Pisces, one of the dimmest constellations of the zodiac, lays just north of the celestial equator. It is located east of the constellation Aquarius, south of Andromeda and Pegasus, west of Aries and north of Cetus. For stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere, Pisces is visible before midnight from August through February. Its highlights include a circlet of stars marking the western fish's head and the 10th magnitude spiral galaxy M74.Continue Reading
The sun travels through Pisces from March 13 to April 19. This span of time includes the first day of spring, also known as the vernal equinox. In astronomical terminology, the vernal and autumnal equinoxes are defined as the coordinates in the sky where the sun's path (the ecliptic) crosses the celestial equator.
Over 2,000 years ago, the vernal equinox was located farther east in the constellation Aries. This gave rise to the term "first point in Aries". The reason this point has shifted westward over the centuries is a phenomenon called the precession of the equinoxes. The earth's rotational axis wobbles like a top with respect to the distant stars. One cycle or wobble takes 26,000 years. Six centuries from now, the vernal equinox will shift westward into the constellation Aquarius. Adherents of astrology will be interested to know this will mark the official beginning of the age of Aquarius.Learn more about Constellations
People typically refer to groups of stars in a pattern as constellations, but the accurate term is asterism; scientists refer to actual groups of stars as clusters and group individual stars by light magnitude. Because constellations are the standard observation grouping, astronomers refer to constellations when naming stars.Full Answer >
The constellations, which reflect mankind's earliest efforts to attach representative significance to what was seen in the night sky, were physically formed at the same time as the billions of other stars, but began to be named according to the patterns seen in their respective groupings around 2000 B.C. Scorpio the scorpion and Leo the lion are two of the earliest known names given to star groups. The Greeks began to name and document constellations in earnest beginning around 500 B.C.Full Answer >
Most constellation maps, or star charts, are circular and labelled with the four cardinal directions and the names of constellations and their major stars. Star charts are also marked with the time of year they represent as well as the viewing latitude they represent.Full Answer >
Hands-on projects and telling the myth behind each constellation are fun and engaging ways to teach children about constellations. Have the children draw the constellation on black paper using a white or silver marker or help the children create a 3-D model of their favorite constellation using marshmallows as the stars and toothpicks as the lines that connect different stars.Full Answer >