Wednesday 19th of June 1996 06:05 PM
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.
Aquarius is one of the 12 zodiac constellations. Aquarius is located in the southern hemisphere. With 980 square degrees it occupies the 10th rank in size. The name means water bearer in Latin and it is depicted as a young man pouring water in the mouth of a fish, the fish that represents Pisces. This classical constellation was first mentioned by Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD. The story goes that Ganymede, the son of king Tros, was the water bearer for the gods after Zeus took him to Olympus.
Read more about Aquarius here.
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.
Capricornus, which is Latin for goat. This is one of the 12 zodiac star signs. After Cancer, another zodiac star sign, Capricornus is the faintest constellation in our night sky. It was named by Ptolemy who lived in the 2nd century AD, but its myth goes back as far as the 21st century BC. Originally, the constellation was named goat fish, and it marked the winter solstice. To this day, Capricorn still begins on December 21st, the first day of winter. With 414 square degrees, this constellation ranks 40th largest out of the 88.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Delphinus which is Latin for dolphin. According to the myth, Poseidon sent out a dolphin to find Amphirite who he wanted to marry. Delphinus is home to NGC 6905, the blue flash nebula. This nebula has a magnitude of 10.5 and is estimated to be between 5500 and 8500 light years away. Other than the nebula, there are also 5 stars with planets. Like many other constellations, Delphinus was first mentioned by Ptolemy, the astronomer who lived in Roman Greece in the 2nd century AD.
Equuleus, little horse or foal in Latin. We know of this constellation thanks to Ptolemy, the ancient astronomer who lived in Roman Greece in the 2nd century AD. After Crux, it is the smallest constellation in our night sky and it occupies only 72 square degrees in the fourth quadrant of the northern hemisphere. HD 200779 is the nearest star of Equuleus with a distance of 48.4 light years from Earth. It is sometimes called Equus Primus, or first horse, because it rises before Pegasus.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pegasus is a winged horse. This animal appeared in Greek mythology. It was the famous Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy who named this constellation in the 2nd century AD. There are only 6 star signs larger than Pegasus; it covers an area of 1121 square degrees. You can find this constellation in the fourth quadrant of the northern hemisphere. According to the myth, Pegasus flew to Mount Olympus. After he was Zeus’ horse for a while, he became a constellation.
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.
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.