Phoenix is the mythical bird that rose again from its own ashes by destruction by fire. Johann Bayer introduced this inconspicuous constellation in 1603 in an area that was known by the Arabs as the Boat, moored on the shores of the river. Later this figure was seen as an eagle or griffin, so the association of this area with a bird was well established in Bayer's time.
To find this constellation look south late evening and find the Southern Cross. The long axis of the "Cross" points towards the bright star Achernar. Use Achernar and the two Clouds of Magellan to help find the constellation.
α Phoenicis is a magnitude 2.4 yellow giant star 77 light years away.
β Phe appears to the unaided eye as a magnitude 3.3 yellow star, but in fact it is a close double star, first found by R. P. Sellors in 1891. Each of the components is well matched at magnitude 4.1. The separation is at present closing and a telescope of at least 20 cm aperture is needed to split the pair. These stars lie 198 light years away.
γ Phe is a magnitude 3.4 red supergiant star 234 light years away. This star varies slightly in brightness.
ζ Phe appears as a beautiful white pair of stars ornamenting a field with few stars. There are however at least three stars in this system, since the brighter star is an eclipsing binary with a period of 1.67 days. The system lies 280 light years away.
Phoenix lies well south of the celestial equator so that parts of the constellation are circumpolar especially from southern New Zealand.
The constellation passes overhead as seen from the South Island. α Phe transits soon after 10 pm NZDT in mid November and 2 hours earlier mid October.