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Delphinus is a constellation in the northern sky, close to the celestial equator.

It is one of the 48 original Ptolemaic Constellations.

The name is the Latin version for the Greek word for dolphin.

Greek Mythology

Here is the Greek myth as told by Ian Ridpath:

"After Zeus, Poseidon and Hades had overthrown their father Cronus, they divided up the sky, the sea, and the underworld between them, with Poseidon inheriting the sea. He built himself a magnificent underwater palace off the island of Euboea. For all its opulence, the palace felt empty without a wife, so Poseidon set out in search of one. He courted Amphitrite, one of the group of sea nymphs called nereids, but she fled from his rough advances and took refuge among the other Nereids. Poseidon sent messengers after her, including a dolphin, which found her and with soothing gestures brought her back to the sea god, whom she subsequently married. In gratitude, Poseidon placed the image of the dolphin among the stars."

Source:Ian Ridpath

Delphinus and Equuleus in "Uranographia"
Joannes Hevelius, 1690
Source: Atlas Coelestis

Another Greek story links the dolphin to 7th century BC poet Arion of Lesbos, who was saved by a dolphin. Wikipedia tells us, that Arion "... was a court musician at the palace of Periander, ruler of Corinth. Arion had amassed a fortune during his travels to Sicily and Italy. On his way home from Tarentum his wealth caused the crew of his ship to conspire against him. Threatened with death, Arion asked to be granted a last wish which the crew granted: he wanted to sing a dirge. This he did, and while doing so, flung himself into the sea. There, he was rescued by a dolphin which had been charmed by Arion's music. The dolphin carried Arion to the coast of Greece and left."

Arion riding a dolphin
by Albrecht Dürer, circa. 1514
Source: Wikipedia

The main asterism in Delphinus is a nearly a 45°-apex lozenge diamond of the four brightest stars: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta Delphini. For unknown reasons' it is called "Job's Coffin."

The unusual names Sualocin and Rotanev for Alpha and Beta Delphini first appeared in the Palermo Star Catalogue of 1814. That catalogue was started by Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi and completed by his assistant and successor Niccolò Cacciatore. Read backwards, Sualocin and Rotanev become Nicolaus Venator, the Latinized version of the name of Niccolò Cacciatore. It is unknown if the naming the stars was Piazzi's or Cacciatore's idea.



In Chinese, Delphinus is written 海 豚 座

In Chinese astronomy, the constellation is located in the quadrant of the Black Tortoise of the North, forming two constellations in the 10th Lunar Mansion, (Girl).

The stars α, β, γ, δ and ζ Delphini form the constellation Hugua.

The faint stars η, θ, ι, κ and ε Delphini form the constellation Baigua.

Chinese constellations in Delphinus
Map based on
According to Ian Ridpath, these two Chinese constellations "...represented a pair of gourds, probably from the calabash vine, also known as the bottle-gourd plant. ...

Hugua was said to be a hard, dried gourd, presumably intended as a container or scoop, whereas Baigua was described as an over-ripe or rotten gourd, evidently having gone off."

Source:Ian Ridpath
Source: Wikipedia


On the Pacific island Pukapuka, the constellation is called Te Taloa.
On the Tuamotu Islands, it is called Te Uru-o-tiki.


Australian Aboriginal

The Boorong in north-western Victoria call the constellation Otchocut, meaning Great Fish. The great fish is the Murray cod, the largest exclusively freshwater fish in Australia.

A Boorong legend tells us about the great ancient warrior Totyarguil, who once spotted a monstrous cod fish in a water hole. He threw all of his spears at the fish, but the fish got away, digging up a new waterway, which became the Murray River. The spines now projecting from the back of the cod fish represent the spears thrown by Totyarguil in his vain attempt to capture it.

Source: John Morieson B.A: The Night Sky of the Boorong

Murray cod
© Helen McKay

Totyarguil's family stretches over large parts of the Boorong sky. His mother Neilloan is represented by Vega (α Lyrae), his mother-in-law Yerredetkurrk is Achernar (α Eridani) and his uncle Collenbitchick is represented by the double star α1 and α2 Capricorni. In a different story, Totyarguil's is tricked by Yerredetkurrk and gets killed by monsters called the Bunyips, but is revived by his uncle.

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