SCORPIUS "The Scorpion" pronounced SKORP-yuss

Chart showing the constellation.

This is a splendid constellation in a rich area of the Milky Way. It is one of the few constellations that bear a resemblance to the object after which it is named.  In mythology, Scorpius was the scorpion whose sting killed Orion.  In the sky Orion still flees from the scorpion, since Orion sets below the horizon as Scorpius rises.

The heart of Scorpius is marked by brilliant orange-red Antares, a name that means the rival of Mars (Ares).

North-east of β Scorpii, near the border with Ophiuchus, lies the brightest X-ray source in the sky, Scorpius X-1. This was the first X-ray source found outside the solar system.

A cluster of about twenty small stars around and including Antares is part of the Scorpio-Centaurus OB association, which is the closest aggregate of hot early-type stars to the Sun.

To find Scorpius look overhead in the late evening sky, and find orange-red Antares. Trace the sting and in the other direction, the three stars making the "head".

Chart showing Scorpius at about 9pm, 1 July and 7 pm, 1 August;
the head is to the northeast and the tail to the east.

Constellation Scorpius

Constellation Hydra Constellation Lupus Constellation Norma Constellation Ara Constellation Pavo Constellation Telescopium Corona Borealis Constellation Sagittarius Constellation Ophiuchus Constellation Libra

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation

α Scoorpii (Antares, rival of Mars), is a red supergiant 330 light years away about 300 times the diameter of the Sun. It has a close 6th magnitude blue companion.

β Sco (Graffias, crab) is a striking double star easily divisible in the smallest telescopes. The two blue-white stars are magnitude 2.6 and 4.9 and lie 540 light years away.

ν Sco, is a quadruple star system 550 light years away. A small telescope shows ν Sco as a wide double, with blue-white companions of magnitude 4.0 and 6.3. Telescopes of 75mm and above reveal under high magnification that the fainter star is a close double of magnitude 6.8 and 7.8. The brighter star is an even closer double of magnitude 4.4 and 6.4. This last pair requires an aperture of over 150 mm to split them.

ξ Sco is a celebrated multiple star 85 light years away. This interesting system consists of a bright yellow pair, unfortunately just past minimum separation and unresolvable at present. There is a third star connected in a large orbit retrograde to the pair. In the same field 5' south-east is a smaller deep yellow pair with similar proper motion and radial velocity, indicating a physical connection.

M 4 (NGC 6121) is a large 7th magnitude globular cluster visible in binoculars. This beautiful cluster is crowded with stars running to a broad haze in the centre, across which is a bar of brighter stars. M 4 is the closest of all globular clusters to us at around 7,500 light years away.

M 6 (NGC 6405) the Butterfly Cluster, is an impressive 6th magnitude star cluster easily seen in binoculars, covering about the same area of the sky as the full Moon. The brightest member of the cluster is the orange-hued variable star BM Sco, which contrasts nicely with the other members of the cluster.

M 7 (NGC 6475) is a large, brilliant star cluster visible to the unaided eye, with an impressive diameter twice that of the Moon. Its 50 or so members are easily resolved in binoculars and small telescopes. The brightest stars are of magnitude 6 and appear to be arranged in chains.

M 80 (NGC 6093) is a small 8th magnitude globular cluster visible in binoculars or a small telescope, appearing like the fuzzy head of a comet. It lies about 36,000 light years away.

NGC 6231 is a large unaided eye glorious cluster of around 120 stars. It is a striking group for small telescopes. There are many bright white and yellow stars, and many pairs and triplets, which sparkle in patterns of lines and small groups. Its distance is estimated as 6000 light years. NGC 6231 is connected to a larger scattered cluster of fainter stars, visible in binoculars, called H 12, which lies to the north. The chain of stars linking NGC 6231 and H 12 outlines one of the spiral arms of our Galaxy.

NGC 6302 is a remarkable planetary nebula, popularly known as the "Bug Nebula". It is an elliptical or spindle-shaped bluish planetary nebula, with high surface brightness, appearing in a star-sprinkled field.


