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The Question

(Submitted February 28, 1998)

I would like some information about the star Fomalhaut. All I need is an address to a good information page or something like that.

The Answer

Fomalhaut is the 17th brightest star in the sky and is in the southern hemisphere constellation Piscis Austrinus (The Southern Fish), so it is also called Alpha Piscis Austrini.

(see: http://www.astro.wisc.edu/~dolan/constellations/hr/8728.html)

Piscis Austrinus is not a well known constellation because the rest of the constellation is rather dim.

According to Peterson's Field Guide, Fomalhaut is "a bright white star whose brilliance in intensified by the comparative darkness of the starless background. Alpha Piscis Austrini is also called Fomalhaut, a name derived from the Arabic for "mouth of the fish." At magnitude 1.16, Fomalhaut is the 18th brightest star in the sky. To northern-hemisphere observers it is visible in autumn, low above the horizon, in an empty region of the southern sky." It is mere 23 light-years away. Its luminosity is 14 times that of our sun. Like the Sun, it does not have a gravitationally bound partner.

Try looking this star up in other observational astronomy books!

Good luck,

Maggie Masetti, Karen Smale & Jonathan Keohane
for Ask an Astrophysicist

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