There are 88 official constellations—48 that were recorded by the Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century and others that have were identified by European astronomers in the 17th and 18th centuries. Once you know what you’re looking at you’ll be able to see the body and shield. There are 50 constellations that date back to ancient Greece, Rome, and the Middle East. Canis Minor, Orion’s little hunting dog, is harder to identify, but tags along nearby. The asterisms that make up the constellations were seen by ancient people as patterns in the stars. The 88 Constellations of the Night Sky A constellation is a grouping of stars that represents one of the 88 divisions of the celestial sphere as defined by the International Astronomical Union. If you’re star-watching in a dark place far from city lights and can see the Milky Way stretching through the Summer Triangle like a sparkling cloud, follow the path of it south until you get to Sagittarius. This planisphere, or star locator, was created in Amsterdam by Frederik de Wit around 1680. The other two stars in the triangle are fairly far apart—one off to the left (Altair) and another up above. We are no longer supporting IE (Internet Explorer) as we strive to provide site experiences for browsers that support new web standards and security practices. Ursa Major (the Great Bear) This is the easiest constellation to find because the stars of the Big … You’ll find Orion by looking for the three bright stars that make his belt, along with the string of stars that come down from the belt to form his sword. Find out the 24 astronomy facts you never learned in school. Full-on constellations are the figures that have been officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union. At the beginning of fall, as the Northern Cross and the Summer Triangle move toward the western edge of the visible sky, you’ll be able to see this lovely small constellation more clearly. Ancient cultures in different parts of the world have assigned different patterns to these star groupings. This is what your zodiac reveals about your health. In the United Kingdom, it’s generally called the Plough; in Finland, it’s thought to look like a salmon net; and in China, Japan, and Korea, it’s a ladle. The other end of the long arm of the cross (and the swan’s head) lies about halfway between Vega and Altair, and the short arm (which also serves as Cygnus’s wings) crosses it perpendicularly. On the other side of the bull’s face (sitting over its shoulder) is a star cluster called the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, which actually contains thousands of stars. Polaris is the end of the handle of the Little Dipper, which acts as the flank and tail of Ursa Minor, or the Little Bear. The constellation represents an archer like the figure on this Swedish stamp, but it’s a little tricky to define in the sky without help from a smartphone app or star chart. Scan the eastern sky at nightfall for the brightest star, which is Vega. When Perseus rescued Andromeda from the sea monster, he rode the flying horse, which is how it earned its position in the stars. Shaped like a kite, one Greek legend says the dolphin helped Poseidon win over a sea nymph he wanted to marry and was rewarded with a place in the stars.
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