Volans – the flying fish

July 10, 2016


white-winged-fishThere is a tiny constellation near the southern pole of the sky named Volans, the Flying Fish.

Unfortunately there is no cute little story here about a fish getting its wish to have wings or such. The only story we have is that this part of the sky was named by some Dutch guy named Petrus Plancius in the late 1500’s or thereabouts.

Then in 1603 Johann Bayer added it to his maps which more or less made it official because those maps caught on and took wings of their own, so to speak, except Bayer called it Piscis Volans instead of just Volans. Many years later William Herschel suggested dropping the piscis part and other astronomers agreed because too many constellations start with “p” and that piscis them off.

On allegorical star maps (old timey with animals and monsters etc) Volans is often shown being pursued by the neighboring Hungry Swordfish (Dorado).
Fortunately Volans does contain a couple of interesting deep sky objects.

The Lindsay-Shapley Ring (AM0644-741) is the sort of thing you get when a small galaxy comes flying in and its gravity smacks a bigger galaxy like a rock dropped in a pond. A shock wave of star birth ripples outward making a ring.

The Meathook Galaxy (NGC 2442) is a barred spiral that is a bit stretched out on one side, perfect for hanging a cosmic side of beef.

Volans seems fun but to see it I’d have to fly somewhere hellafar from my place. It’s way down south “at the other end of the spin” as far as our planet’s rotation goes, which means your telescope has to work backwards and you have to eat Vegemite or something equally disgusting.
corsairfishCarpe Noctem.

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