Tuesday 21st of March 1989 03:00 AM
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.
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 Major, the bigger dog. It is supposed to be a dog following Orion, the hunter from Greek mythology. He is accompanied by a smaller dog, the constellation Canis Minor, which is the neighboring constellation. Canis Major was given its name by Ptolemy, the most famous Greco-Roman astronomer. Within this constellation we can find Sirius, the brightest star in our night sky. You can spot Canis Major in the skies of the southern hemisphere at latitudes between +60 degrees and -90 degrees.
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.
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.
Columba which is Latin for dove. The original name of this constellation is Columba Noachi, after Noah’s dove which signalled that the sea level was dropping. It was given this name by Petrus Plancius, the Dutch astronomer from the early 17th century. Columba is the 54th constellation out of the 88 in size. You can find this constellation in the first quadrant of the southern hemisphere between the latitudes +45 degrees and -90 degrees. Gliese 218 is the nearest star in Columba, at a distance of 48.9 light years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lepus is the Latin name for hare. This constellation lies under the feet of Orion in the northern hemisphere. This is why Lepus is often depicted as being chased by Orion or his hunting dogs represented in the constellation Canes Venatici. The constellation was first catalogued by the Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy, who lived about 1900 years ago. Lepus ranks 51st in the list of largest constellations and covers an area of 290 square degrees in the second quadrant of the northern 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.
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.
Monoceros named after the fantasy animal the unicorn. This constellation was created by the Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius after gathering information from Dutch navigators in the 17th century. Monoceros is named quite appropriately. It is a Latin name, and the constellation looks like an animal with a horn. You can spot the unicorn star sign in the second quadrant of the northern hemisphere where it covers 482 square degrees. This makes it the 35th largest constellation.
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.
Orion. This is one of the most famous constellations already known in ancient times. Orion is very important in Egyptian religion. It was long thought that the pyramids of Giza were built to reflect the position of the stars inside this constellation. Orion is so well known for such a long time because it is a very bright star sign; it has 2 of the 10 brightest stars in the sky. You can find this constellation in the first quadrant of the northern hemisphere. Orion is said to be a hunter, chasing the hare Lepus.
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.
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.
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.
At Under Lucky Stars we make personal star charts of the constellations above a time and place chosen by you.