The Autumn constellation of Pisces is a good example of how a group of stars can get a name without being a connect-the-dots sort of thing. It appears to have been started in ancient Mesopotamia by astronomers in the easternmost region of the fertile crescent, or in biblical terms, the Whores of Babylon.
Ancient Babylon, which today more or less represents the high-rent part of Iraq, was wedged in between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. During the torrential rains of the monsoon, which back then happened with the sun in Aquarius, another invention of those damn astronomy whores, the rivers would flood. After the sun’s position shifted from the water-bringer, the skies would clear, the locals would load their nets into their boats, and go fishing. Screw the limit. So the stars here represent opening day of fishing season more than actual fish.
To be fair, I don’t know that the term “whore” is a precise description, but artifacts do depict ancient star gazers as dressing rather slutty, as opposed to the more dignified modern official uniform of astronomy, cargo shorts and a geeky t-shirt purchased at a sci-fi convention.
The deep-sky highlight of Pisces is M74, a face-on spiral galaxy. It’s the worst Messier object in terms of trying to see any detail because it is so damn dim. A typical description in an amateur log book is “I think I see it.” That’s actually not an uncommon entry for a hobby whose unofficial motto is “We’re gonna need a bigger scope.” Still, it’s a hundred billion stars all swimming around in a common pool of their own gravity. That’s got to count for something.
If you can’t find M74 on your own, do what I do. Go over to the geek with the biggest scope and dare them to find it. Then tell them to let you have a peek “just to be sure.”
In 2005 astronomers discovered an odd object in M74. It’s a black hole which is not an odd thing by itself. But those generally come in two flavors, your garden-variety collapsed massive star, and the monstrous multi-million-solar-supermassive types. This one is intermediate, about 10,000 solar masses. How is that possible? It might have formed from a cluster of stars that came to a roundabout on a stellar highway and suffered a pile-up when one of them panicked and tried to change lanes.