Christchurch, New Zealand
May 9, 2016 at 12:00 PM
Antlia is the Greek word for pump. It was given this name by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille. The full name is even Antlia Pneumatica, because the constellation resembles this machine according to de Lacaille. It’s a fairly tiny constellation, only ranking 62nd out of 88. Alpha Antliae is the brightest star in the constellation located at about 365 light years away. Antlia was first catalogued in 1763 in Coelum Australe Stelliferum, published after the death of Lacaille.
Apus, which is Greek for footless. The original name was Paradysvogel, old Dutch for bird of paradise. They were given the name footless as the ancient Greeks believed these birds didn’t have any feet. Apus was named by Petrus Plancius, the Dutch astronomer who named several constellations in the southern hemisphere. This constellation is located in the third quadrant. Ranking 67th, it is a small constellation occupying an area of 206 square degrees.
Aquila or eagle in Latin. This eagle is the Roman god Jupiter, the king of all the gods. Like many of the classical constellations, Aquila too was first catalogued by Ptolemy in the second century AD. With 652 square degrees in the fourth quadrant of the northern hemisphere, Aquila takes number 22 in the rank of biggest constellation. The eagle is also the animal that Zeus turned himself into to get Ganymede (Aquarius) to the mountain Olympus.
Ara or Altar in Latin. It is named after the altar for which the Greek gods, Zeus included, bowed to swear their allegiance before going into war with Cronus. Ara was first listed in the catalogue made by Ptolemy, the ancient Greek astronomer in the second century AD. Ara is a rather small constellation, covering only 237 square degrees. This makes it constellation 63 out of 88 when ranked by size. Gliese 674, the nearest star in the Ara constellation can be found 14.8 lightyears from Earth.
Boötes or herdsman in English. This constellation has been first mentioned by Ptolemy, the ancient Greek astronomer about 1900 years ago. It is quite a big constellation, ranked 13th with an area of 907 square degrees. In it you’ll find you’ll find Arcturus, the third brightest star in our skies. Boötes is said to drive (like a herdsman) the oxen of Ursa Major around the North Pole together with his 2 shepards dogs Asterion and Chara, which you can find in the Canes Venatici constellation.
Carina is the Latin word for keel of a ship. Originally, Carina was part of a larger constellation called Argo Navis created by Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy. French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille divided Argo Navis up into 3 constellations, Carina, Puppis (the stern) and Vela (the sail). Canopus, the second brightest star in our night sky is part of Carina. This star is a supergiant, with a slight yellowish color, at a distance of 310 light years.
Centaurus is the Greek word for centaur, half man, half horse. Although it is not completely sure which centaur it represents, it is most commonly believed to be Chiron, the mentor of Achilles, Hercules, Theseus and Perseus. With Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri, this constellation contains 2 top 10 stars when it comes to brightness. With an area of 1060 square degrees, Centaurus is the 9th largest constellation. You can find this group of stars in the southern hemisphere.
Chamaeleon. This constellation lies in the southern hemisphere and was created by Petrus Plancius, the Dutch astronomer from the 17th century. It can be seen at latitudes between 0 degrees and -90 degrees. The brightest star is called Alpha Chamaeleontis, which is located at a distance of 63.5 light years from Earth. Petrus Plancius named several constellations after exotic animals and used their Latin names. Almost all of these constellations are found on the southern hemisphere.
Circinus, Latin for compass. It was created in the 18th century by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille who used tools and instruments as names for the constellations he found. Circinus was made out of stars that were remaining in between 2 already existing constellations. It is therefore one of the smallest of the 88 constellations, ranking 85th. It only occupies 93 square degrees. There are no notable stars in Circinus, but 2 of them do have exoplanets.
Coma Berenices or Berenice’s hair in Latin. This constellation was named after queen Berenice II of Egypt. Ptolemy first mentioned Coma Berenices already in the 2nd century AD, but considered it an asterism (a small cluster of stars) in the constellation Leo. It wasn’t until the 16th century when Tycho Brahe, a Danish astronomer, decided to make Coma Berenices a constellation. Berenice II swore to Aphrodite that she would cut of her hair if her husband Ptolemy III Euergetes would come back safe from a dangerous mission.
