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)

In modern astronomy, the sky (celestial sphere) is divided into 88 regions called constellations, generally based on the asterisms (which are also called "constellations") of Greek and Roman mythology. Those along the ecliptic are 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.


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.


Each of the IAU constellations has an official 3 letter abbreviation. They are actually abbreviations of the genitive form of the constellation names, so some letters appearing in the abbreviation may come from the genitive form without appearing in the base name (as in Sge for Sagitta/Sagittae, to avoid confusion with Sagittarius, abbreviated Sgr).

The majority of the abbreviations are just the first three letters of the constellation, with the first character capitalised: Ori for Orion, Ara for Ara/Arae, Com for Coma Berenices. In cases where this would not unambiguously identify the constellation, or where the name and its genitive differ in the first three letters, other letters beyond the initial three are used: Aps for Apus/Apodis, CrA for Corona Australis, CrB for Corona Borealis, Crv for Corvus. (Crater is abbreviated Crt to prevent confusion with CrA.)

When letters are taken from the second word of a two-word name, the first letter from the second word is capitalised: CMa for Canis Major, CMi for Canis Minor.

The abbreviations are unambiguous, with two exceptions. Leo for the constellation Leo could be mistaken for Leo Minor (abbreviated LMi), and Tri for Triangulum could be mistaken for Triangulum Australe (abbreviated TrA).[2]


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.

The "Family" column refers to the constellation families introduced by Donald Menzel in 1975.

