Pisces (constellation) - History

History

Pisces originates from some composition of the Babylonian constellations Zibatti-meš (maybe Šinunutu4 "the great swallow" in current eastern Pisces) and KU6 ("the fish, Ea", Piscis Austrinus). In the first Millennium BCE texts known as the Astronomical Diaries, part of the constellation was also called DU.NU.NU (Rikis-nu.mi, "the fish cord or ribbon"). Rogers thinks this constellation was somehow misinterpreted and turned around so that the current northern fish is on the border of Andromeda, instead of being constituted by Piscis Austrinus.

Pisces is associated with the Roman legend of Venus and Cupid, who escaped the monster Typhon by transforming into fish and tying themselves together with rope. The knot of the rope is marked by alpha Piscium, also called Al-Rischa ("the cord" in Arabic).

The Fishes are also associated with the German legend of Antenteh, who owned just a tub and a crude cabin when he met a magical fish. They offered him a wish, which he refused. However, his wife begged him to return to the fish and ask for a beautiful furnished home. This wish was granted, but her desires were not satisfied. She then asked to be a queen and have a palace, but when she asked to become a goddess, the fish became angry and took the palace and home, leaving the couple with the tub and cabin once again. The tub in the story is sometimes recognized as the Great Square of Pegasus.

In 1690, the astronomer Johannes Hevelius in his Firmamentum Sobiescianum divided Pisces into four subdivisions:

  • Piscis Boreus (the North Fish): σ – 68 – 65 – 67 – ψ1 – ψ2 – ψ3 – χ – φ – υ – 91 – τ – 82 – 78 Psc.
  • Linum Boreum (the North Cord): χ – ρ,94 – VX(97) – η – π – ο – α Psc.
  • Linum Austrinum (the South Cord): α – ξ – ν – μ – ζ – ε – δ – 41 – 35 – ω Psc.
  • Piscis Austrinus (the South Fish): ω – ι – θ – 7 – β – 5 – κ,9 – λ – TX(19) Psc.

In 1754, the astronomer John Hill proposed to treat part of Pisces as a separate constellation, called Testudo (the Turtle) 24 – 27 – YY(30) – 33 – 29 Psc., centred a natural but faint asterism in which the star 20 Psc is intended to be the head of the turtle. However the proposal was largely neglected by other astronomers with the exception of Admiral Smyth, who mentioned it in his book The Bedford Catalogue, and it is now obsolete.

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