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

Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere

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

Constellations of Both Hemispheres

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