88 modern constellations

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Equirectangular plot of declination vs right ascension of the modern constellations with a dotted line denoting the ecliptic. Constellations are colour-coded by family and year established. (detailed view)

Many cultures divide the stars of the night sky into their own set of constellations, usually based on mythology. This article covers the 88 constellations used in modern astronomy, which properly speaking are not patterns of stars, as in the common use of the word, but areas of the sky (the celestial sphere), and include the constellations of the zodiac.

The ancient Sumerians, and later the Greeks (as recorded by Ptolemy), established most of the northern constellations in international use today. When explorers mapped the stars of the southern skies, European and American astronomers proposed new constellations for that region, as well as ones to fill gaps between the traditional constellations. Not all of these proposals caught on, but in 1922, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) adopted the modern list of 88 constellations.[1] After this, Eugène Joseph Delporte drew up precise boundaries for each constellation,[1] so that every point in the sky belonged to exactly one constellation.

History[edit]

Some constellations are no longer recognized by the International Astronomical Union, but may appear in older star charts and other references. Most notable is Argo Navis, which was one of Ptolemy's original 48 constellations.

Modern constellations[edit]

The 88 constellations depict 42 animals, 29 inanimate objects and 17 humans or mythological characters. For help with the literary English pronunciations, see the pronunciation key. There is considerable diversity in how Latinate names are pronounced in English. For traditions closer to the original, see Latin spelling and pronunciation.

