is the twelfth of the zodiacal constellations, and can be easily seen during
early Autumn for Northern Hemisphere observers. Riding directly along the
ecliptic, this constellation is now the location of the First Point of Aries,
the point which the sun crosses the equator on its way north, thus marking the
Vernal Equinox or the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Due to
precession, the First
Point of Aries has moved west into Pisces since it was first established in Ancient
Pisces contains few bright stars, and only one important object,
the face on spiral galaxy M74. However, even though somewhat indistinct, this
constellation can be easily made out with a bit of practice, as it is located to
the south west of Andromeda and directly below the Great Square of Pegasus.
First locate the "Circlet" on the western end of the constellation.
From there, follow the line of stars marking the Western Fish to Alpha Piscium. Then
move up and to the right along the line of stars marking the Eastern Fish.
74 is a classic face on spiral galaxy. This galaxy (NGC 628) is one of the
most difficult to find of the Messier objects, due to its rather large angular
size and low surface brightness. Nevertheless, with a little diligence, this
galaxy is easily found just 1.5 degrees east of the star Eta Piscium. M74
will show up in most small amateur telescopes as just a fuzzy patch, revealing
little of its spiral structure. It will take a large aperture telescope of
12-inches or more before much detail becomes apparent. Compare this galaxy to
M101 in Ursa Major, which is also a face on spiral galaxy. M74 was discovered
from Paris by Mechain, an associate of Charles Messier, in 1780, and later
incorporated into Messier's catalog of non-stellar objects. This image is taken
from the Palomar Sky Survey plates as published on the Real Sky CD from the
Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
Messier Objects in Pisces
10.2' X 9.5
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