Corona Australis translated from Latin this means the southern crown. Occupying an area of 128 square degrees, Corona Australis is one of the smallest constellations. It only ranks 80th out of 88. You can find this constellation in the third quadrant of the southern hemisphere at latitudes between +40 degrees and -90 degrees. The crown was worn by the centaur which is Sagittarius. This was first documented by Ptolemy, the Greco-Roman astronomer that lived in the 2nd century AD.
Corona Borealis which is Latin for the northern crown. In between the constellations of Hercules and Boötes, Corona Borealis represents the crown of Ariadne. She was the daughter of king Minos, the first king of Crete. Ariadne helped Theseus defeat the Minotaur. Corona Borealis was given its name by Ptolemy, who lived in the 2nd century AD in Roman Greece. Ranking 73rd in size and occupying 179 square degrees, it is somewhat bigger than its sister constellation Corona Australis, the southern crown.
Corvus means raven or crow in Latin. This was the sacred bird of Apollo in Greek mythology. It was told to have white feathers. One day, Corvus came back to report to Apollo that Coronis, one of Apollo’s lovers, having an affair. Apollo got so upset that the bird didn’t do anything to stop it, that he burned all its feathers. That’s why all ravens are black now, according to legend. Like many other constellations based on myths, Corvus was given its name by Ptolemy, the ancient astronomer.
Crater means ‘cup’ in Latin and it represents the cup of Apollo, the Greek god. This constellation was named by Ptolemy, the famous Greco-Roman astronomer of the 2nd century AD. The cup was needed for a ritual at the altar, so Apollo sends his raven, the constellation Corvus, out to get it. The raven takes its time and comes up with an excuse blaming a water snake, the constellation Hydra. Apollo sees through the lies and sends all 3 into the sky where they became constellations.
Crux also known as the southern cross. Crux occupies 68 square degrees in the sky, making this the smallest constellation of them all. Despite being the smallest constellation, Crux is very easily recognised by the cross shape formed by its brightest stars. Crux is Latin for cross. Originally, it was part of the constellation Centaurus. But in 1679, Crux became a full fledged constellation thanks to Augustin Royer. Some say it might have even been Petrus Plancius in 1613 who gave Crux the status of constellation.
Dorado which is Spanish for dolphinfish. This constellation was given its name by Dutchman Petrus Plancius. It was first documented in 1603 in the star atlas Uranometria by Johann Bayer. Dorado is a constellation that lies in the southern hemisphere and can be seen at latitudes between +20 and -90 degrees. Two of the stars in this constellation are known to have planets. Petrus Plancius created 12 constellations in total and gave almost all of them animal names.
Grus which is Latin for crane, the bird. This constellation was created by the Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius in the 17th century. Grus ranks 45th in the list of largest constellations and occupies 366 square degrees in the fourth quadrant of the southern hemisphere. Gliese 832 is the nearest star in Grus and can be found at a distance of 16.2 light years from Earth. Grus contains 3 stars with a magnitude brighter than 3. There are 6 stars in Grus with exoplanets.
Horologium is the Latin word for clock. This constellation was created by the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the 18th century. Originally, it was named Horologium Oscillatorium, the pendulum clock, but it was later shortened to Horologium. Gliese 1061 is the nearest star in this constellation from Earth, at a distance of 12 light years. The constellation was created to honor Christiaan Huygens, the inventor of the pendulum clock. Nicolas Louis de Lacaille named all his constellations after tools and instruments.
Hydrus, also known as the lesser water snake or the male water snake. It is the counterpart of Hydra, the bigger water snake. Also as a constellation, Hydrus is much smaller than Hydra. With 243 square degrees it takes the 61st place when comparing all constellations by size. Hydrus was mapped by Dutch navigators, but given its name by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the 18th century. You can find Hydrus in the first quadrant of the southern hemisphere.