Constellation IAU abbreviation[2] Other abbreviation[3] Genitive Family Origin Meaning Brightest star
Andromeda
/ænˈdrɒmɨdə/[4]
And Andr Andromedae
/ænˈdrɒmɨdiː/
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) Andromeda (The chained lady or the Princess) Alpheratz
Antlia
/ˈæntliə/[4]
Ant Antl Antliae
/ˈæntli.iː/
La Caille 1763, Lacaille air pump α Antliae
Apus
/ˈeɪpəs/[5]
Aps Apus Apodis
/ˈæpɵdɨs/[5]
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman Bird-of-paradise/Exotic Bird/Extraordinary Bird α Apodis
Aquarius
/əˈkwɛəriəs/[4]
Aqr Aqar Aquarii
/əˈkwɛəriaɪ/
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) water-bearer Sadalsuud
Aquila
/ˈækwɨlə/[4]
Aql Aqil Aquilae
/ˈækwɨliː/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) eagle Altair
Ara
/ˈɛərə/[5]
Ara Arae Arae
/ˈɛəriː/[5]
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) altar β Arae
Aries
/ˈɛəriːz/, /ˈɛərɪ.iːz/[4][5]
Ari Arie Arietis
/əˈraɪ.ɨtɨs/[5]
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) ram Hamal
Auriga
/ɔːˈraɪɡə/[4][5]
Aur Auri Aurigae
/ɔːˈraɪdʒiː/[5]
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) charioteer Capella
Boötes
/boʊˈoʊtiːz/[4]
Boo Boot Boötis
/boʊˈoʊtɨs/
Ursa Major ancient (Ptolemy) herdsman Arcturus
Caelum
/ˈsiːləm/[5]
Cae Cael Caeli
/ˈsiːlaɪ/[5]
La Caille 1763, Lacaille chisel α Caeli
Camelopardalis
/kəˌmɛlɵˈpɑrdəlɨs/[5]
Cam Caml Camelopardalis
/ kəˌmɛlɵˈpɑrdəlɨs/[5]
Ursa Major 1613, Plancius[6] giraffe β Camelopardalis
Cancer
/ˈkænsər/[4]
Cnc Canc Cancri
/ˈkæŋkraɪ/
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) crab Tarf
Canes Venatici
/ˈkeɪniːz vɨˈnætɨsaɪ/[5]
CVn CVen Canum Venaticorum
/ˈkeɪnəm vɨnætɨˈkɒrəm/
Ursa Major 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius hunting dogs Cor Caroli
Canis Major
/ˈkeɪnɨs ˈmeɪdʒər/[5]
CMa CMaj Canis Majoris
/ˈkeɪnɨs məˈdʒɒrɨs/
Orion ancient (Ptolemy) greater dog Sirius
Canis Minor
/ˈkeɪnɨs ˈmaɪnər/[5]
CMi CMin Canis Minoris
/ˈkeɪnɨs mɨˈnɒrɨs/
Orion ancient (Ptolemy) lesser dog Procyon
Capricornus
/ˌkæprɨˈkɔrnəs/[5]
Cap Capr Capricorni
/ˌkæprɨˈkɔrnaɪ/[5]
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) sea goat Deneb Algiedi
Carina
/kəˈraɪnə/[4]
Car Cari Carinae
/kəˈraɪniː/
Heavenly Waters 1763, Lacaille, split from Argo Navis keel Canopus
Cassiopeia
/ˌkæsi.ɵˈpiːə/[4][5]
Cas Cass Cassiopeiae
/ˌkæsi.ɵˈpiː.iː/[5]
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) Cassiopeia (mythological character) Shedir
Centaurus
/sɛnˈtɔrəs/[4]
Cen Cent Centauri
/sɛnˈtɔraɪ/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) centaur Alpha Centauri
Cepheus
/ˈsiːfiəs/, /ˈsiːfjuːs/[5]
Cep Ceph Cephei
/ˈsiːfiaɪ/[5]
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) Cepheus (mythological character) Alderamin
Cetus
/ˈsiːtəs/[5]
Cet Ceti Ceti
/ˈsiːtaɪ/[5]
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) sea monster (later interpreted as a whale) Deneb Kaitos
Chamaeleon
/kəˈmiːliən/[4]
Cha Cham Chamaeleontis
/kəˌmiːliˈɒntɨs/
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman chameleon α Chamaeleontis
Circinus
/ˈsɜrsɨnəs/[4]
Cir Circ Circini
/ˈsɜrsɨnaɪ/
La Caille 1763, Lacaille compass (drawing tool) α Circini
Columba
/kɵˈlʌmbə/[4]
Col Colm Columbae
