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

English Latin Size in square degrees Visibility
Andromeda Andromeda 722 All year
Arrow Sagitta 80 Summer
Berenice's Hair Coma Berenices 386 Spring
Cassiopeia Cassiopeia 598 Autumn
Crab Cancer 506 Winter, Spring
Cepheus Cepheus 588 Autumn
Charioteer Auriga 657 Winter
Colt Equuleus 72 Autumn
Dolphin Delphinus 189 Autumn
Dragon Draco 1.083 Winter
Giraffe Camlopardalis 757 All year
Great Bear Ursa Major 1.280 All year
Hercules Hercules 1.225 Summer
Herdsman Bootes 907 Spring
Hunting Dogs Canes Venatici 465 Winter, Spring
Little Bear Ursa Minor 256 All year
Little Fox Vulpecula 269 Summer
Little Lion Leo Minor 232 Winter, Spring
Lizard Lacerta 201 Autumn
Lynx Lynx 545 Autumn
Lyre Lyra 286 Summer, Autumn
Nothern Crown Corona Borealis 179 Spring
Pegasus Pegasus 1.121 Autumn
Perseus Perseus 615 Winter, Spring
Ram Aries 441 Autumn
Swan Cygnus 804 Summer, Autumn
Triangle Triangulum 132 Autumn
Twins Gemini 514 Winter, Spring

Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere

English Latin Size in square degrees Visibility
Air Pump Antlia 239 Spring
Altar Ara 237 Summer
Archer Sagittarius 867 Summer
Bird of Paradise Apus 206 Summer
Capricorn Capricornus 414 All year
Centaur Centaurus 1.060 All year
Chamaeleon Chamaeleon 132 Summer
Clock Horologium 249 Winter
Compass Pyxis 221 Winter
Compasses Circinus 93 Summer
Crane Grus 366 Autumn
Crow Corvus 184 Spring
Cup Crater 282 Spring
Dove Columba 270 Winter
Fly Musca 138 Spring, Summer
Flying Fish Volans 141 Spring
Furnance Fornax 398 Autumn, Winter
Graving Tool Caelum 125 Winter
Great Dog Canis Major 380 Winter
Hare Lepus 290 Winter
Hydrus Hydrus 243 Winter
Indian Indus 294 Autumn
Keel Carina 494 All year
Level Norma 165 Summer
Libra Libra 538 All year
Mensa Mensa 153 Winter
Microscope Microscopium 210 Summer
Net Reticulum 114 Winter
Octant Octans 291 Autumn
Painter Pictor 247 Winter
Peacock Pavo 378 Summer, Autumn
Phoenix Phoenix 469 Winter
Sails Vela 500 Spring
Scorpion Scorpius 497 All year
Sculptor Sculptor 475 Autumn, Winter
Shield Scutum 109 Summer
Southern Cross Crux 68 All year
Southern Crown Corona Australis 128 Summer
Southern Fish Piscis Austrinus 245 Summer
Southern Triangle Triangulum Australe 110 Summer
Stern Puppis 673 Winter
Swordfish Doradus 179 Winter
Telescope Telescopium 252 Summer
Toucan Tucana 295 Winter
Wolf Lupus 334 Summer

Constellations of Both Hemispheres

English Latin Size in square degrees Visibility
Aquarius Aquarius 980 Autumn
Bull Taurus 797 Winter
Eagle Aquila 652 Summer, Autumn
Eridanus Eridanus 1.138 Winter
Lion Leo 947 Spring
Little Dog Canis Minor 183 Winter, Spring
Fishes Pisces 889 Autumn
Ophiuchus Ophiuchus 948 Spring
Orion Orion 594 Winter
Sea Serpent Hydra 1.303 Spring, Summer
Serpent Serpens 637 Summer
Sextant Sextans 314 Spring
Unicorn Monoceros 482 Winter
Virgin Virgo 1.294 Autumn
Whale Cetus 1.231 Autumn