In this article, we will discuss the Volans constellation. It will cover the location of the constellation, where it can be seen, any myths surrounding it, and other interesting facts that may be useful to the amateur astronomer.
Volans Constellation Facts, Myth, Location and Stars
Volans Constellation Location/Night Sky
Volans can be found in the southern sky.
It lies in the second quadrant of the Southern Hemisphere and is at a latitude of 15 degrees and -90 degrees.
Volan’s neighboring constellations are Carina, Chameleon, Dorado, Pictor, and Mensa.
Many people use those constellations to assist in finding Volans. It is the 76th smallest out of the 88 constellations.
It takes up only 0.34% of the night sky.
It is completely visible in the night sky year round below 15 degrees in the Southern hemisphere.
However, it is best able to be seen from December to February.
It reaches its height of visibility on February 1st at 9pm.
The continents that can see Volans clearest are Australia, Antarctica, and parts of South America and Africa.
Volans Constellation Myths/Discovery
Volans, unlike most constellations, is not associated with any myths.
However, this discovery is interesting. Dutch navigators Pieter Dirkszoon and Frederick De Houtman introduced Volans to the world in the late 16th century.
Johann Bayer put the constellation in his 1603 star atlas based on the findings of Dirkszoon and De Hourman.
However, years earlier, it was named by Petrus Plancius, an astronomer and cartographer ( person who draws maps).
In 1598, he put it on his globe and named the constellation the Piscis Volan, or flying fish.
Volans symbolizes a tropical fish that jumped out of water and flew through the air.
It’s often shown as being prey for a bigger fish, the Dorado (Dolphin fish) constellation.
German astronomer Johannes Kepler called Volans the Passer (sparrow). In China, people called it Fe-Yu ( meaning fly to the sky).
Today, the Volans constellation is included as one of the 88 modern constellations.
Volans Constellation Stars
There are 6 stars that make up the main constellation.
There are a total of 467 stars that have been scanned by the Hipparchos satellite.
33 of them can be seen with the naked eye.
There are no stars with a magnitude brighter than 3.7.
Keep in mind the star magnitude level is scaled, with 1 being the brightest.
The main stars include:
• Beta Volantis
This star has a magnitude of 3.75. It’s the brightest star in the constellation. It can be seen with the naked eye. Approximately 107.5 light years from the sun. This giant orange-colored star is also, according to astronomers, 41 times brighter than the sun.
• Gamma Volantis
This is a binary star (two stars orbiting together). It has a magnitude of 3.62. It can be seen with the naked eye. It is approximately 133 light years from Earth.
• Zeta Volantis
This star has a magnitude of 3.93. It can be seen with the naked eye. It is about 141 lightyears from the sun.
• Delta Volantis
This star has a magnitude of 3.97. It is visible to the naked eye. It’s 740 light years from the sun.
• Alpha Volantis
This star has a magnitude of 4.00. It can be seen with the naked eye. It is about 125 light years from the sun. At 427 million years old, it is one of the oldest stars in the constellation.
• Epsilon Volantis
This star has a magnitude of 4.35. It is visible to the naked eye. It’s a quadruple star ( it travels with four stars as it orbits the sun). It is 640 light years from Earth.
• Theta Volantis
This star has a magnitude of 5.19. It can faintly be seen with the naked eye. It’s approximately 240 light years from Earth.
As you can see, according to the magnitude scale, Volan’s stars are not the brightest.
So it’s best to use a telescope when trying to gaze at this constellation.
Volans Deep Sky Objects
Volans has no Messier objects but, it does have 2 interesting deep sky objects.
A deep sky object is any matter that is not considered a star or other object in the solar system.
Volan’s deep sky objects are the Lindsay-Shapley Ring and the Meathook Galaxy.
• Lindsay-Shapley Ring
This deep sky object is a yellowish ring that surrounds Volans.
It is believed that the ring formed by colliding with another galaxy. This caused dust and debris that over time formed the ring.
It’s believed that the ring will continue to get bigger for the next 300 million years and then start to disintegrate.
• Meathook Galaxy
The Meathook is a spiral galaxy located within the Volans constellation.
It has a bright, north-pointing arm that resembles a Meathook.
It’s called a distorted galaxy because of its coloration.
Some areas have unique colored shapes, like pink specks and yellow blobs. While some areas have no color at all.
Meaning of Volans
Volans is part of a group of later named constellations that symbolized creatures found in the sea and land in the Southern Hemisphere.
As stated, Volans is the Flying Fish. Some others are Grus (crane), Pavo (peacock), and Tucana (toucan).
Explorers wanted to honor the area in which they reside, while still keeping the tradition of the Greeks by naming them after birds and beasts.
Does Volans Have Exoplanets?
There are 9 exoplanets in the Volans constellation.
Exoplanet is a shortened version of an extrasolar planet.
An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star that is not the sun.
Distance to Volans
There is no route that goes directly to Volans.
The constellation has stars at many different locations.
So Volans is not in one set place.
The nearest star in the constellation is 107.54 light years away. Keep in mind, 1 lightyear is about 5.9 trillion miles.
How is Volans Used?
Volans, along with other constellations, are used to track our ever changing solar system.
Its position, characteristics, and star magnitude help us to see how space is transforming.
The Volans constellation is fairly easy to view on a clear night if you are in the Southern Hemisphere. It makes for some nice star-gazing activities.
So break out the telescope and have fun.