PAVO: THE PEACOCK Pronounced PAR-voh.

Chart showing the constellation.

This constellation was introduced on the 1603 star map of the German celestial cartographer Johann Bayer. The only conspicuous star is a α Pav on the northern edge. It is one of several celestial birds in this region, including Apus, Tucana, Grus and Phoenix. In mythology the peacock was sacred to Juno, goddess of the heavens from whose breast the Milky Way sprang. According to legend, Juno set a creature with a hundred eyes called Argus to watch over a white heifer; Juno guessed that this heifer was the form into which her husband Jupiter had turned one of his illicit lovers, the nymph Io. At Jupiter's `request, Mercury decapitated the watchful Argus and released the heifer. Juno placed the 100 eyes of Argus on the peacock's tail.

Two nearby constellations are:

Triangulum Australe, the Southern triangle, which was introduced by Bayer in 1603 as a counterpart of the long-established northern triangle. It was apparently suggested by Pieter Theodor about a century earlier.

Indus the (American) Indian, was also introduced by Johann Bayer in 1603 in his Uranometria atlas. It has no stars brighter than 3rd magnitude, so is not readily apparent from city sites.

To find these constellations look south in the evening. Line up with the "Pointers" (Alpha and Beta Centauri) to the Southern Cross, whose stars are in the right bottom corner of the chart.

Chart showing Pavo high to the south about 9.00 pm mid September.

Pavo chart

Constellation Indus Constellation Telescopium Constellation Ara Constellation Norma Constellation Lupus Triangulum Australe Constellation Circinus Constellation Centaurus Constellation Crux Constellation Musca Constellation Apus Constellation Octans Constellation Tucana Constellation Hydrus

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation

α Pavonis (Peacock), magnitude 1.9, is a blue-white star 230 light years away.

NGC 6752: On a clear dark night this moderately condensed globular cluster, the Pavo globular, is a most lovely object. The central region is about 3' wide, and the unusually bright outliers extend over 15'. Many of the brighter stars of the cluster are in curved and looped arms, and look distinctly reddish. It lies over 20,000 light years away.

NGC 6744: is one of the largest of the barred spiral galaxies. Visually through a telescope, it is a large, irregular oval faintly luminous haze. It lies about 22,000 light years away.

NGC 6025: is a fine open cluster containing pretty bright white and yellow stars in a rich star field. A definite pattern of stars in curved and straight lines is seen, without any central gathering.

θ Indi is a striking pair of stars of pale yellow and reddish hue, nicely visible in a small telescope.

κ Pav is one of the brightest Cepheid type variable stars in the sky. It is a yellow supergiant, varying between magnitudes 3.9 and 4.8 every 9.1 days, so is visible to the unaided eye from a dark sky site. Cepheid variables are used as standard candles in determining distances to the nearer galaxies.


Pavo and Triangulum Asutrale are circumpolar constellations for New Zealand and so are visible throughout the year, but will be very low (and inverted) during the evening in Autumn. Indus is partly circumpolar, however the northerly part of the constellation, including the brightest star α Indi, will dip below the southern horizon for places in the North Island.

The constellations are orientated as shown in the chart with Pavo at its highest to the south at about 9.00 pm NZST on September 1, 8.00 pm September 15 and as the sky darkens at the end of September. During August, in the early evening, they are a little to the east of south and somewhat tilted over so a little lower than the Pointers. In October, as soon as it gets dark, the three constellations are to the west of south above and a little to the left of the Pointers.