Scorpius is a southerly constellation with parts of the tail of the Scorpion passing overhead for places in New Zealand from about Christchurch northwards. Antares is at its highest at about 11.30 pm mid June, 9.30 mid July and 7.30 mid August.

SAGITTARIUS, the ARCHER, pronounced saj-it-TAIR-ree-us

Chart showing the constellations.

Sagittarius is an ancient constellation depicting a centaur, half man, half beast, with a raised bow and arrow. It has been visualised this way, at least since times of the ancient Greeks. It probably originated with the Sumerian civilisation around the Euphrates, who saw the constellation as Nergal, their archer god of war.

Sagittarius is depicted with a threatening look, aiming his arrow at the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion. The bow is marked by the stars l (lambda), d (delta) and e (epsilon) Sagittarii. In modern times the constellation is often visualised as forming a teapot.

The centre of our Milky Way Galaxy lies in Sagittarius, so that the constellation is particularly rich in star clusters, planetary nebulae, and diffuse nebulae, both luminous and dark. Th actual centre is marked by a radio source known as Sagittarius A*.

To find Sagittarius look towards the north half way up the sky.

Chart showing Sagittarius as seen about 10.30 pm mid August and 8.30 pm mid September.

Sagittarius chart

Constellation Ara Constellation Norma Constellation Circinus Constellation Telescopium Corona Australis Constellation Microscopium Constellation Capricornus Constellation Aquarius Equuleus & Delphiunus Constellation Aquila Constellation Scutum Ophiuchus & Serpens Constellation Libra Constellation Lupus Constellation Scorpius

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation

α Sagittarii (Rukbat, knee, or Al Rami, the archer) is a magnitude 4.0 blue-white star 170 light years away. It is one of the many examples where the star labelled α is not the brightest in the constellation.

β Sgr consists of two unrelated stars seen separately by the unaided eye. β1 Sgr, Arkab Prior (front part of the leg) is a magnitude 3.9 blue-white star 378 light years away; it has a magnitude 7.2 companion visible in small telescopes. β2 Sgr, Arkab Posterior (rear of leg), is a magnitude 4.3 white star 139 light years away. These optical double stars appear nearby by chance.

γ Sgr (Al Nasi, point of the arrow) is a magnitude 3.0 yellow giant star 96.1 light years away.

δ Sgr (Kaus Meridionalis, middle of the bow), is a magnitude 2.7 orange giant star 306 light years away.

ε Sgr (Kaus Australis, southern part of the bow), is a magnitude 1.9 blue-white star 145 light years away. It is the brightest star of the constellation.

λ Sgr (Kaus Borealis, northern part of the bow) is a magnitude 2.8 orange giant 77.3 light years away.

σ Sgr (Nunki) is a magnitude 2.0 blue-white star 224 light years away.

M8 (NGC 6523), the Lagoon Nebula, was discovered by Messier in 1764. It needs a large field and shows very extensive luminosity with dark irregular lanes, followed by the bright open star cluster NGC 6530. It lies about 50,000 light years away.

M17 (NGC 6618), the Omega, Swan, or Horseshoe Nebula, is a beautiful emission nebula in the form of a figure "2" with a long base. It was discovered by Messier in 1764, who remarked on its extended form. It lies about 60,000 light years away.

M20 (NGC 6514), The Trifid Nebula, was discovered by Messier in 1764, but he could make little of it. It appears in photographs as an irregular mass on which are superposed three tortuous dark lanes meeting near the centre. The view through a telescope is less impressive.

M22 (NGC 6656) is one of the nearest globular clusters to us at about 10,000 light years. It has a broad centre and is a most beautiful object in a fine field. The globular is an easy object for binoculars and is faintly visible to the unaided eye in a dark sky.

M23 (NGC 6494) is a fine open star cluster with little central condensation. The stars form a pattern of lines and loops with some radial rays. Its distance is estimated as 2,200 light years.

M24 (NGC 6603) is an open cluster that resembles a loose globular cluster. The field is beautiful and filled with stars, but also includes a notable dark cloud, Barnard 92, making the immediate region quite indescribably rich and varied.