/kɵˈlʌmbiː/
Heavenly Waters 1592, Plancius, split from Canis Major dove Phact
Coma Berenices
/ˈkoʊmə bɛrəˈnaɪsiːz/[5]
Com Coma Comae Berenices
/ˈkoʊmiː bɛrəˈnaɪsiːz/[5]
Ursa Major 1603, Uranometria, split from Leo Berenice's hair β Comae Berenices
Corona Australis[7]
/kɵˈroʊnə ʔɔːˈstrælɨs/, /kɵˈroʊnə ʔɔːˈstreɪlɨs/[4][5]
CrA CorA Coronae Australis
/kɵˈroʊniː ʔɔːˈstrælɨs/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) southern crown Alphekka Meridiana
Corona Borealis
/kɵˈroʊnə ˌbɔəriˈælɨs/, /kɒˈroʊnə bɔəriˈeɪlɨs/[4][5]
CrB CorB Coronae Borealis
/kɵˈroʊniː bɔəriˈælɨs/
Ursa Major ancient (Ptolemy) northern crown Alphecca
Corvus
/ˈkɔrvəs/[4]
Crv Corv Corvi
/ˈkɔrvaɪ/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) crow Gienah
Crater
/ˈkreɪtər/[4]
Crt Crat Crateris
/krəˈtɪərɨs/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) cup Labrum
Crux
/ˈkrʌks/[4]
Cru Cruc Crucis
/ˈkruːsɨs/
Hercules 1603, Uranometria, split from Centaurus southern cross Acrux
Cygnus
/ˈsɪɡnəs/[4]
Cyg Cygn Cygni
/ˈsɪɡnaɪ/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) swan or Northern Cross Deneb
Delphinus
/dɛlˈfaɪnəs/[4]
Del Dlph Delphini
/dɛlˈfaɪnaɪ/
Heavenly Waters ancient (Ptolemy) dolphin Rotanev
Dorado
/dəˈrɑːdəʊ/[8]
Dor Dora Doradus
/dɵˈreɪdəs/
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman goldfish α Doradus
Draco
/ˈdreɪkoʊ/[5]
Dra Drac Draconis
/drəˈkoʊnɨs/[5]
Ursa Major ancient (Ptolemy) dragon Etamin
Equuleus
/ɨˈkwuːliəs/[5]
Equ Equl Equulei
/ɨˈkwuːliaɪ/[5]
Heavenly Waters ancient (Ptolemy) pony Kitalpha
Eridanus
/ɨˈrɪdənəs/[5]
Eri Erid Eridani
/ɨˈrɪdənaɪ/[5]
Heavenly Waters ancient (Ptolemy) river Eridanus (mythology) Achernar
Fornax
/ˈfɔrnæks/
For Forn Fornacis
/fɔrˈneɪsɨs/
La Caille 1763, Lacaille chemical furnace Fornacis
Gemini
/ˈdʒɛmɨnaɪ/[4]
Gem Gemi Geminorum
/ˌdʒɛmɨˈnɒrəm/
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) twins Pollux
Grus
/ˈɡrʌs/[5]
Gru Grus Gruis
/ˈɡruː.ɨs/[5]
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman Crane Alnair
Hercules
/ˈhɜrkjʊliːz/[5]
Her Herc Herculis
/ˈhɜrkjʊlɨs/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) Hercules (mythological character) Kornephoros
Horologium
/ˌhɒrəˈlɒdʒiəm/, /ˌhɒrəˈloʊdʒiəm/[4][5]
Hor Horo Horologii
/ˌhɒrəˈloʊdʒiaɪ/
La Caille 1763, Lacaille pendulum clock α Horologii
Hydra
/ˈhaɪdrə/[4]
Hya Hyda Hydrae
/ˈhaɪdriː/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) Hydra (mythological creature) Alphard
Hydrus
/ˈhaɪdrəs/[4]
Hyi Hydi Hydri
/ˈhaɪdraɪ/
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman lesser water snake β Hydri
Indus
/ˈɪndəs/[4]
Ind Indi Indi
/ˈɪndaɪ/
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman Indian (American indigenous) The Persian
Lacerta
/ləˈsɜrtə/[4]
Lac Lacr Lacertae
/ləˈsɜrtiː/
Perseus 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius lizard α Lacertae
Leo
/ˈliː.oʊ/[4]
Leo Leon Leonis
/liːˈoʊnɨs/
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) lion Regulus
Leo Minor
/ˈliː.oʊ ˈmaɪnər/[4]
LMi LMin Leonis Minoris
/liːˈoʊnɨs mɨˈnɒrɨs/
Ursa Major 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius lesser lion Praecipua
Lepus
/ˈliːpəs/[5]
Lep Leps Leporis
/ˈlɛpərɨs/[4][5]
