If you are reading this article, the chances are that you have surfed the Internet and probably flipped many pages on astronomy — and your journey has led you here. Welcome on board. This post will provide answers to one of astronomy’s biggest questions — what is a constellation?
What Is A Constellation?
Have you ever looked up into the sky and noticed an astonishing pattern in the arrangement of the stars? If you have, that imaginary shape that was formed by clusters of stars is called a constellation.
While the stars light up the skies and dazzle us with its beautiful patterns, the connection between them helps astronomers and travelers find their way around the world — without a compass or map.
Over the years, 88 different constellations have been identified — and they all differ in their patterns. In 1922, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) recognized the list of constellations —of which 48 have already been identified by the famous Greek astronomer, Claudius Ptolemy.
Some constellations on the IAU list include Orion, Cassiopeia, and Taurus, among others.
Are you up for a fun fact? Here is one!
Constellations are named after gods, beasts, hunters, and objects, among other Greek myths?
Identifying and mapping out constellation patterns requires specific skills. Here is something to note when trying to figure out what the shape or pattern of a constellation represents.
The brightest star in a constellation is often assigned the first Greek alphabet — Alpha. While the next visible and bright star takes the second alphabet, and it goes on like that.
Take, for instance, the brightest start in the constellation, Lyra is Vega. Based on how constellations are named, another name for Lyra is Alpha Lyra.
Understanding Star Maps
Star maps are formed by the clusters of stars that are visible across the sky. As we mentioned earlier, the brightest stars help determine the constellation pattern and represent the positions and arrangement of the stars as we see them from the earth.
However, not all of the stars in a constellation are visible because of their distance from earth. Some are far away (and can’t be seen clearly), while others are visible because of their large size. Thus, making them appear brighter.
Here Are Some Famous Constellations
This is arguably one of the most visible constellations. It was named after a Greek hunter in Greek mythology and can be seen anywhere globally. Two of its brightest stars include Betelgeuse and Rigel.
· Ursa Major
This the most visible in the northern hemisphere, and the name is Latin for “larger bear.” This constellation is often used by astronomers to find north.
· Ursa Minor
Yeah, you guessed right. This is opposite to the Ursa Major. Ursa Minor is also Latin, and it means “small bear.”
Other constellations are Draco, Pegasus, and The Zodiac. The Zodiac is further divided into 13 different constellations — out of which 12 represents signs for the zodiac calendar. Some zodiac constellations include Aquarius, Pisces, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, and Virgo.
What Is the Importance of Constellations?
In addition to navigation, constellations are also used to keep track of cultivation and crop harvest seasons — like a calendar. There you have it; virtually there’s to know about constellations. Here is a fun fact as our final word — the smallest constellation is Crux. Bye for now.