M25 (IC 4725) is an effective star group for small telescopes. This fine bright open cluster is somewhat gathered to a broad centre with three deep yellow stars in line, from which runs a remarkable widening curve of equal stars. Its distance is estimated as 1600 light years.

M55 (NGC 6809) was recorded by Lacaille in 1752 who compared it with the nucleus of a large comet. It is an open type of globular cluster, irregularly round, and rising broadly towards the centre, beautifully resolved into stars scattered in a haze of fainter ones. It is relatively nearby at about 16,000 light years.

NGC 6520 is an open cluster with an orange star in the centre round which are arcs of stars looking like a close spiral. It is set in a grand field, the background of which is luminous with the combined radiance of innumerable faint stars. On this is projected the remarkably dark nebula Barnard 86. This dark cloud has an orange on the north-west edge. Barnard found the dark nebula visually in 1883 and it is one of the best for telescopes, especially for small apertures. The cluster and dark cloud are estimated to be 5.500 light years away.

NGC 6522 is a small globular cluster discovered by William Herschel in 1784. It is a moderately condensed type with a star on the following edge. The field is sown profusely with stars and lies close to the direction of the galactic centre. Although somewhat obscured by absorbing matter, it was clear enough to allow Walter Baade to estimate the distance to the centre of the Galaxy, hence the field around the globular cluster is now known as Baade's Window. Distance is estimated as 20,000 light years.

NGC 6818 is a bright planetary nebula, relatively easy to find for these objects. No central star is visible. Distance is estimated as 5,000 light years.

M 75 (NGC 6864) was discovered by Merchain in 1780. It is an easy object for small telescopes and a good example of the strongly compressed type of globular cluster. It appears symmetrical with a strong central peak. Its distance is estimated as 60,000 light years.


Sagittarius is a southern constellation, with its more southerly parts passing overhead in New Zealand. The brightest star, ε Sgr, passes overhead at North Cape. α Sgr passes over Levin and the two stars of β Sgr pass over Timaru and Waimate.

As a result of its southerly declination, the constellation is visible in the evening sky for several months of the year. The constellation is well placed for observing from later June until early November at 9 pm (10 pm after the start of NZDT in October).

VULPECULA (The Fox) and SAGITTA (The Arrow), pronounced vul-PECK-yoo-lah and sa-JIT-tah

Chart showing the constellations.

Vulpecula the "Little Fox"is a faint constellation above Cygnus, lying across the Milky Way with Sagitta. It originated in 1690 with the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius, who called it Vulpecula cum Anser, the Little Fox and Goose. Since then the Goose has fled.

Sagitta the "Arrow" is a small narrow constellation immersed in the Milky Way between Aquila and Vulpecula. Despite it being small, this distinctive arrow-shaped group was known to the ancient Greeks. In the sky, the Arrow seems to be flying between Cygnus the Swan and Aquila the Eagle. One legend says that the Arrow was shot by Hercules.

To find these constellations look north late evening, find the bright star Altair and look below for the distinctive arrow shape of Sagitta, and below it, Vupecula.

Chart showing Vulpecula and Sagitta as seen when highest to the north.
The horizon shown is for the extreme south of New Zealand.

Vulpecula and Sagitta chart.

Ophiuchus & Serpens Constellation Scutum Constellation Aquila Constellation Aquarius Constellation Pegasus Constellation Delphinus Constellation Equuleus Constellation Cygnus Constellation Vega Constellation Hercules

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellations

α Vulpeculae is a magnitude 4.4 red giant star 297 light years away. In binoculars an unrelated 6th magnitude star appears nearby.

M 27 (NGC 6853), the Dumbbell Nebula, is a large and bright pale blue planetary nebula visible in binoculars, but better seen in telescopes. This is one of the nearest planetary nebula, being about 1,250 light years away. It appears to cover ¼ the diameter of the full Moon. Visually it appears as a dumbbell shaped misty green glow. Long exposure photographs shows a complex pattern of blue and pink gas.

