Talk:Asterism (astronomy)

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While "Toothpick" does seem to be an appropriately descriptive nickname for Kemble's Cascade, I wonder if it is a name that is much used or recognized in the astronomical community. For example, while the "Sickle" and the "Teapot" are known to virtually all amateur astronomers and a Google search for the two terms "Brocchi's Cluster" and coathanger returns nearly 500 results, a similar search for the two terms "Kemble's Cascade" and toothpick returns no results at all. Can anyone find some usage examples of the name Toothpick referring to Kemble's Cascade?

Yes check.svg Done B00P (talk) 21:19, 18 December 2009 (UTC)
"Done" what? It's still there without citations!? ... said: Rursus (mbork³) 07:57, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
All I found by googling was: 1. questioning "toothpick" for "Kemble's Cascade" or 2. copies of the WP article. I'll address Anons issue. ... said: Rursus (mbork³) 08:01, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
I misread! Sorry B00P! The article doesn't allege that it is called toothpick, it describes it as such, which is quite legitimate. ... said: Rursus (mbork³) 08:03, 8 January 2010 (UTC)

Spring Triangle[edit]

To me, this is merely the northern half of the Diamond of Virgo. However, another user wanted a more explicit mention of it and added a sentence which virtually repeated what I had written. But while doing so, he removed the link to the article "Spring Triangle" that I had cleverly inserted. Too "cleverly," I guess, because he never saw it.

I have removed his sentence, but made both the mention and the link quite obvious. This way

  1. the writing is tighter,
  2. the mention is clear, and
  3. the link is restored.

We aim to please, and I hope this satisfies everyone. B00P 01:32, 17 January 2006 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done B00P (talk) 21:20, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

and the winter asterism?[edit]

"Winter triangle" redirects to this article, but there is no mention to the winter triangle in this article... :S

  • It's the top half of the Egyptian X, but I'll try to make it more explicit.B00P 21:46, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done B00P (talk) 21:21, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

Magnitude note[edit]

Not sure if something this minor really needs a comment, but I changed the bit about magnitudes in the Background section. It had said that "Thus 1st magnitude stars are the very brightest", which of course isn't true, as can be seen on the magnitude link itself. The text may have been referring to the stars in the listed asterisms in particular, but it made it sound like no star could have a magnitude less than 1. Garet-Jax 22:38, 17 March 2006 (UTC)

You are correct, of course. However, I was trying to keep it as simple as possible, and even stars with negative magnitudes are referred to as "1st Magnitude." I wasn't happy with the previous wording, but never got around to fixing it. To be honest, I'm not entirely satisfied with yours, either, and I expect that I'll reword it, but, in doing so, shall include your point. Thanks for the help and the "push." B00P 06:17, 18 March 2006 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done B00P (talk) 21:21, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

April, 2006 changes[edit]

Coming back to this article after a week. I find that there have been seven changes (including the magnitude business of the previous section that I hadn't gotten around to) since my last revision. While I am not perfectly satisfied with any of them, I do accept the ideas behind some of them. So what I have done is revert the article back to my previous revision and then incorporated those changes that seem valid to me.

Here are the seven changes and my thinking on them.

  1. Garet-Jax The question is when simplification becomes distortion. The appropriate place for a discussion of the meaning of negative magnitudes is the article on magnitudes, not this one for which it is off-topic. However, some clarification was necessary, so I reworded the note.
  2. Anthony Appleyard Three little changes were made to one sentence: "12" was substituted for "numerous," an "and" for a semicolon, and "constellations" for groups." I have reverted two of them. I specifically did not use "constellations" because, as stated in the article, before the IAU list, there were no official constellations. The semicolon was used to provide some stylistic variation. I will accept that "numerous" was too vague. However, I feel that "12" is too specific. I've substituted "a dozen" which seems, in Goldilocks' phrase, "just right."
  3. That Guy, From That Show! A grammatical "correction" that, in fact, is, itself, an error. The sentence included, "take it all in in a single glance." That is "take it all in" and the prepositional phrase "in a single glance." While the "in in" business is an odd construction, removal of one of the "in's" is incorrect. I do, however, accept the stylistic criticism, and have altered it to "take it all in with a single glance."
  4. Anthony Appleyard An attempt to convert each item to an element of a list. The asterism name has been drawn to the beginning of each entry creating a formulaic style. Sorry. I deliberately wrote it as I did to avoid that very thing. I don't want them to be syntactically identical. "Cookie-cutter" writing gets very dull very quickly.
  5. Anthony Appleyard Modifications of the last designed to straitjacket the items even more.
  6. Anthony Appleyard Details about Sigma Octans that unbalance the entry (but let me think about it some more). The information is correct, but doesn't really belong here. And while I appreciate the attempt to give the article more "weight," I prefer the more informal style that I have adopted, as my goal is readablity.
  7. DannyZ Added "Vulpecula" for The Coathanger which I should have done myself, and which has prodded me into adding "Camelopardalis" for the Cascade.