Constellation Abbreviations Genitive Family Origin Meaning Brightest star
IAU[1] Other[3]
And Andr Andromedae
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) Andromeda (The chained lady or the Princess) Alpheratz
Ant Antl Antliae
La Caille 1763, Lacaille air pump α Antliae
Aps Apus Apodis
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman Bird-of-paradise/Exotic Bird/Extraordinary Bird α Apodis
Aqr Aqar Aquarii
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) water-bearer Sadalsuud
Aql Aqil Aquilae
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) eagle Altair
Ara Arae Arae
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) altar β Arae
/ˈɛərz, ˈɛərɪz/[4][5]
Ari Arie Arietis
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) ram Hamal
Aur Auri Aurigae
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) charioteer Capella
Boo Boot Boötis
Ursa Major ancient (Ptolemy) herdsman Arcturus
Cae Cael Caeli
La Caille 1763, Lacaille chisel or graving tool α Caeli
Cam Caml Camelopardalis
Ursa Major 1613, Plancius[6] giraffe β Camelopardalis
Cnc Canc Cancri
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) crab Tarf
Canes Venatici
/ˈknz vˈnæts/[5]
CVn CVen Canum Venaticorum
/ˈknəm vnætˈkɒrəm/
Ursa Major 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius hunting dogs Cor Caroli
Canis Major
/ˈkns ˈmər/[5]
CMa CMaj Canis Majoris
/ˈkns məˈɒrs/
Orion ancient (Ptolemy) greater dog Sirius
Canis Minor
/ˈkns ˈmnər/[5]
CMi CMin Canis Minoris
/ˈkns mˈnɒrs/
Orion ancient (Ptolemy) lesser dog Procyon
Cap Capr Capricorni
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) sea goat Deneb Algiedi
Car Cari Carinae
Heavenly Waters 1763, Lacaille, split from Argo Navis keel Canopus
Cas Cass Cassiopeiae
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) Cassiopeia (mythological character) Shedir
Cen Cent Centauri
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) centaur Alpha Centauri
/ˈsfiəs, -fjuːs/[5]
Cep Ceph Cephei
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) Cepheus (mythological character) Alderamin
Cet Ceti Ceti
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) sea monster (later interpreted as a whale) Deneb Kaitos
Cha Cham Chamaeleontis
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman chameleon α Chamaeleontis
Cir Circ Circini
La Caille 1763, Lacaille compass (drawing tool) α Circini
Col Colm Columbae
Heavenly Waters 1592, Plancius, split from Canis Major dove Phact
Coma Berenices
/ˈkmə bɛrəˈnsz/[5]
Com Coma Comae Berenices
/ˈkm bɛrəˈnsz/[5]
Ursa Major 1603, Uranometria, split from Leo Berenice's hair β Comae Berenices
Corona Australis[7]
/kˈrnə ɔːˈstræls, -ˈstr-/[4][5]
CrA CorA Coronae Australis
/kˈrn ɔːˈstræls/
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) southern crown Alphekka Meridiana
Corona Borealis
/kˈrnə ˌbɔəriˈæls, -ˈls/[4][5]
CrB CorB Coronae Borealis
/kˈrn bɔəriˈæls/
Ursa Major ancient (Ptolemy) northern crown Alphecca
Crv Corv Corvi
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) crow Gienah
Crt Crat Crateris
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) cup Labrum
Cru Cruc Crucis
Hercules 1603, Uranometria, split from Centaurus southern cross Acrux
Cyg Cygn Cygni
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) swan or Northern Cross Deneb
Del Dlph Delphini
Heavenly Waters ancient (Ptolemy) dolphin Rotanev
Dor Dora Doradus
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman goldfish α Doradus
Dra Drac Draconis
Ursa Major ancient (Ptolemy) dragon Etamin
Equ Equl Equulei
Heavenly Waters ancient (Ptolemy) pony Kitalpha
Eri Erid Eridani
Heavenly Waters ancient (Ptolemy) river Eridanus (mythology) Achernar
For Forn Fornacis
La Caille 1763, Lacaille chemical furnace Fornacis
Gem Gemi Geminorum
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) twins Pollux
Gru Grus Gruis
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman Crane Alnair
Her Herc Herculis
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) Hercules (mythological character) Kornephoros
/ˌhɒrəˈlɒiəm, -ˈl-/[4][5]
Hor Horo Horologii
La Caille 1763, Lacaille pendulum clock α Horologii
Hya Hyda Hydrae
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) Hydra (mythological creature) Alphard
Hyi Hydi Hydri
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman lesser water snake β Hydri
Ind Indi Indi
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman Indian (of unspecified type) The Persian
Lac Lacr Lacertae
Perseus 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius lizard α Lacertae
Leo Leon Leonis
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) lion Regulus
Leo Minor
/ˈl ˈmnər/[4]
LMi LMin Leonis Minoris
/lˈns mˈnɒrs/
Ursa Major 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius lesser lion Praecipua
Lep Leps Leporis
Orion ancient (Ptolemy) hare Arneb
/ˈlbrə, ˈl-/[4]
Lib Libr Librae
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) balance Zubeneshamali
Lup Lupi Lupi
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) wolf Men
Lyn Lync Lyncis
Ursa Major 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius lynx Elvashak
Lyr Lyra Lyrae
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) lyre / harp Vega
Men Mens Mensae
La Caille 1763, Lacaille Table Mountain (South Africa) α Mensae
Mic Micr Microscopii
La Caille 1763, Lacaille microscope γ Microscopii
Mon Mono Monocerotis
Orion 1613, Plancius unicorn β Monocerotis
Mus Musc Muscae
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman fly α Muscae
Nor Norm Normae
La Caille 1763, Lacaille carpenter's level γ2 Normae
Oct Octn Octantis
La Caille 1763, Lacaille octant (instrument) ν Oct
Oph Ophi Ophiuchi
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) serpent-bearer Rasalhague
Ori Orio Orionis
/ˈrəns, ˌɒriˈns/[5]
Orion ancient (Ptolemy) Orion (mythological character) Rigel
Pav Pavo Pavonis
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman peacock Peacock
Peg Pegs Pegasi
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) Pegasus (mythological winged horse) Enif
/ˈpɜːrsiəs, -sjuːs/[5]
Per Pers Persei
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) Perseus (mythological character) Mirfak
Phe Phoe Phoenicis
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman phoenix Ankaa
Pic Pict Pictoris
La Caille 1763, Lacaille easel α Pictoris
/ˈpsz, ˈpɪ-/[4][5]
Psc Pisc Piscium
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) fishes Alpherg
Piscis Austrinus
/ˈpss ɔːˈstrnəs/
PsA PscA Piscis Austrini
/ˈpss ɔːˈstrn/
Heavenly Waters ancient (Ptolemy) southern fish Fomalhaut
Pup Pupp Puppis
Heavenly Waters 1763, Lacaille, split from Argo Navis poop deck Naos
Pyx Pyxi Pyxidis
Heavenly Waters 1763, Lacaille mariner's compass α Pyxidis
Ret Reti Reticuli
La Caille 1763, Lacaille eyepiece graticule α Reticuli
Sge Sgte Sagittae
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) arrow γ Sagittae
Sgr Sgtr Sagittarii
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) archer Kaus Australis
Sco Scor Scorpii
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) scorpion Antares
Scl Scul Sculptoris
La Caille 1763, Lacaille sculptor α Sculptoris
Sct Scut Scuti
Hercules 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius shield (of Sobieski) α Scuti
Ser Serp Serpentis
Hercules ancient (Ptolemy) snake Unukalhai
Sex Sext Sextantis
Hercules 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius sextant α Sextantis
Tau Taur Tauri
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) bull Aldebaran
Tel Tele Telescopii
La Caille 1763, Lacaille telescope α Telescopii
Tri Tria Trianguli
Perseus ancient (Ptolemy) triangle β Trianguli
Triangulum Australe
/trˈæŋɡjᵿləmɔːˈstræl, -ˈstr-/
TrA TrAu Trianguli Australis
/trˈæŋɡjᵿl ɔːˈstræls/
Hercules 1603 Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman southern triangle Atria
Tuc Tucn Tucanae
Bayer 1603 Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman toucan α Tucanae
Ursa Major
/ˌɜːrsə ˈmər/[4]
UMa UMaj Ursae Majoris
/ˌɜːrs məˈɒrs/
Ursa Major ancient (Ptolemy) great bear Alioth
Ursa Minor
/ˌɜːrsə ˈmnər/[4]
UMi UMin Ursae Minoris
/ˌɜːrs mˈnɒrs/
Ursa Major ancient (Ptolemy) lesser bear Polaris
Vel Velr Velorum
Heavenly Waters 1763, Lacaille, split from Argo Navis sails Regor
Vir Virg Virginis
Zodiac ancient (Ptolemy) virgin or maiden Spica
Vol Voln Volantis
Bayer 1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman flying fish β Volantis
Vul Vulp Vulpeculae
Hercules 1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius fox Anser


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]


  1. ^ a b c "The Constellations". International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  2. ^ Russell, Henry Norris (1922). "The New International Symbols for the Constellations". Popular Astronomy. 30: 469. Bibcode:1922PA.....30..469R. 
  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" /ɔːˈstrnə/ (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]