Lupus meaning the wolf in Latin. You can find Lupus in the third quadrant of the southern hemisphere. It was the ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy who mentioned Lupus first in the 2nd century AD. It is one of the few ancient constellations that have no mythical story explaining its existence in the night sky. Lupus has 2 stars with known planets. It occupies an area of 334 square degrees and with that it comes in 46th place in the list of largest constellations.
Mensa. This is the southernmost constellation in the sky. It’s name is Latin and means table. The name was given by French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the 18th century. Originally, it was called Mons Mensae. This means Table Mountain, the famous mountain in South Africa. This is where Lacaille was when he created this constellation. Mensa is small, ranking 75th with only 153 square degrees in the first quadrant of the southern hemisphere.
Microscopium, Latin for microscope. The French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille gave this constellation its name in the 18th century. Microscopium is a very faint constellation, you eed binoculars to see most of its stars. You will have to focus on the fourth quadrant of the southern hemisphere, where it covers 210 square degrees. This ranks it 66 out of 88 in the list of largest constellations. Microscopium has 1 star with known planets, at a distance of 456 light years from Earth.
Musca is Latin for fly, like the little animal we all love so much. Dutch navigators Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman observed the stars, and Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius created the constellation Musca. He left it nameless at first, but in 1602 he gave it the name Muia, which is Greek for fly. With 138 square degrees in the third quadrant of the southern hemisphere, it is the 77th constellation in size. Musca has one star with planets.
Norma is Latin for normal. It was given this name as it is a reference to a right angle, or a proper square. Norma was first introduced by the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the 18th century. It is quite a small constellation, ranking 74th. It covers an area of 165 square degrees in the third quadrant of the southern hemisphere. Its original name was L’Équerre et la Regle, which is French for The Square and the Rule, referring to the carpenter’s square. Norma has at least 4 stars with planets.
Octans. The octant is a navigational instrument mainly used on ships. Octans is its Latin name, and it means the eighth part of a circle. It was the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille who created and named Octans in the 18th century. This constellation covers an area of 291 square degrees in the fourth quadrant of the southern hemisphere. This makes it the 50th largest constellation. Within Octans, you’ll find Sigma Octanis, the southern pole star.
Ophiuchus is a Greek name and it means the snake bearer. In astrology, it is considered the 13th zodiac star sign, and some astrologists believe it should be introduced as such. As the constellations have moved since their creation, there is now room for a 13th star sign, which would be Ophiuchus. Like the 12 zodiac signs, Ophiuchus is also named by Ptolemy, the Greco-Roman astronomer who lived in the 2nd century AD. Sometimes, it is referred to as Serpentarius which is its Latin name.
Pavo is Latin for peacock, the beautiful and colorful bird. The name was given by the Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius, in the late 16th or early 17th century. In the list of largest constellations, Pavo comes in 44th place, with 378 square degrees. Its brightest star is called Peacock and is about 179 light years from Earth. This star is more than 2000 times as bright as the Sun. Plancius named the constellation Pavo after the peacocks that drove Hera’s chariot through the air.
Pyxis is a compass used on ships. This constellation was created by the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the 18th century. Originally, Pyxis was part of a huge constellation called Argo Navis. This star sign was created by the Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD and represented a mythical ship. De Lacaille thought it better to divide the ship into smaller constellations, using parts of a ship for their names.
Reticulum which is Latin for small net. This is not a net to go fishing with, it is rather a crosshair at a telescope used to measure distances and star positions. It was first called Rhombus, which is the name of the shape. The French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille changed its name into Reticulum in the 18th century. There are only 6 constellations smaller than Reticulum. You can find it in the first quadrant of the southern hemisphere where it covers an area of 114 square degrees.