Thanks to all. B00P 20:05, 22 April 2006 (UTC)

As promised, I reconsidered No 6. The original unbalance was my own fault as the use of the Southern Cross to find the Celestial South Pole was an inappropriate item in this article. I have excised that part from the Southern Pointers entry and included AA's point about the False Cross.
I also altered No 3's "with a single glance" to "at a single glance." B00P 18:02, 26 April 2006 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done B00P (talk) 21:24, 18 December 2009 (UTC)


It seems to me that a lot of this article is Northern Hemisphere-centric. ("Undoubtedly the best-known asterism" being the Big Dipper, for example, when to half of the world I would assume it's actually the Southern Cross?) I know too little about the topic to really edit it on that basis, though... any input? Graham 08:52, 24 June 2006 (UTC)

You have a point. The reasons are threefold:
  1. Northerners have been at it longer than Southerners.
  2. There just are more Northern than Southern asterisms.
  3. There are more Northern than Southern readers of English Wikipedia (UK + US + Can vs Oz + NZ).
This, in no way, is meant to limit space for Southern asterisms. I welcome all information and promise to integrate it into the article. If, in additiion, you feel that more emphasis should be placed on certain austral shapes, you will find me eager to accommodate your views. Can't speak you more fair than that. So present the specifics and let's see what we can do. B00P 12:04, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
No, I meant the wording of "Undoubtedly the best-known." I wish I had the expertise to expand on the southern hemisphere asterism list, but in absence of that, I'm just going to tighten up the "northernist" POV language. Do you think we should reclassify this article as a stub, given that it's missing southern hemisphere examples? Graham 05:23, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

It doesn't need "tightening." The statement IS correct. As there are considerably more people in the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern, clearly the Northern asterisms - and in particular, the Big Dipper - are "better known" than the Southern ones.

I have reverted the article. Not that I necessarily object to your revision; the problem is that I can't balance it with a "best-known Southern" asterism. I must point out that, as the article states, the Southern Cross is not an asterism, but an official constellation.

Additionally, the article is not a stub, and is most definately NOT ignoring Southern asterisms. If you read your last post you state that you don't know of any Southern asterisms that have been left out, but you are convinced that they MUST exist. Sorry, no.

Additionally, please note that a Northern/Southern dichotomy would really only obtain if one's POV were from within the Arctic or Antarctic Circles. Constellations and asterisms are normally grouped as Northern, Equatorial, and Southern. The Equatorial groups are perfectly visible in the Southern sky. In fact as far south as Hobart, Tasmania (42°53′ S) almost all of the Northern asterisms can be seen.

Your complaint appears to be unjustified. Again, though, if you DO come up with any asterisms unknown to me, I would be glad of the addition. B00P 19:22, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

I'm glad I'm not the only person who's noticed this bias. :-) A useful southern asterism (since the Southern Cross is out) would be the 'Saucepan'—Orion's belt and nearby stars, from a southern perspective. (I have no idea what this other, Pavo Saucepan is, that this article and Pavo refer to. Look at Orion, upside down. The 'belt', δ/ε/ζ Ori, are the base. η Ori is the side opposite the handle, and M43/M42/ι Ori are the handle.) And in any case, 'best-known' reads POV to me. 'Known to most people', perhaps with a comment on being a northern asterism, would be better. (I'm in Perth, Western Australia, and I've never knowingly seen the Big Dipper here. Northern asterisms seen as far as Hobart? Just because it theoretically enters our skies, doesn't mean it's particularly visible above the horizon, or at all well known.) -- Perey 18:58, 22 September 2006 (UTC)

Note that I said that "almost all of the Northern asterisms" can be seen from Hobart. The two Dippers are the exceptions.
I have added the Orion Saucepan and am trying to track down a valid reference to anything in Pavo. B00P 08:27, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done B00P (talk) 21:26, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

