark to see if there was any dry land left. The dove then returns with an olive branch in its beak, signaling hope. The flood then receded, and Noah and his ark-full of animals reinhabited the earth once again.

The constellation

The constellation of Columba is situated in the southern sky’s first quadrant, and is visible between latitudes +45 to -90 degrees. It neighbors the constellations of Caelum, Canis Major, Lepus, Pictor, and Puppis.

Of the 18 main stars it consists, there exists three celestial bodies of note: Phact, a double-star composed of a Be-type subgiant and a faint companion star, which make up the brightest star of the constellation; and Wazn, a giant star of which Arabic name directly translates as ‘the weight’.

Want to learn about other constellations aside from Columba? Find out more about Draco or Microscopium. Alternatively, you can simply click here for a full list of constellations.

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