The PISCES constellation - myths, facts and location

By Jake Riley, SR Senior Editor

Fun Facts

1. Pisces means ‘fishes’ in Latin
2. It was previously recognized as a swallow bird by ancient Babylonians
3. It hosts the M74 galaxy, which is, in itself, estimated to contain 100 billion stars
4. It also hosts the first isolated white dwarf discovered
5. One of its stars, the RZ Piscium, pulls planets into itself

An overview

The constellation of Pisces makes up a large ‘V’ with a circle of stars on each tip, where said tips depict two fishes that are connected by cords consisting the rest of the ‘V’. The constellation consists of 18 main stars, with the brightest being Eta Piscium, a yellow giant 26 times larger than our sun.

It is one of the 12 Greek Zodiac constellations, though it was depicted by ancient Babylonians as a swallow bird. The constellation is visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, though can only be seen in areas of considerable lack of light pollution. It appears from August to January in the Northern hemisphere and in the months of spring in the Southern hemisphere.

The myth

The myth of Pisces—much like that of Capricornus—is tied to that of the great monster, Typhon, the son of the Earth Goddess, Gaia. Typhon was a giant fire-breathing monster as tall and wide as the mountains, and was known to be one of the most fearsome beings in Greek mythology.

One day, Gaia had ordered Typhon to destroy Olympus and all the gods that dwelled within. As he approached the gate of Olympus, the gods inside began to flee for their lives. Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, and her son, Eros, the god of love, were two such gods.

In their escape, they arrived at a riverbank and was about to jump in to swim away when they noticed the strong tides. Afraid that they would get separated from one another, they tied a single rope around each other before taking the shape of fishes and leaping into the water.

The rope worked as intended, and the two of them managed to swim to safety without being separated from one another. To celebrate their safe escape, they placed the figures of two fish among the stars, birthing the constellation of Pisces.

The constellation

The Constellation of Pisces is situated in the northern sky’s first quadrant, and is visible between latitudes +90 to -65 degrees. It neighbors the constellations of other aquatic constellations such as Eridanus, Cetus, Capricornus, and Aquarius.

Of the 18 main stars it consists, there exists four celestial bodies of note: Eta Piscium, a yellow giant which is the brightest star of the constellation at 27 times the size of the sun; Alrisha, a binary star system of two blue-white stars; Omega Piscium, a yellow-white main sequence star; and Gamma Piscium, a yellow giant with a radius 10 times larger than that of our sun.

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