Brocchi's Cluster (Cr 399) is a large and bright open cluster of stars know colloquially as the Coathanger. It appears as an almost straight line of six stars, with a curve of stars forming the hook extended from the centre of the line. It is visible to the unaided eye as a misty patch, and is a fine object through binoculars and small telescopes.

α Sagittae is a magnitude 4.4 yellow giant star 473 light years away.

β Sge is a magnitude 4.4 orange giant star 467 light years away.

γ Sge is the brightest star in the constellation at magnitude at 3.5. It is an orange giant star about 274 light years away.

δ Sge is a magnitude 3.8 orange giant star 448 light years away.

M 71 (NGC 6838) is a beautiful globular cluster appearing as a misty patch in binoculars, and nebulous in small telescopes. It lies about 14,000 light years away.


The constellations Vulpecula and Sagitta are well north of the equator and thus fairly low as seen from New Zealand. At their highest they have an altitude between about 20° and 30° from mid southerly latitudes. They are to the north about 11.30 pm in mid August, 9.30 pm mid September. By early November they are beginning to set as the sky darkens following sunset and become lost in evening twilight by the middle of the month.

PUPPIS the Stern   (Pronounced PUP-iss)

Chart showing Puppis

This is the largest of the four sections from the break up of the ancient and very large constellation of Argo Navis, the ship of the Argonauts. Puppis represents the Stern, while the other members of the original constellation are Carina the Keel, (to the south of Puppis); Pyxis the Compass and Vela the Sail, (to the east).

Puppis lies in the Milky Way, and contains rich star-fields for sweeping with binoculars.

Because of the dismembering process, the brightest star in Puppis - Naos, or ζ Pup is the only one with a proper name.

To find Puppis look slightly north of overhead, and find Canopus and Sirius to orient yourself to the map. Naos passes almost overhead in New Zealand.

Chart showing Puppis as seen high in the sky to the north mid evening in March.

Constellation Puppis

Constellation Dorado Constellation Pictor Constellation Carina Constellation Vela Constellation Canis Major Constellation Lepus Constellation Columba Constellation Pyxis Constellation Antlia Constellation Hydra

Details of some of the objects shown in the chart.

ζ Puppis or Naos at magnitude 2.3 is a brilliant blue-white star about 1,500 light years away. It is one of the most intensely hot stars known, with a surface temperature of about 35,000°C and something like 20000 times more luminous than the Sun.

ξ Pup is a magnitude 3.3 yellow supergiant 750 light years away. Binoculars reveal a wide unrelated orange companion star.

π Pup is a magnitude 2.7 orange giant star 320 light years away.

ρ Pup is a yellow giant of the d (delta) Scuti type, changing in brightness by 0.1 magnitude every 3 hours and 23 mins.

κ Pup is a striking double star with near identical blue-white components easily divisible in small telescopes.

M 46 (NGC 2437) is a beautiful 8th magnitude open cluster of around 150 faint stars of fairly uniform brightness. It is rich and broadly concentrated towards the centre. In the north east region of the cluster is a pale bluish planetary nebula (NGC 2438) that is closer than the cluster, and not really part of it.

M 47 (NGC 2422) is a wonderful field of bright white scattered stars in an open cluster, preceded by a fine orange star. This cluster is visible with the unaided eye from a dark sky site.

M 93 (NGC 2447) is a beautiful open cluster discovered by Messier in 1781. It merges into a rich field and contains many small pairs, triplets and elegant groups, including two orange stars. It is easily seen with binoculars and appears like a loose globular cluster.

NGC 2477 is a large very rich open cluster visible in binoculars. Many of the stars are grouped in curved lines and sprays with dark sky between, making a beautiful effect.

NGC 2451 is a large splashy cluster of bright stars in a fine field, centred on the bright orange super giant c Pup. It is a fine object for binoculars and small telescopes, needing a large field to be seen well.

