The Constellations of Stars

 

Gaze into the sky at night, preferably away from the city lights, and you will see a myriad of stars. Some are bright, some tiny pinpricks, many are clustered together and if you have a great imagination, they seem to form shapes. If you are at a loss, don't worry, over the past 6000 years, poets, romantics and astronomers have named these shapes for us, creating constellations. A constellation is a group of five to twenty stars combined into a single unit. These groups were named after figures in ancient mythology, some after Zodiac signs and others after animals. The divisions began already in the Neolithic Age, in ancient times this was then intensified. Seen from Earth, these stars, which have been grouped into a constellation, seem to be close together. But this appearance is deceptive, because sometimes they are closer to our sun than the other stars of their own constellation.

Number of Constellations

In order to create some sort of structure in the skies, in the early 1920's the International Astronomical Union decided upon 88 constellations that would be officially recognized by all astronomers. The breakdown consists of 17 human or mythological characters, 29 inanimate objects and 42 animals. An official name was given, as well a three letter abbreviation that corresponds to the actual name. So for example, there is AQR for Aquarius the Zodiac sign or CHA for Chameleon the animal.

Constellations of the Northern Hemisphere

Latin English Visibility Circumpolar
Andromeda Andromeda Autumn -
Aries Aries Autumn -
Auriga Auriga Winter -
Aquarius Aquarius Autumn -
Bootes Bootes Spring -
Camelopardalis Camelopardalis Summer Yes
Cassiopeia Cassiopeia Autumn Yes
Cepheus Cepheus Autumn Yes
Canis Minor Canis Minor Winter -
Cancer Cancer Winter -
Coma Berenices Coma Berenices Spring -
Corona Borealis Corona Borealis Spring -
Canes Venefici Canes Venefici Winter, Spring -
Cygnus Cygnus Summer -
Delphinus Delphinus Autumn -
Draco Draco Winter Yes
Equuleus Equuleus Autumn -
Gemini Gemini Winter -
Hercules Hercules Spring -
Lacerta Lacerta Autumn Yes
Leo Leo Beginning of Spring -
Leo Minor Leo Minor Winter, Spring -
Lynx Lynx Autumn -
Lyra Lyra Summer -
Pegasus Pegasus Autumn -
Perseus Perseus Winter Yes
Pisces Pisces Autumn -
Sagittarius Sagittarius Summer -
Taurus Taurus Winter -
Triangulum Triangulum Autumn -
Ursa Major Ursa Major Autumn Yes
Ursa Minor Ursa Minor Winter -
Vulpecula Vulpecula Summer -

Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere

Latin English Visibility Circumpolar
Carina Carina Whole year Yes
Centaurus Centaurus Whole year Yes
Crux Crux Whole year Yes

Constellations in both Hemispheres

Latin English Visibility Northern Hemisphere Visibility Southern Hemisphere
Aquila Aquila Summer -
Capricornus Capricornus July to November Winter - Spring
Hydra Hydra April -
Libra Libra April - July Autumn - Winter
Monoceros Monoceros Winter -
Ophiuchus Ophiuchus Spring -
Orion Orion Winter -
Scorpius Scorpius July - August March - October
Virgo Virgo Spring -