Humanity has been associated with the constellations for thousands of years. A constellation is a group of stars that form a pattern that can be seen in the night sky.
The earliest civilizations viewed them as part of their religious gods, told tales about heroes, and even used them to help guide them on sea voyages.
Other ancient civilizations such as the Maya used the constellations to create intricate and very accurate calendars.
For the Western world is was the Greeks that founded many of the names and ideas of the constellation information that we use today.
Constellations are the mapped stars
The constellations are the mapped stars in the night sky as seen from Earth, from pole to pole so that it creates a sphere around the entire globe. The original number of constellations was 48, and over many years, astronomers continued to add new ones to help chart the heavens.
They eventually added an additional 40 constellations and today the number of 88 remains as the official number.
All Shapes and Sizes
The constellation patterns come in all shapes, sizes, and types, and the older constellations range from gods to animals.
The newer or more modern constellations relate to astronomical inventions or tools. The map or celestial sphere is the way that astronomers look at the sky.
Although called a sphere, it isn’t really a sphere but an imaginary map so that the viewer can understand various changes in the stars as the earth moves.
The map is important because some areas on Earth don’t allow all of the constellations to be seen.
Each region has a different map and they can all be put together.
There are 6 known constellation charts:
Chart 1. North Pole Sky. Round chart of sky at the north pole.
Chart 2. South Pole Sky. Round chart of sky at the south pole.
Chart 3. Equatorial Sky. Centered chart of sky 1 at the equator.
Chart 4. Equatorial Sky. Centered chart of sky 2 at the equator.
Chart 5. Equatorial Sky. Centered chart of sky 3 at the equator.
Chart 6. Equatorial Sky. Centered chart of sky 4 at the equator.
The stars that make up the constellations don’t have to be close to each other. Some of the stars are brighter because they are extremely large, while others are brighter because they are closer to the Earth.
Some of the more well-known or famous constellations include:
|Orion: can be seen from all over the world and is named after a mythological Greek hunter. It has two bright stars: Rigel and Betelgeuse|
|Ursa Major is Latin for “Larger Bear” and is visible in the northern hemisphere. You might be familiar with The Big Dipper which is part of the Ursa Major constellation. For thousands of years, people have used The Big Differ to find the direction of north.|
|Ursa Minor is Latin for “Smaller Bear” and it’s located near Ursa Major. It is the small ladle handle of the Little Dipper.|
|Draco is Latin for “dragon” and can be seen from the northern hemisphere. Draco was one of the original 48 constellations.|
|Pegasus is named for the mythology Greek flying horse and can be viewed in the northern sky.|
The Zodiac constellations are those in a band where the Sun, Moon, and Planets all move. Many civilizations used the Zodiac constellations in astrology for foretell the future.
There are 13 zodiac constellations with twelve also used as signs for the zodiac calendar and astrology.
|Capricornus - constellations of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for "horned goat" or "goat horn". Best visible during the month of September.|
|Aquarius - Situated between Capricornus and Pisces. Its name is Latin for "water-carrier" or "cup-carrier". Best visible during the month of October.|
|Pisces - lies between Aquarius to the west and Aries to the east. Its name is the Latin plural for fish. Best visible during the month of December.|
|Aries - located in the northern celestial hemisphere between Pisces to the west and Taurus to the east. The name Aries is Latin for ram|
|Taurus - Taurus is a large and prominent constellation. You can find it in the northern hemisphere's winter sky. Best visible during the month of January.|
|Gemini - Its name is Latin for "twins,". Best visible during the month of February.|
|Cancer - Its name is Latin for crab. It's a medium-size constellation. Best visible during the month of March.|
|Leo - Its name is Latin for lion. Best visible during the month of April.|
|Virgo - Its name is Latin for virgin. it is the second-largest constellation in the sky. Best visible during the month of May.|
|Libra - Its name is Latin for weighing scales. It is fairly faint and best visible during the month of June.|
|Scorpius - Its name is Latin for scorpion. It is an ancient constellation that pre-dated the Greeks. Best visible during the month of July.|
|Sagittarius - Its name is Latin for the archer. Best visible during the month of August.|
|Ophiuchus - Its name is from the Greek Ὀφιοῦχος Ophioukhos; "serpent-bearer". Best visible during the month of July.|
Travelers in the past used the position of the constellations to help them navigate the seas and on land. If you find Ursa Minor it’s easy to then find Polaris (the North Star) and in this way, travelers could figure out their latitude for ships crossing the oceans.
By recognizing the star patterns during various seasons, cultures could decide when the best time to plant and harvest their crops.
Facts about Constellations
- The word “constellation” is Latin that means “set with stars.”
- Taking up only 0.17% of the sky, the smallest constellation is Crux
The largest constellation is Hydra which takes up 3.16% of the sky.
- Both the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper are part of the small patters of stars within a constellation that are called “asterisms.”
- Of the 88 constellations, 22 different constellations names all start with the letter “C.”
- Twenty two different constellation names start with the letter “C.”
- What does the word constellation mean?
set with the stars
- How many constellations are there?
- Can all constellations be seen from anywhere in the world?
- How many sky charts are there for all of the constellations?
- Why would some stars be brighter in the night sky?
some are bigger and some are closer to Earth
- What is the map of constellations called?
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