NGC 2440 is a bright planetary nebula some 3.500 light years away. This planetary has a hot central star with a temperature of nearly 200,000° C, making it one of the hottest stars known. A small telescope shows a small oval disc. The central star is only visible in very large telescopes.

NGC 2453 is a small fan shaped open cluster lying in a fine field of stars. NGC 2452 (not shown on the map) is a round planetary nebula about half as far away and seen against the cluster. An O III filter on small aperture telescopes will help detect this.


Puppis is highest and due north at about 9.30 pm to 10 pm (NZDT) in mid March. Being well south of the equator it will remain visible in the evening sky until July. By then it will be fairly low to the southwest early evening, to the right of Canopus.

PISCIS AUSTRINUS (The Southern Fish) Pronounced PIE-siss ass-TRI-nuss.

Chart showing the constellation.

Piscis Austrinus is an ancient constellation to which Ptolemy assigned twelve stars. It is often represented as a fish drinking water from the urn of the neighbouring constellation Aquarius. The bright star Fomalhaut is the mouth of that fish. The fish has been identified with the Babylonian fish god Oannes, and is said to be the parent of the zodiacal fish, Pisces.

To find this constellation look north in the evening and find the bright star high above the square of Pegasus.

Chart showing Piscis Austrinus - as seen about 10.30 pm (NZDT) mid October
The horizon for Invercargill is shown.

Piscis Austrinus

Sagittarius constellation Microscopium constellation Grus constellation Phoenix constellation Sculptor constellation Fornax constellation Cetus constellation Aries constellation Pisces constellation Andromeda constellation Pegasus constellation Equuleus constellation Delphinus constellation Sagitta constellation Vulpecula constellation Cygnus constellation Aquila constellation Capricornus constellation Aquarius constellation

Some stars in the Constellation

α Piscis Austrini (Fomalhaut, fish's mouth), is a magnitude 1.2 blue-white star 25.1 light years away.

β PsA is an optical double star, consisting of a magnitude 4.3 white primary star 148 light years away with an unrelated companion star of magnitude 7.8, visible in small telescopes.

γ PsA is a beautiful double star of magnitudes 4.5 and 8.1, the magnitude contrast making it difficult to split in small telescopes. The system lies 222 light years away.

δ PsA is a bright, deep yellow star with a faint companion star close south-west. They lie 170 light years away.

η PsA is close pair of blue-white stars of magnitude 5.8 and 6.8 divisible with a smallish telescope with high power under good conditions. The system lies 1013 light years away.

Visibility Piscis Austrinus is a southern constellation, and is highest in New Zealand skies at about 10:30 pm (NZDT) in mid October. It remains visible in the evening sky until about the end of January, by which date the constellation will be low in a direction to the south of west.

By the beginning of March, Piscis Austrinus will be appearing in the pre-dawn sky low between east and south-east.

PISCES "The Fishes", pronounced PIE-seez.

Chart showing the constellation.

Pisces is an ancient constellation representing a pair of fishes tied by their tails, the knot being marked by the star a (alpha) Piscium. One legend identifies the constellation with Venus and her son Cupid, who turned themselves into fishes and swam away from the attack of the monster Typhon.

To find Pisces, look towards the middle of the north evening sky to find α Piscium above and to the right of the great square of Pegasus.

Chart showing Pisces as seen to the north soon after the sky darkens mid November.

Pisces chart

Constellation Aquarius Constellation Cetus Constellation Eridanus Constellation Aries Constellation Triangulum Constellation Andromeda Constellation Lacerta Constellation Cygnus Constellation Pegasus

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation

α Piscium (Al Rischa, the cord) is a challenging double star with an orbital period of 720 years. At present the components of magnitude 4.3 and 5.2 are slowly closing, and a good aperture and high magnification are needed to separate them. As well, both stars may be spectroscopic binaries.

β Psc is a magnitude 4.5 blue-white star 320 light years away.

γ Psc is a magnitude 3.7 yellow giant star 160 light years away.

ζ Psc is a wide double star 110 light years away, with components of magnitudes 4.9 and 6.3. It is a lovely sight, visible in small telescopes. Both stars are themselves double, but difficult to see in amateur telescopes.

