Constellations: A Brief Introduction


Humanity has always been connecting the dots in the sky to form shapes from the stars above. While the names, size, and stars that are used in the constellations have changed over time, the ideas and basis of them have relatively constant. Humans have always been naturally connecting dots in the sky in ways that suit what the viewer sees. As shown throughout history, these formations of skies have reflected the society seeing these formations.

That said, the definition of a constellation is “an area on the celestial sphere in which a group of stars forms an imaginary outline or pattern, typically representing an animal, mythological person or creature, or an inanimate object.”[1]

Although similar in size and composition these items. are indeed different from asterisms, which are a popularly known pattern or group of stars that can be seen in the night sky.

The 48 traditional Western constellations are Greek but it wasn’t until the European age of exploration that constellations in the Southern Hemisphere were discovered and later added to the catalogue.

In 1922, the International Astronomical Union created and standardized the list of 88 constellations that astronomers use today and view in the nights sky. It was not until 1928 that the IAU adopted official boundaries that would cover the entire celestial sphere.

55 constellations can be seen predominantly from the Southern Hemisphere whereas 33 can be seen predominantly from the Northern Hemisphere.

Examples From Prior Civilizations

The earliest generally accepted evidence for constellation identification was around. 3000 BC in Mesopotamia These Mesopotamian constellations would later appear in many of the constellations seen by the Greeks.

Many Near East civilizations have had rich traditions of star constellations. that date back thousands of years. Although these catalogues are thought to be built on Babylonian, Sumerian, and Greek sources, there is a limit to the attestation and surviving data. That said, twenty Ptolemaic constellations are from the Ancient Near East with another ten have the same stars but different names.

China has a long and rich history of astronomy, which has been said to complement and mirror ancient sources such as summerians and Babylonians.

Sources And References

[1]=Oxford English Dictionary

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