Southern Cross not an asterism?[edit]

Why is the Southern Cross not an asterism? It consists of 5 stars. The constellation Crux consists of many more. No ref is given for SC not being an asterism. Nurg 23:21, 30 September 2006 (UTC)

If the Southern Cross were to be considered an asterism within the constellation Crux, then all 88 constellations would contain an asterism consisting of only the stars that form the figure. B00P
This did start to dawn on me after posing the question. Nurg 10:30, 2 October 2006 (UTC)
I suppose that one could think of constellations as merely areas of the sky with definite boundaries, and ignore the imagined patterns. But in that case, why would one call Crux by that name? "Section 88" (it is the smallest) would do just as well. B00P
I think this is what confused me because the prime definition of constellation is given as "the 88 areas into which the sky ... is divided". Thanks B00P. Nurg 10:30, 2 October 2006 (UTC)
The Southern Cross is an officially recognized constellation. For comparison, the Northern Cross is merely a slang term for some stars in Cynus. B00P 10:03, 2 October 2006 (UTC)
The constellation article takes, what is, IMO, the somewhat pompous attitude of the IAU, that the constellations are merely areas of the sky with no relationship to the star-patterns that gave them their names. Most of us take it to mean both: the pattern and the IAU's borders - the picture and the frame, if you will. B00P (talk) 08:23, 27 February 2009 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done B00P (talk) 21:27, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

"Our current list" and socio-linguist NPOV[edit]

I am replacing terms such as "our current list" with "the current list in the West". Both native and non-native speakers use English Wikipedia, and, in fact, constellations from Non-Western traditions are included on the site. Some, such as スバル (Subaru), may be coterminous with Greek constellations (Pleiades), though not due their being derived from Greek tradition, but as they were perhaps "natural" groupings; other constellations are built on different sets of grouping the same stars. Please see also Chinese constellation. The International Astronomical Union does recognize certain constellations, but, again, that can be explicitly mentioned. The average Asian, Australian, or Native American still might not recognize them. samwaltz 12:17, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

No. While "inclusiveness" is a noble goal, mindless cultural relativism is not. "Our" refers to all peoples living in nations whose astronomers are members of the IAU. Since that's everybody, it is not necessary to get worked up about theoretically hurting the feelings of someone who doesn't know the standard, official international designations, now in place for almost 80 years. "The average Asian, Australian, or Native American" interested in such things, and on the Internet, is not some ignorant primative who doesn't know the standard terms and must be babied along by some paternalistic type who, under the guise of egalitarianism, suggests that allowances must be made for folk they consider not quite up to speed with the 21st century.
Now since I'm the one who put in links to Asian constellations, clearly I see value in them. Since I'm constantly fishing for previously unlisted asterisms - unofficial all - clearly I am not excluding anyone. However, while non-standard constellations supplement the IAU list in learning about star lore, they are not its equivalent.
The current list is not confined to the West; it is the list accepted worldwide. To designate it as merely "Western" is to misstate the facts. "Our" in the sense of "contemporary" was correct. I shall be reverting the phrasing. B00P 00:11, 2 December 2006 (UTC)
Eh, but that IAU isn't to be taken too seriously, they're just a bunch of funny party guys making linguistical practical jokes like a definition of planets that nobody can keep from laughing when reading. By the way, I'm thinking on establishing a couple of new constellations, if nobody have any objection against that. What about Alpha Medusae for Algol, wouldn't that be logical? And a new constellation Joculatores, maybe? Rursus 21:33, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
What the Hell, BOOP! Apparently I (a white, 13th-generation American who appreciates NPOV and the cultural diversity of the knowledge of the world) AM some ignorant primitive who DOES need to be paternalistically babied along - because I disagree with your plain dogma that the IAU is the all-mighty body whose arbitrary mappings and designations for the night sky are the correct ones, while the mappings and designations for the night sky developed by the peoples and cultures of the world throughout history and today are mere deviations! I MUST be primitive if I can't understand that simple, unbiased fact, even after reading several articles on the topic of constellations that give no basis of support for the supremacy of the IAU! Come enlighten me! Show me why ordinary people around the world are not as good at saying "Hey, if you connect those stars it looks like a tree!" as the IAU is! Explain why the astronomy I care about doesn't matter, because the IAU is a representative body for the whole world, that doesn't seem to have any input from people like me! I had no idea I was such a baby. (talk) 05:01, 20 July 2010 (UTC)
Edit: After writing that, I did a little research on the IAU. I found I respect and love the goals and principles of the IAU. I believe BOOP's POV is lightyears away from IAU's POV. IAU standardized constellations for a specific scientific purpose. IAU did not take the ability to create asterisms away from the peoples of the world, past and present. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:24, 20 July 2010 (UTC)