η Psc, at magnitude 3.6 is the brightest star in the constellation. It is a yellow giant 140 light years away with a faint companion, difficult to see in small telescopes.

κ Psc is a magnitude 4.9 blue-white star 98 light years away, with an unrelated 6th magnitude binocular companion.

ρ Psc is a magnitude 5.4 white star 98 light years away. This star forms a binocular duo with the unrelated magnitude 5.5 orange giant star 94 Piscium 390 light years away.

ψ1 Psc is a wide blue white double star with magnitudes 5.3 and 5.6 visible in small telescopes or good binoculars.

M 74 (NGC 628) is a face on spiral galaxy 22.5 million light years away, discovered in 1780 by Méchain. Photographs show this beautiful symmetrical spiral galaxy has two arms regularly coiled, with many scattered condensations in them. Most amateur telescopes show it only as a dim haze.

NGC 524 is a round very symmetrical galaxy discovered by William Herschel in 1786. Photographs show faint traces of spiral structure in the galaxy with an almost stellar nucleus. It is easily seen in moderate telescopes from a dark sky site.


Pisces mostly lies north of the Celestial equator. The arm from α Psc to β Psc runs roughly parallel to, and just north of, the equator. The other arm, from α Psc through η Psc runs towards the north. As a result the stars at the end of this arm (near Adnromeda) are never very high above the horizon as seen from New Zealand in the southern hemisphere.

By mid December, the constellation will be to the north west once the sky is dark after sunset and will have rotated so that α Psc is highest. This upper part of the constellation remains visible shortly after sunset to the north west through to the end of January.

During October, Pisces is visible to the north east soon after sunset, now rotated so that β Psc and the loop of stars near it, are highest.

PHOENIX (The Phoenix) Pronounced FEE-nix.

Chart showing the constellation.

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.

Chart showing Phoenix as seen to the east at about 10 pm early October.

Phoenix chart

Piscis Austrinus Constellation Grus Constellation Tucana Constellation Indus Constellation Octans Constellation Hydrus Constellation Reticulum Constellation Horologium Constellation Eridanus Constellation Fornax Constellation Sculptor

Some stars 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.

PERSEUS, The Greek hero, pronounced PURR-syoos or PURR-see-us.

Chart showing the constellation.

Perseus was the mythological Greek hero who rescued the chained princess Andromeda from the clutches of the sea monster, Cetus. Perseus had previously slain Medusa the Gorgon, and he is pictured holding her head in one hand. The winking star, Algol or β Persei represents the Gorgon's evil eye.

The Perseid meteor shower is one of the most glorious in the northern sky. Around August 12th to 13th as many as 60 bright meteors an hour can be seen streaming from Perseus. The point where they appear to originate, the radiant, is near γ Persei.

The famous California nebula (NGC 1499) is a very large faint nebula near ξ Persei.

Perseus is rather low in the northern sky, and not all the constellation is visible from New Zealand. The horizon is for Auckland; residents of Christchurch would see from the constellation name up.

To find Perseus look very low to the north late in the evening, below the famous open cluster "The Pleiades" or "Seven Sisters".

Chart of the constellation as seen to the north at about 11.00 pm NZDT in mid December.

Perseus chart

Constellation Orion Constellation Auriga Constellation Triangulum Constellation Aries Constellation Cetus Constellation Andromeda Constellation Pisces Constellation Taurus

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation

α Persei (Mirfak, the elbow, or Algenib, the side) is a magnitude 1.8 yellow supergiant star 592 light years away.

β Per (Algol, the demon) is one of the most celebrated variable stars in the sky. It is an eclipsing binary star whose variation was first noted by Geminiano Montanari in 1667. The system is two close stars periodically eclipsing each other every 2.867 days as they orbit their common centre of gravity. The star's apparent brightness lowers from magnitude 2.2 to 3.5 for a period of 10 hours, before returning to maximum. John Goodricke in 1782, first suggested the variable behaviour was due to it being two stars and this was confirmed spectroscopically in 1889.

