the phoenix

The Phoenix

By Jake Riley, SR Senior Editor

Fun Facts

1. The sacred bird it’s named after exists in numerous mythologies; namely in Greek, Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Egyptian, Roman, and Indian mythology
2. It is also known as ‘The Captive Phoenix’
3. Hosts massive galaxies, namely the Phoenix and El Gordo clusters
4. The constellation is not a member of the Zodiac group of twelve
5. Hosts seven annual meteor showers, the most famous being the Phoenicids

An overview

The constellation of The Phoenix makes up an open-winged phoenix tilting its head to the side. The constellation consists of six main stars, with the orange giant Alpha Phoenicis, being the brightest of these stars, with a luminosity that’s 80 times that of our sun.

It is not one of the 12 Greek Zodiac constellations, though its depictions is well recognized across many different cultures and their respective mythologies. The constellation is one of the ancient constellations catalogued by Ptolemy, and is visible in the southern hemisphere from September through November.

The myth

The constellation of The Phoenix has no universal mythology to do with its existence or placement in the sky. However, the mythical creature itself is known throughout multiple ancient mythologies.

The Phoenix is said to be a sacred firebird with a plumage that boasts the colors of fire, with feathers of red, gold, and purple; and a tail of scarlet and gold. It is said that this mythical creature lived anywhere from 500 to 1,400 years before dying, with the notion of death being a poor substitute for the actual process it entails for the legendary firebird.

Once at the end of its lifespan, the Phoenix is said to create a nest for itself in palm trees of which trunks were of cinnamon bark and incense. It then bursts into flames and perishes in its own fire. A new firebird will then be birthed from the ashes of the ended phoenix. Thus, death for a phoenix is more a notion of rebirth and immortality than the end of its life.

The constellation

The constellation of The Phoenix is situated in the southern sky’s first quadrant, and is visible between latitudes -80 to +32 degrees. It is widely known for being the largest out of the 12 Petrus Plancius constellations, and neighbors Eridanus in ‘The Sea’.

Of the six main stars it consists, there exists three celestial bodies of note: Ankaa, also known as Alpha Phoenicis, an orange giant consisting of a binary system; Beta Phoenicis, the second brightest in the constellation; and Gamma Phoenicis, a red giant 234 light years away from earth.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

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