Thursday 28th of September 2017 11:00 AM
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.
Canis Minor, Latin for smaller dog. Just like his big brother, Canis Major, this constellation represents a dog following Orion. Both constellations were created by the ancient astronomer Ptolemy. Another Greek legend identifies Canis Minor with Maera, the dog of winemaker Icarus who jumped off a cliff after friends killed Icarus by mistake. Canis Minor contains Luyten’s Star. This star is one of the nearest stars in the galaxy, from our perspective. It’s only 12.2 light years away.
Cassiopeia, queen of Ethiopia. This is one of the many constellations that was named by Ptolemy, the ancient astronomer who lived in the 2nd century AD. Cassiopeia is easy to recognise, as she has a clear W shape in the skies. Cassiopeia was the wife of King Cepheus, who has his own constellation. She was known for being very vain and acclaimed to be more beautiful than the sea nymphs. As a punishment, a whale was sent and the king and queen had to sacrifice their daughter Andromeda, who was rescued by Perseus.
Cepheus was the Ethiopian king who married Cassiopeia. His daughter was Andromeda, who they sacrificed after Cassiopeia had incurred the wrath of the gods with her vanity. Both Cassiopeia and Andromeda are neighboring constellations. Cepheus was named by Ptolemy, the famous ancient astronomer. Within this constellation you will find Garnet Star, which is one of the largest stars known in the Milky Way galaxy. Cepheus is found in the northern hemisphere.
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 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.
Cygnus, the Latin word for swan. Cygnus is easily recognised as it hosts a famous asterism called the Northern Cross. This constellation was given its name by Ptolemy, the most famous astronomer from the Greco-Roman world. With 804 square degrees it occupies the 16th place in the ranking of largest constellations. Cygnus has at least 10 stars with planets. The constellation represents the swan Orpheus turned into after dying. The swan was placed next to a lyre, represented by the constellation Lyra.
Draco. This is Latin and it means dragon. It was the ancient Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy who gave Draco its name in the 2nd century AD. Draco ranks 8th in the list of biggest constellations, occupying 1083 square degrees. This constellation has 9 stars with planets. According to the myth, Draco represents Ladon. This dragon guarded the golden apples in the gardens of Hesperides. This is linked to 1 of the 12 labours of Hercules, which is a neighboring constellation
Gemini or twins in Latin. This is one of the 12 zodiac constellations. Gemini represents the twins Castor and Pullox and was first mentioned by Ptolemy, the ancient Greek astronomer from the 2nd century AD. It was given this name because Gemini has 2 bright stars, called Castor and Pullox as well. With 514 square degrees, Gemini occupies the 30th rank as largest constellation. You can find it in the second quadrant of the northern hemisphere.
Hercules is the Latin name for the Greek hero Heracles. Legend goes that Heracles originally was the Sumerian hero Gilgamesh and the constellation was mentioned in Sumerian times as well. The Latin name was given by Ptolemy, the Greco-Roman astronomer from the 2nd century AD. Hercules is the 5th largest constellation. This constellation is linked to the last labour of Heracles where he has to kill the dragon Ladon, represented by the constellation Draco.
Hydra which is Latin for water snake. Of the 88 constellations, Hydra is the largest. It occupies a whopping 1303 square degrees in the second quadrant of the southern hemisphere. Corvus the raven blames this water snake after having disappointed Apollo who sent him out to fetch the cup Crater. Other legends say that Hydra is the water snake Hercules was fighting in one of his 12 labours. Hydra was a giant snake with several heads and Ladon the dragon was his brother.
Lacerta which is Latin for lizard. This constellation was created by Johannes Hevelius, the Polish astronomer from the 17th century. Some people call Lacerta Little Cassiopeia as it has a distinct W shape just like Cassiopeia. Lacerta is much smaller though, occupying only 201 square degrees. This makes it the 68th largest constellation out of the 88. Originally, Hevelius gave Lacerta a different name, Stellio. This name wasn’t really used by others and so it was discarded over time.
Leo, Latin for lion. Leo is one of the 12 zodiac star signs. Like the other zodiac constellations, Leo was first documented by Ptolemy, the Greco-Roman astronomer from the 2nd century AD. With 947 square degrees, Leo is one of the biggest constellations in the northern hemisphere. It is suggested that Leo was already a known constellation in Mesopotamian times, going back as far as 4000 BC. In Greek mythology, Leo was the lion that Heracles killed during his first of twelve labours.
Lynx which means lynx in Latin as well. This constellation was created by the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius in the 17th century. Although it is a Latin name for an animal, there is no mythological backstory to Lynx. Between Auriga and Ursa Major, there was quite the gap filled with stars, so Hevelius created a constellation out of those stars. With 545 square degrees in the second quadrant of the northern hemisphere, Lynx comes in at place 28 in the list of largest constellations.
Lyra is the Latin name for the musical instrument called lyre. This string instrument was mainly used in ancient and medieval times. Given its name by Ptolemy in the second century AD, Lyra represents the Greek poet Orpheus. According to the myth, Orpheus was given his lyre by Apollo. He was so good at playing it, he managed to charm even dead objects. He also played music to get the Argonauts past the sirens. You can find Lyra in the fourth quadrant of the northern hemisphere.
Perseus is a Greek hero in ancient mythology. This constellation is located next to Andromeda, the Ethiopian princess who he saved from getting killed by a whale. Her parents were sacrificing her to atone for her mother’s vanity. Perseus then married Andromeda and they lived happily ever after. You can find Perseus in the first quadrant of the northern hemisphere. It’s a large constellation that occupies 615 square degrees. Perseus was first catalogued by Ptolemy.
Ursa Major. This is one of the most well-known constellations. The name means bigger bear in Latin. It is the biggest constellation in the northern hemisphere, and the third largest of all the star signs. Part of Ursa Major is the asterism called Big Dipper. This is one of the clearest recognisable group of stars in the night sky.The bigger bear is so prominently present in the northern hemisphere that is was mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and the Bible. Lots of ancient civilizations have legends about this constellation.
Ursa Minor meaning the smaller bear in Latin. It was first mentioned like this by Ptolemy, the Greco-Roman astronomer who lived in the second century AD. Just like the bigger bear, this smaller bear is also a very well known constellation mainly because of its recognisable shape. The cluster of stars called the Little Dipper is one of the most distinguishable shapes in the northern hemisphere. It is also home of Polaris, the northern star. This star marks the true north, making it a very important star for navigation.
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.
Vulpecula which is Latin for little fox. It was the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius who gave Vulpecula its name in the 17th century. Originally, the name of this star sign was Vulpecula et Anser, the little fox and the goose. For a while, the fox and goose were separated into 2 different constellations. Eventually, the two merged back together but the goose lost its place in the name. Vulpecula ranks 55th in the list of largest constellations. You can find this star sign in the fourth quadrant of the northern hemisphere.
At Under Lucky Stars we make personal star charts of the constellations above a time and place chosen by you.