Constellation Pisces (Fishes)

Pisces: IAU Constellation Map [150]


The constellation consists mainly of weaker stars averaging 4th size and depicts two fish that are knotted on their tails. The node itself is marked by the star alpha Piscium. Pisces is located south and southeast of Pegasus and south of Andromeda. The most striking feature of this inconspicuous constellation is an ellipse of seven faint stars south of the Pegasus rectangle. Pisces covers an area of 889 square degrees and the center culminates around midnight on September 27th. [9]

Stars with Proper Names [154]
α PscAlrisha, Alrischa, Alrescha, El Rischa, Al Richa, Rescha, Okda, Kaitain
β PscFum Al Samakah
ο PscTorcularis Septentrionalis
Data for constellation Pisces [150]
IAU NamePisces
IAU GenitivePiscium
IAU Abbr.Psc
English NameFishes
Season (47° N)July … January
Right Ascension22h 51m 17s … 02h 06m 40s
Declination-06° 18' 27" … +33° 40' 55"
Area889 deg2
Neighbours (N↻)And, Peg, Aqr, Cet, Ari, Tri

Deep-Sky Object Descriptions


Mythology and History

In ancient Greek mythology, these fish represent Aphrodite and her son Eos. Both were swimming when a monster, Typhen, suddenly appeared and scared them. To escape the monsters, the two turned into fish, held together by a ribbon so that they would not be separated. In order to preserve the memory of this moment, the two were placed on the vault of heaven. [83]

Constellation Pisces: Illustration from «Uranometria» by Johann Bayer, copper engraving by Alexander Mair, 1603 [28]

Another version of this story tells how giants, gigantic sons of the earth once wanted to storm the sky. Typhon in particular, a giant with a hundred arms, terrified the people of heaven. All fled and the heavenly ones tried to hide themselves by taking on earthly forms. Zeus turned into a bell-bell, Apollo into a raven, Dionysus into a goat, Artemis into a cat and Hera into a white cow. In this confusion, two fish that romped about in the Euphrates proved to be particularly helpful to the gods:

When Zeus was defending the sky with arms, Aphrodite came to the Euphrates, only accompanied by her little son Cupid, fleeing from the grim Typhon and settled on the bank of the Palestinian river. Above, reeds and poplars lined its banks, and the willows gave hope for a heavenly shelter. When they were in hiding, the wind sang in the forest. Aphrodite turned pale with shock and believed that the enemy's rulers were there. She pressed her boy's chest and called the nymphs for protection. Without hesitation, she then jumped into the water. Two fish offered their backs, for which they now have the stars as a worthy gift. [7, 20]

In the Alfonsin Tables (1215) this constellation is known as Pesces. In the edition of the Ptolemaic Almagest from 1515 one reads Echiguen, or in the German astronomer Bayer (1572-1625) Ichiguen. Both names are mutilated words for the Greek expression Ichthues (fish). The Romans often referred to the fish as Imbrifer Duo Pisces, the two rain-bringing fish, but also Gemini Pisces and Piscis Gemellus, i.e. as a pair of fish. The story of the two gods who threw themselves into the Euphrates for fear of the giant Typhon is reflected in the names Venus et Cupido, Venus Syria cum Cupidine and Venus cum Adone.

In the Christian realm of thought, the fish are a reminder of the miracle of Christ on the occasion of the feeding of thousands of people. The fish were also an ancient symbol of the Christian faith. [20]

The Star of Bethlehem

Around the beginning of the 6th century AD, the Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguus, who lived in Rome, tried to bring some order to the confused annual counting of the various peoples of Europe and the Middle East. He therefore decided to use the year of the birth of Christ as the beginning of a consecutive year count. Using Easter tables that had been in circulation since the 3rd century and that contained the dates of future Easter celebrations, he calculated the years back and came up with a date that, however, after today's implementation of this calculation turned out to be around six years too late. [135]

In the year 6 BC BC (or -7 according to astronomical counting) there was a rare triple conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces. The first of these three conjunctions took place on May 29, 6 BC. Chr. With 1 ° angular distance, the second on October 1st also with 1 ° and the third on December 5th with 1.1 ° (Julian calendar). [129] Conjunctions between Jupiter and Saturn occur around every 20 years, but very few are three times with such a small angular distance.

These two facts almost certainly suggest that that Jupiter-Saturn conjunction went down in history and Christian belief as the star of Bethlehem. The association with a comet, as the Florentier master Giotto di Bondone portrayed it in a fresco in 1304, seems rather improbable, since comets were previously viewed by many cultures as a bad omen or even a messenger of doom. [27] A supernova is also out of the question due to missing remains from that time in the constellation of Pisces.


  • [7] «Der grosse Kosmos-Himmelsführer» von Ian Ridpath und Wil Tirion; Kosmos Verlag; ISBN 3-440-05787-9
  • [9] «Drehbare Sternkarte SIRIUS» von H. Suter-Haug; Hallwag-Verlag, Bern
  • [20] «Sternbilder und ihre Mythen» von Gerhard Fasching; Zweite, verbesserte Auflage; Springer Verlag Wien, New York; ISBN 3-211-82552-5 (Wien); ISBN 0-387-82552-5 (New York)
  • [27] «Der Komet» von Carl Sagan und Ann Druyan; Buchclub Ex Libris Zürich
  • [28] «Uranometria omnium asterismorum continens schemata, nova methodo delineata aereis laminis expressa» Johann Bayer, Augsburg, 1603; DOI:10.3931/e-rara-309
  • [83] The Starry Sky: Pisces by Deborah Byrd; Astronomy 10/95, p.62
  • [129] TheSky for Windows, Version 2.11, Level IV; Software Bisque; 912 Twelfth Street; Suite A; Golden, Colorado 80401, USA;
  • [135] Europas Uhr geht sechs Jahre nach von Barbara S. Eisenbeiss; MUSEION 2000, Glaube, Wissen, Kunst in Geschichte und Gegenwart; 6/94, S. 32
  • [150] IAU: The Constellations, 11. Oktober 2020;
  • [154] Yale Bright Star Catalog, 15. Oktober 2020;