The Importance of the 76 Constellations

8th October 2019

What is the importance of constellations?

Do you know the importance of a constellation? Better still, do you know what a constellation is? You have probably heard of the zodiac constellations, but there are 76 more constellations out there, all with different myths, legends and meanings. Let’s start off with the basics, what is a constellation? A constellation is a star group that forms a specific pattern or shape based on the positions of the stars. Constellations are used to map out the night sky and to recognise specific stars in the sky. The constellation shape is determined by the brightest stars in the constellation and when viewed from Earth, usually resembles an animal or an object and would fittingly be named after its apparent form or named after a mythical creature.

The importance of constellations.

Constellations are useful because they help stargazers and astronomers recognise specific stars in the night sky. Today, constellations are less important than they were in Ancient History. In Ancient times, constellations were used to create and track the calendar so they knew when to plant crops and harvest them. Constellations were also used for navigation and to help sailors travel across oceans. Once you find Ursa Major, you can easily spot the Northern Star (Polaris) and by using the height of the Northern Star, you could figure out your latitude.

Constellation Visibility

The visibility of a constellation depends on your location on Earth and the time of year you are in. The celestial sky is usually divided into two different hemispheres, the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern

Hemisphere. As the Earth rotates, different parts of the sky are visible at different times and different locations, for example, the constellation Draco can only be seen in the Northern Hemisphere.

Famous constellations and their myths

Orion

Possibly the most famous constellation in the night sky and the most visible constellation in the sky. Due to it’s location in the night sky, it can be seen throughout the world. Orion got its name after a hunter in Greek Mythology who was thought to be the son of the God Poseidon. Orion was thought to be a giant and very handsome Hunter.

Crux

Visible from the Southern Hemisphere, Crux is known for being used as a navigation tool, similar to how the Northern Star was used by sailors to determine their latitude. Even though it is the smallest constellation, it is easily distinguished by its 4 stars that all have an apparent magnitude brighter than +2.8. Crux is also known by many as the Southern Cross due to the positions of the stars forming the shape of a cross.

Ursa Major

Also known at the ‘Big Dipper’ or the ‘Great Bear’. Ursa Major is visible from the Northern Hemisphere all year around meaning it is circumpolar. Ursa Major is a very large constellation and even has an accompanying constellation called Ursa Minor, or the ‘Little Dipper’. There are many Greek Myths behind this constellation, with one being that Hera found out that her husband and the God, Zeus, was having an affair with Castillo. Hera was so angry about the affair that she turned Castillo into a bear. Zeus then placed her in the sky along with their son, Arcas, who became the Little Bear accompanying her.

The 12 Zodiac Constellations

The 12 Zodiac constellations are the constellations that lie along the apparent path of the sun, meaning that the sun passes through these constellations over a period of 12 months. Everyone is born during a Zodiac month and is thought to carry specific traits based on their zodiac constellation.

The 12 Zodiac constellations are:

1. Aries
2. Taurus
3. Gemini
4. Cancer
5. Leo
6. Virgo
7. Libra
8. Scorpius
9. Sagittarius
10. Capricornus
11. Aquarius
12. Pisces

The sun also passes through Ophiuchus and Cetus, but as these constellations are part of the Hercules and Perseus families, they are not considered part of the Zodiac. Have you ever thought about naming a star after someone? With Star-Name-Registry, you can choose which constellation you would like to name a star in! Now that you know the importance of constellations, why not name a star in one?