Is the Milky Way band an asterism?[edit]

The Milky Way galaxy is named after the blurry white band that can be seen across the sky. (Note that the MW band is different from the MW galaxy: The Sun and all other discernible stars are members of the MW galaxy, but not members of the band.) Does this band count as an asterism? SpectrumDT 13:34, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Yes and no. As the Galaxy is a gravitationally-bound star group, it fails that test, which is why I've left it out. However, the point you make has some validity, so I'll write it up and give it its own section. B00P 07:32, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
It's a d*rned big one indeed! Thousands and thousand of stars! Rursus 21:34, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done B00P (talk) 21:31, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

"Large seasonal asterisms"[edit]

This seems like de-facto POV, we can't help it but it should probably be made clear. Who's seasons (N or S hemisphere) and at what latitude?

And this seems like Attention Deficit Disorder by the unregistered poster who somehow missed the very first "point to be remembered." B00P 09:59, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

I had it that these were "overhead," meaning "in the sky." It was taken to mean "at the zenith," and was edited to include the phrase "in the northern hemisphere." I can see the point. However, that isn't quite right, either, as the Diamond and the Circle are actually "overhead" at the equator.

I've changed "overhead" to "visible" which should satisfy everyone. Deneb just makes it over the horizon in Hobart and Christchurch, although Invercargill is too far south.
B00P (talk) 08:03, 27 February 2009 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done B00P (talk) 21:32, 18 December 2009 (UTC)


The entry for Libra was already the longest of those for Former Asterisms when three additional sentences regarding its etymology were posted. As the meaning of the α and β stars' names had been included from the beginning, this new information overbalanced the text. It is also inappropriate for this article, belonging, instead, to the one on the constellation itself.

I have, therefore, moved the lines from "Asterism" to "Libra."

B00P (talk) 19:51, 1 May 2008 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done B00P (talk) 21:33, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

Just 2 references!!?[edit]

There are only two references in this article. More! (I'm marking the article!) Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 18:10, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

"There are only two inline references" it should be. Nevertheless ... Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 18:12, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
Seds.Org: Asterisms The Night Sky - Asterisms 2 refs from here Observing Asterisms by David Ratledge, Table of Asterisms copy of the list
(IAAC) RE: Partial Listing of Asterisms and Some Comments (the long amateurs' list) Asterisms
NexStar Database Objects: Asterisms
"Objects in the Heavens”, by Peter Birren, ISBN: 15536 9662-X, p24
Saguaro Astronomy Club Asterisms Database Version 3.0
BBC on Asterisms contains maps

etc.. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 18:23, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

Just this too:

Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 18:26, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

Quite right; there should be many more references (and some other improvements) which I haven't gotten around to supplying. However, I might point out that while it is quite easy to complain and slap a "more references" box on an article, if one really wishes to have them, one can actually do the work and fill them in oneself. B00P (talk) 21:02, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
What did I do above? Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 07:50, 12 February 2010 (UTC)
Thinking a little bit more carefully, you mention: which I haven't gotten around to supplying. But nobody is blaming you! If I'm blaming, and just not being my usual temperamental, I'm blaming the article, and otherwise not any editor. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 10:04, 12 February 2010 (UTC)

My point is that if you have such references, why are you placing a list of them on the Talk Page rather than integrating them into the Article? B00P (talk) 21:44, 12 February 2010 (UTC)

1. Are you sure I'm not placing them in the article?
1.a. have you counted the number of references in the article lately?
1.b. have you examined the history lately?
2. Any happenstance editor that also observe the lack of references but have not found them, might have the chance to use the links above to add a few suitable references by him/herself.
3. The article talk is for discussion of the contents, and for temporary storage of material that is not well integrated in the article or otherwise contested, so here it is, for a while.
4. Do we really need to have this elaborate discussion once again for a normal article improvement, B00P? Take a look at WP:OWN and WP:MASTODON!
Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 07:08, 13 February 2010 (UTC)

"Do we really need to have this elaborate discussion ...?"

