Heavenly Waters Constellation Family: Columba & Delphinus

Columba (which means ‘dove’ in Latin) is a small constellation that is found just south of Canis Major and Lepus.  In 1670, Augustin Royer deemed it the cut out of the constellation named Canis Major. Before it gained the recognition of becoming a full constellation, Columba was known as Columba Noachi and had already been spotted as an asterism in Bayers Uranometria of 1603.


The name of Columba refers to the Dove of Noah that is mentioned in the Torah and the Bible, which served as the first bird to land after the Deluge. Throughout history, it is believed that Petrus Plancius was the first to introduce Columba Noachi as an asterism. This constellation is quite unremarkable, where it possesses the brightest star of α Columbae, which has a magnitude of 2.65 m.


The “dolphin” constellation is rather small in size, ranking 69th on the charts. This northern constellation is known for its close proximity to the celestial equator. This is another group of stars that has been included in the original list by Ptolemy, and it also has become part of the modern list consisting of 88 constellations that has gained approval but the IAU.

The appearance of this constellation creates the image of a dolphin leaping into the air and is highly recognizable when one is looking into the sky. The other groupings of stars that is found about this constellation (looking clockwise from the north) includes the small fox called Vulpecula, the flying arrow (Sagitta), the eagle (Aquila), the water carrier (Aquarius), the small horse (Equuleus), and the flying horse (Pegasus).

When exploring the story behind Delphinus, you will uncover two main tales associated with Greek mythology. The first deals with the Greek god Poseidon who very much wanted to make Amphitrite (a Nereid) , his wife. However, she was more concerned with preserving her virginity and ran off to the Atlas Mountains. Poseidon then enlisted the help of many different searchers in order to recover his love interest. One of these searchers was Delphinus, who was able find Amphitrite and convince her to accept Poseidon’s proposal. Because he was so happy with his efforts and the outcome, Poseidon showed his gratitude by placing the image of the dolphin amongst the stars.

The second tale involves the Greek poet Arion of Lesbos (dating back to 7th century BC), where a court musician at the palace of Periander (the ruler of Corinth). During his many travels, Arion gathered a great deal of money when visiting Sicily and Italy. On his way back home after visiting Tarentum, the word spread about his wealth and prompted the crew of his ship to make plans against him. As he faced death, Arion asked that he was given one last wish that his crew gave to him. He wanted to sing to a dirge. He did this and while he was in the process , he threw himself into the sea where a dolphin rescued him. She had been charmed by the sound of Arion’s music. The dolphin then carried Arion to the coast of Greece and left him.