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Saturday 6th of December 2014 12:00 AM
Andromeda, the Ethiopian princess who was the wife of Perseus, the Greek hero. This constellation was first catalogued by Ptolemy, the ancient Greek astronomer who lived in the 2nd century AD. 3 of the stars of Andromeda are located within 10 parsecs (which equals 32.6 light years) of Earth. Andromeda's mother offended the sea nymphs saying she was more beautiful. In order to appease the gods, Andromeda was chained, only to be saved by Perseus.
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.
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.
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.
Cetus or whale in Latin. This constellation can be found in a group of constellations with names dealing with water, such as Aquarius and Pisces. It was named by Ptolemy, the Greco-Roman astronomer who lived in the 2nd century AD. Cetus was the whale sent out to kill Andromeda, the Ethiopian princess who was being sacrificed by her mother and father only to be rescued by Perseus who she later married. Cetus also happens to be a large constellation, ranking fourth with an area of 1231 square degrees.
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.
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
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.
Eridanus. This is the Greek name of the river Po in Italy. Originally, this constellation was called Srotaswini, which is Sanskrit for torrent or stream. Eridanus is usually depicted as the river flowing away from Aquarius. This constellation was first catalogued by Ptolemy, the Greco-Roman astronomer from the 2nd century AD. Ranking sixth largest constellation, Eridanus occupies 1138 square degrees in the first quadrant of the southern hemisphere.
Fornax is Latin for furnace. This constellation was given its name by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, the French astronomer from the 18th century. With only 1 star brighter than magnitude 4.0, Fornax is quite an obscure constellation. Originally, the name that was given was Fornax Chemica, named after the chemical furnace used for experiments. It was British astronomer Francis Bailey who shortened it to Fornax in 1845. Fornax ranks 41st in the list of largest constellations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Phoenix is a mythical bird, said to have risen from its own ashes. Mythical or not, Phoenix wasn’t named and created until the late 16th century. It was Petrus Plancius who gave this constellation its name. You’ll have to focus on the first quadrant of the southern hemisphere if you want to spot Phoenix. There it covers an area of 469 square degrees, which makes it the 37th largest constellation. Phoenix contains HLX-1, which is thought to be a black hole.
Sculptor originally, this constellation was called Apparatus Sculptor, which is Latin for sculptor’s tools. It was given this name by the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the 18th century. Sculptor ranks 36th in the list of largest constellations and covers an area of 475 square degrees in the first quadrant of the southern hemisphere. The brightest star in Sculptor is Alpha Sculptoris, which is located about 780 light years from Earth. It is a blue-white giant star.
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.
Taurus or bull in Latin. Taurus is one of the 12 zodiac constellations used for birth charts. Although Ptolemy, the Greco-Roman astronomer gave Taurus its Latin name in the 2nd century AD, the history of Taurus goes back to the Bronze Age. This makes Taurus one of the oldest constellations we know of. It is also quite big, it occupies 797 square degrees in the first quadrant of the northern hemisphere. There are 16 constellations larger that Taurus.
Triangulum is Latin for triangle. It was the famous Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy who gave this constellation its name in the second century AD. The three brightest stars in Triangulum form a triangular shape. The stars of this constellation cover an area of 132 square degrees in the first quadrant of the northern hemisphere. This makes Triangulum the 78th largest star sign. Originally, it was called Deltoton, after the Greek letter Delta, which has a triangular shape.
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.
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.