No, not at all. But then I'm not the one posting tables on the Discussion Page. All I said was that if you've got the references, put them in the article, and if you don't, it might be more useful to find them that to complain about it. B00P (talk) 06:05, 15 February 2010 (UTC)

Oh, they're their available for insertion for you too, if you should decide that getting the last word gets the article nowhere, and instead one or another can make the article better. Now, I'm busy analysing the asterism lists privately for my own book. When I've went thru them I'll make some decisions on what asterisms are the most popular among amateur astronomers, I'll consider painting some drawings of a few of them. While you wiggle your thumbs. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 21:32, 17 February 2010 (UTC)

Update: just 16 references[edit]

Whether visually pleasing or not, there are now 16 references, but there should be circa 16 more. There seems to be a few errors in the text:

  • Lozenge is generally regarded to be βγξν Dra, not βγξ Dra + ι Her,
  • Circlet of Psc seems to be missing TX Psc, that is generally mentioned in the lists because it is a C-N carbon star,
  • The article is not consistent on the star naming, sometimes using "α, β, γ" where acc2 WP standard there should be "Alpha, Beta, Gamma", foremost because that makes it easier to click on the link leading to the star in question — one may be stunned by the number of single star articles that exist on Wikipedia,
  • By some kind of common agreement, constellations and open star clusters are asterisms, so the sections Former asterisms and Non-asterisms needs fact check.

Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 08:57, 24 February 2010 (UTC)

Definition of asterism: I'm not sure, but I get the impression that the common view on asterism is that they're star patterns. Possibly obvious star patterns, but not star patterns that aren't constellations. Besides constellations aren't star patterns after 1930, but they're areas of the sky. So in modern view it might be that constellations can be regarded as asterisms or set of asterisms with their individual/official sky territory. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 09:12, 24 February 2010 (UTC)

POV Emergency[edit]

Wikipedia's coverage of this topic frustrates and disappoints me. The POV is astonishingly limited. My purpose in searching for constellations on Wikipedia was to learn about the patterns in the stars that cultures around the world have identified. Now, I don't expect to find exactly what I'm looking for on the first page I try; however, if the page at "Constellation" has to be about what the IAU defines to be "Constellations," I expect it to be open about that POV from the beginning and give me (as a laywoman) some reason to respect that. I also expect to see at the top, the line "This article is about the areas of the sky defined by the International Astronomical Union. For visual groupings of stars as seen from Earth, see "Asterism (astronomy.)" Because in common usage, 'constellation' can mean 'asterism.' Claiming that's officially or technically wrong is not NPOV.

Now, asterisms don't come from the sky; they come from people and cultures. Why, then, do the articles discuss asterisms as matter-of-fact? There are almost no references to the people and cultures that created them! Yet the article is all about Western asterisms of Greek origin. It's like saying these are the normal asterisms, and asterisms from other cultures are inherently different. What crap!

And the introduction to the article "Chinese Constellations" finds it necessary to explain why the Chinese set differs from the IAU set. Do you think so many folks believe the Chinese constellations should be identical to the Western constellations that your overall description of the Chinese constellations should come from the point of view that the IAU constellations are the 'right' ones? It's just as bad a POV violation as it would be to explain, on the IAU constellation page, that the IAU constellations are different than the constellations developed by the Chinese, because the West made up constellations independently of China!

After some more digging, I think I *may* be able to find what I'm looking for at the astrology pages, or the pages for astronomy of different cultures, but those pages are rightfully focused on their respective topics, and not what I am looking for.

By the way, your claim that what you call 'asterisms' are not constellations is pretty hard to swallow - my computer doesn't think that 'asterism' is even a word. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:23, 20 July 2010 (UTC)

Spelled Triangle Wrong[edit]

Hey guys, just dropping in to say that I fixed someone's spelling of "triangle" in the article. The word "triangle" is now properly spelled. No need to thank me.

~The Speller —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:52, 14 February 2011 (UTC)


I have changed the years of birth and death of Ptolemy, in order to make them match with the article about the astronomer. I'm actually not sure of the correct figures (I guess nobody is, for the article mentions "circa"), but I found literature with more than one set of dates. If someone has a more trustworthy reference with different years, please make the correction in both articles. Claudio M Souza (talk) 22:07, 14 November 2011 (UTC)