Orion ancient (Ptolemy) hare Arneb
Libra
/ˈlaɪbrə/, /ˈliːbrə/[4]
Lib Libr Librae
/ˈlaɪbriː/
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) balance Zubeneshamali
Lupus
/ˈljuːpəs/[4]
Lup Lupi Lupi
/ˈljuːpaɪ/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) wolf Men
Lynx
/ˈlɪŋks/[4]
Lyn Lync Lyncis
/ˈlɪnsɨs/
Ursa Major 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius lynx Elvashak
Lyra
/ˈlaɪrə/[4]
Lyr Lyra Lyrae
/ˈlaɪriː/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) lyre / harp Vega
Mensa
/ˈmɛnsə/[4]
Men Mens Mensae
/ˈmɛnsiː/
La Caille 1763, Lacaille Table Mountain (South Africa) α Mensae
Microscopium
/ˌmaɪkrɵˈskoʊpiəm/
Mic Micr Microscopii
/ˌmaɪkrɵˈskoʊpiaɪ/
La Caille 1763, Lacaille microscope γ Microscopii
Monoceros
/məˈnɒsɨrəs/[4][5]
Mon Mono Monocerotis
/ˌmɒnɵsɨˈroʊtɨs/
Orion 1613, Plancius unicorn β Monocerotis
Musca
/ˈmʌskə/[5]
Mus Musc Muscae
/ˈmʌsiː/[4][5]
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman fly α Muscae
Norma
/ˈnɔrmə/[4]
Nor Norm Normae
/ˈnɔrmiː/[4]
La Caille 1763, Lacaille carpenter's level γ2 Normae
Octans
/ˈɒktænz/[5]
Oct Octn Octantis
/ɒkˈtæntɨs/[5]
La Caille 1763, Lacaille octant (instrument) ν Oct
Ophiuchus
/ˌɒfiˈjuːkəs/[4]
Oph Ophi Ophiuchi
/ˌɒfiˈjuːkaɪ/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) serpent-bearer Ras Alhague
Orion
/ɵˈraɪ.ən/[4]
Ori Orio Orionis
/ɵˈraɪ.ənɨs/, /ˌɒriˈoʊnɨs/[5]
Orion ancient (Ptolemy) Orion (mythological character) Rigel
Pavo
/ˈpeɪvoʊ/[4][5]
Pav Pavo Pavonis
/pəˈvoʊnɨs/[5]
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman peacock Peacock
Pegasus
/ˈpɛɡəsəs/[4]
Peg Pegs Pegasi
/ˈpɛɡəsaɪ/
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) Pegasus (mythological winged horse) Enif
Perseus
/ˈpɜrsiəs, ˈpɜrsjuːs/[5]
Per Pers Persei
/ˈpɜrsi.aɪ/[5]
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) Perseus (mythological character) Mirfak
Phoenix
/ˈfiːnɨks/[4]
Phe Phoe Phoenicis
/fɨˈnaɪsɨs/
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman phoenix Ankaa
Pictor
/ˈpɪktər/[5]
Pic Pict Pictoris
/pɪkˈtɔərɨs/[5]
La Caille 1763, Lacaille easel α Pictoris
Pisces
/ˈpaɪsiːz/, /ˈpɪsiːz/[4][5]
Psc Pisc Piscium
/ˈpɪʃiəm/[5]
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) fishes Alpherg
Piscis Austrinus
/ˈpaɪsɨs ɔːˈstraɪnəs/
PsA PscA Piscis Austrini
/ˈpaɪsɨs ɔːˈstraɪnaɪ/
Heavenly Waters ancient (Ptolemy) southern fish Fomalhaut
Puppis
/ˈpʌpɨs/[5]
Pup Pupp Puppis
/ˈpʌpɨs/[5]
Heavenly Waters 1763, Lacaille, split from Argo Navis poop deck Naos
Pyxis
/ˈpɪksɨs/[4]
Pyx Pyxi Pyxidis
/ˈpɪksɨdɨs/
Heavenly Waters 1763, Lacaille mariner's compass α Pyxidis
Reticulum
/rɨˈtɪkjʊləm/[4]
Ret Reti Reticuli
/rɨˈtɪkjʊlaɪ/
La Caille 1763, Lacaille eyepiece graticule α Reticuli
Sagitta
/səˈdʒɪtə/[4]
Sge Sgte Sagittae
/səˈdʒɪtiː/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) arrow γ Sagittae
Sagittarius
/sædʒɨˈtɛəriəs/[4]
Sgr Sgtr Sagittarii
/ˌsædʒəˈtɛəriaɪ/
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) archer Kaus Australis
Scorpius
/ˈskɔrpiəs/[4]
Sco Scor Scorpii
/ˈskɔrpiaɪ/
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) scorpion Antares
Sculptor
/ˈskʌlptər/[4]
Scl Scul Sculptoris
/skəlpˈtɒrɨs/
La Caille 1763, Lacaille sculptor α Sculptoris