It is known now that this is a triple system of a cool 0.81 solar mass giant star with a very close 3.7 solar mass main sequence star orbiting every 2.867 days. The third star orbits with a period of 1.8 years. Distance is about 93 light years.

γ Per is a magnitude 2.9 yellow giant star 256 light years away.

δ Per is a magnitude 3.0 blue giant star 528 light years away.

ε Per is a magnitude 2.9 blue-white star with a magnitude 8.1 companion star. The magnitude difference makes this difficult to see in small telescopes. The system lies 538 light years away.

ζ Per is a magnitude 2.9 supergiant with a magnitude 9.4 companion, 982 light years away.

M 34 is a bright star cluster resolvable into stars with good binoculars. It is a fine scattered group needing a large field to be seen well.


Only the southern parts of the constellation are visible from New Zealand and are above the horizon for only a few hours at the most. Some of the constellation remains briefly visible after the end of evening twilight until early March.

α has a maximum altitude of just over 3° from Auckland, and so is virtually unobservable further south. Algol, β Per, is visible from all New Zealand, but has a maximum altitude of less than 3° from Invercargill.

PEGASUS The "Winged Horse" pronounced PEG-uh-suss.

Chart showing the constellation.

This constellation is the winged horse of Greek mythology, born from the blood of Medusa after she was slain by Perseus, who lies nearby in the sky.

Ptolemy assigned 20 stars to this ancient northern constellation. The most famous feature of Pegasus is the "Great Square", outlined by four bright stars, one of which is now assigned to Andromeda, although astronomers of old new it as δ Pegasi. The constellation appears as an upside-down horse to northern hemisphere viewers, but appears right-way up to us.

To find Pegasus, look north, about halfway up the sky, and find the great square of bright stars.

Chart showing Pegasus in November.

Pegasus chart

Pisces constellation Andromeda constellation Cygnus constellation Equuleus constellation

Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellation.

α Pegasi (Markab, the saddle) is a magnitude 2.5 blue-white star 100 light years away.

β Peg (Scheat, the shoulder) is a red giant star ninety times the Sun's diameter. It varies in magnitude 2.4 to 2.8 about every month.

γ Peg (Algenib, the wing or side) is a magnitude blue-white star 490 light years away. It is a β(beta) Cephei type variable star, but its light variations every 3 hours 40 minutes, are too small to be noticed to the unaided eye.

ε Peg (Enif, the nose), is a magnitude 2.4 yellow supergiant 520 light years away. Good binoculars and small telescopes reveal a wide bluish magnitude 8.7 companion star. Larger telescopes also show an 11th magnitude companion closer to the primary star, making this a triple star system.

ζ Peg (Homam), is a white star of magnitude 3.4, 160 light years away.

η Peg (Matar) is a magnitude 2.9 yellow giant star 170 light years away.

π Peg is a very wide double star, with white (magnitude 4.3)and yellow (magnitude 5.6) components visible in binoculars. The stars are about 310 and 320 light years away, respectively.

α And (Alpheratz or Sirrah) (δ Peg of old), is a magnitude 2.1 blue-white star 105 light years away.

M 15 (NGC 7078) is a beautiful outstanding, bright globular cluster about 40,000 light years away, in a field well sown with stars. While it at the limits of unaided eye visibility, it is easily seen in binoculars or small telescopes, with a nearby 6th magnitude star acting as a guide to its location. It rises to a bright central peak with scattered faint outliers in irregular rays. A small planetary nebula is projected on this cluster, but an OIII filter and a good aperture is needed to see it.

NGC 7331 is a 10th magnitude spiral galaxy with a dark lane along its central region visible in photographs.


Pegasus is to the north at about 10 pm (NZDT) from mid October to mid November. The two upper stars, α Peg and γ Peg have an altitude of just over 30° from central New Zealand, a littler higher in the north of the North Island and a little lower in the south of the South Island. The lower two stars have an altitude about 20° from central NZ.

By the end of November the square will be getting rather low to the north-west once the sky has darkened.

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.