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Constellation guide to the 88 official constellations which divide up the sky. These constellations are used to help navigate the celestial sphere. The Constellations are patterns in the sky which have been to invented and have deep mythology behind them. Constellations cover massive areas in the sky and as such are very easy to find.
Astronomical Objects Series
  1. Guide to the Constellations and Mythology
  2. What are Asteroids, Meteors and Comets?
  3. Binary Stars and Double Stars
  4. Variable Stars
  5. Supernova and Supernovae
  6. Types of Nebula and Nebulae
  7. What Is a Black Hole? Black Holes Explained - From Birth to Death
  8. Quasars
  9. Pulsars - The Universe's Gift to Physics
  10. Gamma Ray Bursts
  11. Kuiper Belt
  12. What is an Exoplanet?
  13. Galaxy Types and Galaxy Formation
  14. The Messier Catalogue
  15. The Caldwell Catalogue
  16. 25 Stunning Sights Every Astronomer Should See

Constellations are usually one of the first things new astronomers start observing, and something many professionals totally ignore in there exploration of deep space. Constellations aren't real objects, they are a figment of our creative imaginations.

Over the millennia we have grouped stars together to form imaginary outlines or meaningful patterns on the celestial sphere, typically representing animals, mythological people or gods, mythological creatures, or manufactured devices. The entire sky is divided up into 88 areas, each one a constellation. They help us navigate the night's sky, and navigate the Earth.

A constellation is a group of stars that make an imaginary shape in the night sky.

A constellation is a group of stars that make an imaginary shape in the night sky.

Constellation names, like the names of stars, come from a variety of sources and each has a different story and meaning to it. Some of the constellations have very familiar names, such as Leo, Gemini, Virgo and Aquarius. These are some of the 12 constellations which form the Zodiac. The Zodiac constellations follow the line of the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the apparent path of the Sun on the celestial sphere.

Although not an official constellation, the Plough is the most famous and easily recognised.

Although not an official constellation, the Plough is the most famous and easily recognised.

Not all of the constellations are visible from any one point on Earth. The star maps are typically divided into maps for the northern hemisphere and maps for the southern hemisphere. The season of the year can also affect what constellations are visible from where you are located on Earth.

The Big Dipper, shown above, isn't official, but one of the many unofficial constellations called Asterisms. An asterism might form part of an official constellation, like the Big Dipper, which is composed of the seven brightest stars in the constellation Ursa Major. Or the constellation might be made up of stars from different constellations. For example, the three points of the Summer Triangle asterism are Deneb, Altair, and Vega, which are the brightest stars in the constellations Cygnus, Aquila, and Lyra, respectively.

You can view more about each of the individual constellations and their mythology in the links below.

Tutorial Series

This post is part of the series Astronomical Objects. Use the links below to advance to the next tutorial in the couse, or go back and see the previous in the tutorial series.

Taurus

The Bull

Location: Northern Winter - 4h RA 15° Dec

Taurus sits large and prominent in the winter sky, between Aries to the west and Gemini to the east; to the north lie Perseus and Auriga, to the southwest Orion, and to the southeast Eridanus and Cetus.

In the east of the constellation lies one of the best known open clusters, easily visible to the eye, the Pleiades.

Behind Aldebaran lie the Hyades, the nearest distinct open star cluster, that with it form a V in the sky marking the bull's head.

Another object, visible in a telescope, is the Crab Nebula (M1), a supernova remnant northeast of Zeta. The explosion, seen on Earth on July 4, 1054, was bright enough to be seen by day.

Taurus

Taurus Mythology

In Greek mythology, this corresponds with the bull-form Zeus took in order to win Europa, a mythical Phoenician princess, and thus father of Minos. As such, since it is necessary to traverse the area of sky known as the Sea to reach it when passing through the Zodiac, it forms the origin of the myth of the Cretan Bull, one of The Twelve Labours of Hercules.

Taurus Deep Space Objects

Taurus contains two Messier objects - Messier 1 (M1, NGC 1952, Crab Nebula) and Messier 45 (the Pleiades). There are two meteor showers associated with the constellation; the Taurids and the Beta Taurids. The Taurids peak in November, while the Beta Taurids can be seen in June and July.

Constellations

Northern Circumpolar Constellations

These constellations can be viewed all year round in the Northern hemisphere as they move in a counterclockwise direction around the north celestial pole without setting or dipping below the horizon.

Northern Spring Constellations

These Northern constellations are best viewed around the spring months. The rest of the year the constellation will not rise during the night.

Northern Summer Constellations

These Northern constellations are best viewed around the summer months. The rest of the year the constellation will not rise during the night.

Northern Autumn Constellations

These Northern constellations are best viewed around the autumn months. The rest of the year the constellation will not rise during the night.

Northern Winter Constellations

These Northern constellations are best viewed around the winter months. The rest of the year the constellation will not rise during the night.