Scutum
/ˈskjuːtəm/[4]
Sct Scut Scuti
/ˈskjuːtaɪ/
Hercules 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius shield (of Sobieski) α Scuti
Serpens[9]
/ˈsɜrpɛnz/
Ser Serp Serpentis
/sərˈpɛntɨs/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) snake Unukalhai
Sextans
/ˈsɛkstənz/[5]
Sex Sext Sextantis
/sɛksˈtæntɨs/[5]
Hercules 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius sextant α Sextantis
Taurus
/ˈtɔrəs/[4]
Tau Taur Tauri
/ˈtɔraɪ/
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) bull Aldebaran
Telescopium
/ˌtɛlɨˈskɒpiəm/
Tel Tele Telescopii
/ˌtɛlɨˈskɒpiaɪ/
La Caille 1763, Lacaille telescope α Telescopii
Triangulum
/traɪˈæŋɡjʊləm/
Tri Tria Trianguli
/traɪˈæŋɡjʊlaɪ/
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) triangle β Trianguli
Triangulum Australe
/traɪˈæŋɡjʊləm ɔːˈstræliː/, /traɪˈæŋɡjʊləm ɔːˈstreɪliː/
TrA TrAu Trianguli Australis
/traɪˈæŋɡjʊlaɪ ʔɔːˈstrælɨs/
Hercules 1603 Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman southern triangle Atria
Tucana
/tjʊˈkeɪnə/
Tuc Tucn Tucanae
/tjʊˈkeɪniː/
Bayer 1603 Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman toucan α Tucanae
Ursa Major
/ˌɜrsə ˈmeɪdʒər/[4]
UMa UMaj Ursae Majoris
/ˌɜrsiː məˈdʒɒrɨs/
Ursa Major ancient (Ptolemy) great bear Alioth
Ursa Minor
/ˌɜrsə ˈmaɪnər/[4]
UMi UMin Ursae Minoris
/ˌɜrsiː mɨˈnɒrɨs/
Ursa Major ancient (Ptolemy) lesser bear Polaris
Vela
/ˈviːlə/[4]
Vel Velr Velorum
/vɨˈlɔərəm/
Heavenly Waters 1763, Lacaille, split from Argo Navis sails Regor
Virgo
/ˈvɜrɡoʊ/[4]
Vir Virg Virginis
/ˈvɜrdʒɨnɨs/
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) virgin or maiden Spica
Volans
/ˈvoʊlænz/[5]
Vol Voln Volantis
/vɵˈlæntɨs/[5]
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman flying fish β Volantis
Vulpecula
/vʌlˈpɛkjʊlə/[4]
Vul Vulp Vulpeculae
/vʌlˈpɛkjʊliː/
Hercules 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius fox Anser

Asterisms[edit]

Main article: Asterism (astronomy)

Various other unofficial patterns have existed alongside the constellations. These are known as "asterisms." Examples include the Big Dipper/Plough and the Northern Cross. Some ancient asterisms, for example Coma Berenices, Serpens, and portions of Argo Navis, are now officially constellations.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Constellations". International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  2. ^ "The Constellations". International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  3. ^ NASA Dictionary of terms for Aerospace Use - table V, Constellations
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf OED, 2nd edition
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg Random House Dictionary
  6. ^ The constellations Camelopardalis, Columba, and Monoceros, formed by Petrus Plancius in 1592 and in 1613, are often erroneously attributed to Jacob Bartsch and Augustin Royer
  7. ^ Corona Australis is sometimes called "Corona Austrina" /ɔːˈstriːnə/ (genitive: Coronae Austrinae)
  8. ^ "Definition of dorado". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  9. ^ Serpens may be divided into Serpens Cauda (serpent's tail) and Serpens Caput (serpent's head)

External links[edit]