Sagittarius is what you would call an archer in Latin. Sagittarius is one of the 12 zodiac signs who have been named by Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD. If you’re looking at the southern skies, it is not hard to spot Sagittarius. It has some bright stars that form a cluster of stars called the Teapot. You can find this cluster, along with the rest of the star sign in the fourth quadrant of the southern hemisphere. Sagittarius is usually depicted as a centaur, half horse and half human, holding a bow and arrow while aiming it.
Scorpius is a constellation in the southern hemisphere linked to the star sign of Orion. The scorpion is also one of the 12 zodiac constellations, named by Ptolemy, the ancient Greek astronomer that lived in Roman times. It was already called the scorpion in Sumerian times, approximately 5000 years ago. You can find this constellation in the centre of the Milky Way. Over there, it covers 497 square degrees, making it the 33rd largest star sign out of 88.
Scutum is the Latin word for shield. It’s full name is Scutum Sobiescianum, which means shield of Sobieski. It was Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius who wanted to honor the Polish king Jan Sobieski III with this constellation after winning the battle of Vienna in 1683. Scutum only occupies 109 square degrees making it the fifth smallest constellation in the night sky. You can find it in the fourth quadrant of the southern hemisphere between the latitudes +80 degrees and -90 degrees.
Serpens is the Latin word for snake, or serpent. Serpens was first mentioned by the Greco-Roman astronomer of the second century AD, Ptolemy. This constellation is divided into 2 parts; Serpens Caput, the serpent’s head, and Serpens Cauda, the serpent’s tail. It is divided by Ophiuchus, the snake bearer. The head of the snake can be found in the third quadrant of the northern hemisphere, while Serpens Cauda is located in the third quadrant of the southern hemisphere.
Telescopium this constellation represents a telescope. It was given its name by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, the French astronomer from the 18th century. Telescopium covers an area of 252 square degrees in the fourth quadrant of the southern hemisphere. This makes it the 57th largest constellation. The biggest star in Telescopium is Alpha Telescopii. This star is located 278 light years from Earth. It is a blue-white subgiant star, and is about 5 times the size of the Sun.
Triangulum Australe which means southern triangle in Latin. The three brightest stars in this constellation form a triangle, like its companion in the northern hemisphere Triangulum. This southern version was created and named by the Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius in the 16th century. Triangulum Australe is a tiny constellation, covering an area of 110 square degrees in the third quadrant. At 391 light years from Earth, we find Alpha Trianguli Australis, the brightest star of this constellation.
Tucana which is the Latin name for the tropical bird toucan. This constellation was named by the Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius in the late 16th century. He described the bird as the Indian magpie, which led to assumptions he actually meant the hornbill instead of a toucan. Tucana covers an area of 295 square degrees in the first quadrant of the southern hemisphere. This constellation houses the Tucana Dwarf galaxy and another galaxy called the Small Magellanic Cloud.
Vela. Originally, this constellation was part of a much larger star sign called Argo Navis, the Argonauts’ ship. This was a constellation created by Ptolemy in the second century AD, but it was the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille who divided the ship into smaller star signs. All of these constellation are parts of a ship and Vela is Latin for sail. This star sign covers 500 square degrees in the second quadrant of the southern hemisphere, making it the 32nd largest constellation.
Virgo is one of the 12 zodiac constellations. Virgo is Latin for virgin. Its name was given by Ptolemy, the Greco-Roman astronomer who lived in the second century AD. The virgin is associated with Dike, the greek goddess of justice. When the prosperity and wealth on Earth was deteriorating, Dike had enough of it and flew to the sky, becoming a constellation. Covering 1294 square degrees in the third quadrant of the southern hemisphere, Virgo is the second largest constellation of them all.
Volans means flying in Latin. The constellation Volans is linked with the flying fish that the Dutch navigators saw on their travels in the late 16th century. This constellation was named by Petrus Plancius, the Dutch astronomer. It is a rather small star sign, ranking 76th with an area of 141 square degrees in the second quadrant of the southern hemisphere. Beta Volantis is the brightest star in Volans. It’ll take you 107 light years to get to this orange giant.
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At Under Lucky Stars we make personal star charts of the constellations above a time and place chosen by you.