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Editorial Office, E. Pavo. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 16 April 2024).
Editorial Office E. Pavo. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 16, 2024.
Editorial Office, Encyclopedia. "Pavo" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 16, 2024).
Editorial Office, E. (2024, March 15). Pavo. In Encyclopedia.
Editorial Office, Encyclopedia. "Pavo." Encyclopedia. Web. 15 March, 2024.

Pavo, Latin for "peacock," is a small but distinct constellation in the southern sky. Representing the majestic bird from ancient mythology, Pavo is notable for its compact arrangement of stars and its proximity to the south celestial pole, making it a prominent feature of the southern hemisphere's night sky.

astronomy constellation IAU galaxy Milky Way

1. Introduction

Pavo, a constellation located in the southern celestial hemisphere, positioned near the south celestial pole. Characterized by its distinctive arrangement of stars, Pavo occupies an area of approximately 378 square degrees in the night sky. Its celestial coordinates range between 17 and 21 hours of right ascension and -60 to -75 degrees of declination, placing it in close proximity to the constellations of Telescopium, Octans, and Ara (Figure 1).

Despite its relatively modest size, Pavo boasts several notable stars, including Alpha Pavonis, the brightest star in the constellation with an apparent magnitude of around 1.9. Other prominent stars within Pavo include Beta Pavonis, Delta Pavonis, and Epsilon Pavonis, each contributing to the constellation's overall visual appeal and navigational significance. Pavo is also home to a few intriguing deep-sky objects, such as the globular cluster NGC 6752, one of the brightest and most massive globular clusters in the Milky Way galaxy. Additionally, the constellation features several spiral galaxies, including NGC 6744, a barred spiral galaxy often referred to as a "twin" of the Milky Way due to its similar structure and appearance.

Figure 1. IAU chart of Pavo. Source: Credit: IAU and Sky & Telescope. Reproduced under CC BY 4.0 license.

2. Historical Background and Mythology

Pavo, the constellation representing the peacock, has a relatively sparse cultural and mythological background compared to other constellations. Its designation as a peacock is believed to have originated from Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius in the late 16th century, who introduced several new southern constellations based on observations made by Dutch navigators during their voyages to the southern hemisphere.

Despite its limited mythology, the peacock has long been associated with various cultures and symbolisms throughout history. In ancient Greek mythology, the peacock was often associated with Hera, the queen of the gods and the wife of Zeus. According to one myth, the peacock's extravagant plumage was a gift from the goddess Hera, who transformed the mortal maiden Argus into a peacock to immortalize him. Argus was known for his many eyes, which were symbolically represented by the eye-like patterns on a peacock's tail feathers.

In Hindu mythology, the peacock is associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, fortune, and prosperity. In Hindu iconography, Lakshmi is often depicted standing on a lotus flower with a peacock by her side, symbolizing beauty, grace, and abundance. The peacock's iridescent plumage is seen as a representation of the goddess's radiant aura and divine presence. In Chinese culture, the peacock is also regarded as a symbol of beauty, dignity, and immortality. It is often depicted alongside the phoenix, another mythical bird symbolizing rebirth and renewal. Together, the peacock and phoenix represent harmony, balance, and the cyclical nature of life.

While Pavo itself lacks prominent mythological associations, its neighboring constellations offer additional insights into the cultural and historical significance of the peacock symbol. For example, nearby constellations such as Ara, representing the altar, and Indus, representing the Indian subcontinent, provide further context for understanding the cultural connections between different civilizations and their interpretations of celestial objects.

3. Notable Stars

Alpha Pavonis, also known as Peacock, shines as the brightest star in Pavo. Positioned approximately 180 light-years away from Earth, this blue-white main-sequence star holds an apparent magnitude of about 1.94, making it easily discernible to the naked eye. Its spectral classification of B2IV-V marks it as a subgiant star in transition.

Beta Pavonis, the second-brightest star in Pavo, lies roughly 133 light-years from Earth. As a yellow-white main-sequence star classified as F2V, it illuminates the celestial landscape with its apparent magnitude of around 3.42. Beta Pavonis, resembling our Sun in size and temperature, offers astronomers a compelling target for comparative stellar studies.

Delta Pavonis, situated approximately 20.1 light-years away, commands attention as a yellow dwarf star. With a spectral classification of G8IV, it emits a fainter light compared to Alpha and Beta Pavonis but remains visible to the naked eye under optimal conditions. Astronomers regard Delta Pavonis with interest due to its potential as a host for exoplanets.

Epsilon Pavonis presents an intriguing binary star system approximately 123 light-years from Earth. Consisting of two main-sequence stars orbiting each other, its primary component, a yellow-white main-sequence star categorized as F6V, shares its celestial dance with a cooler, fainter companion star of spectral classification K5V. Epsilon Pavonis, boasting an apparent magnitude of around 3.97, offers astronomers a captivating glimpse into the dynamics of stellar companionship.

4. Deep-Sky Objects

NGC 6752: NGC 6752 stands as one of the brightest and most massive globular clusters in the Milky Way galaxy. Located approximately 13,000 light-years away from Earth, this stellar congregation dazzles observers with its densely packed arrangement of ancient stars. With an apparent magnitude of 5.4, NGC 6752 is visible to the naked eye under dark skies and appears as a faint smudge in telescopes. Within its core lies a dense cluster of stars, many of which are thought to be as old as the universe itself.

NGC 6744, often referred to as the "Southern Pinwheel Galaxy," is a striking barred spiral galaxy located in the constellation Pavo. Situated approximately 30 million light-years away from Earth, NGC 6744 dominates the skies with its grand spiral arms, intricate dust lanes, and prominent central bulge. Its apparent size in the night sky spans over 10 arcminutes, making it easily observable with moderate-sized telescopes. At the core of NGC 6744 lies a dense and compact nucleus, where older stars are concentrated in a region of high stellar density. This central bulge serves as a hub of stellar activity and may harbor a supermassive black hole at its center, although further observations are needed to confirm its presence.

NGC 6753 is a barred spiral galaxy located in the constellation Pavo. Situated approximately 135 million light-years away from Earth, NGC 6753 presents itself as a captivating sight in the night sky. Its spiral arms, interspersed with regions of star formation and dust, wind gracefully around a prominent central bar-shaped structure. The presence of a central bar distinguishes NGC 6753 as a barred spiral galaxy, a common but fascinating class of galaxies. The central region of NGC 6753 hosts a dense concentration of stars known as the galactic bulge. This bulge serves as a hub of stellar activity and likely contains a supermassive black hole at its core, although detailed observations are necessary to confirm its presence. Surrounding the bulge, the galaxy's spiral arms extend outward, adorned with young, blue-hot stars and glowing star-forming regions.

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Update Date: 15 Mar 2024