Famous Constellations and their Descriptions

 

Aquarius

Meaning: water bearer

Best seen in: October

Description: A man pouring water out of an urn into a stream. In Greek mythology it represents Ganymede, who was supposedly a handsom cup bearer to the gods granted eternal youth for his service. Its brightest stars are Alpha and Beta Aquarii which arenít particularly bright and so this constellation is often hard to spot. Though popular in the song Age of Aquarius by 5th Dimension in the 1960s, the real Age of Aquarius wonít occur until the year 2597 as an astrological age begins when the sun is in a particular constellation during the vernal equinox.

 

Aquila

Meaning: Eagle

Best seen in: Late Summer

Description: Said to be the eagle that carried the thunderbolts for Zeus, it actually appears more like a print capital T in the sky. Its brightest star Altair, is one of the closest and brightest stars in the night sky. It is in the Milky way and if a powerful telescope is pointed that way then many nebulae can be seen within its bounds.

 

Aries

Meaning: Ram

Best seen in: December

Description: This constellation has been envisioned as a ram for centuries. The Babylonians correlated it with farming, Egyptians with the god Amon-Ra, and the Greeks with the sheep that was killed for the golden fleece. Its brightest star is Hamal and can be difficult to spot in the sky.

 

Canis Major

Meaning: Greater dog

Best seen in: February

Description: Said to be following Orion, this contains Sirius known also as ďthe dog starĒ and is the brightest in the night sky. It is said to be Laelaps, Orionís fastest hunting dog in Greek mythology. It appears like a stick figure drawing of a person in the sky.

 

Cassiopeia

Meaning: the name of a queen in Greek mythology

Best seen in: November

Description: Appearing to be the shape of a print W, it is one of the easiest constellations to spot. Its brightest star is Alpha Cas also known as Schedar. In Greek mythology Cassiopeia was banished to the sky for people to watch because she bragged too much of her own beauty.

 

Cygnus (Northern Cross)

Meaning: Swan

Best seen in: September

Description: The Northern Cross makes up the body of the swan with the long part of the cross being the head and the wings flapping down. There are many origin stories for the swan from Zeus turning into a swan, his lovers being turned into a swan, and even a man being raised from the dead as a swan.

 

Gemini

Meaning: Twins

Best seen in: February

Description: Near Orion, the twins make a print U shape. They represent Castor and Pollux, also the brightest stars in the constellation and the twinís heads.In Greek mythology Castor and Pollux were two twins that refused to be separated.

 

Leo

Meaning: Lion

Best seen in: April

Description: Right above the bright orange Jupiter in the sky, a large hook shape of stars makes Leoís head and neck with a trapezoidal body. Regulus is the brightest star contained in the constellation and represents Leoís hind leg. It is considered one of the easiest constellations to find in the night sky.

 

Lyra

Meaning: Lyre

Best seen in: August

Description: Lyraís brightest star Vega, is one of the brightest stars in the night sky and is found at the bottom point of Lyra. Making a parallelogram in the sky it is fairly easy to find. It was said that Lyra was the best harp and could make music better than any mortal had ever heard.

 

Orion

Meaning: Name of the mythological Greek hunter

Best seen in: January

Description: Visible around the world, Orionís belt is frequently identified by the three bright stars that compose it: Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka (also frequently referred to as the three sisters). Rigel, Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, and Saiph are the 4 stars that make the rectangle of Orionís body. Betelgeuse and Rigel are the two brightest stars in this constellation.

Pisces

Meaning: Fish (plural)

Best seen in: November

Description: Two fish representing Aphrodite and her son Eros who according to legend turned themselves into fish and tied themselves together with rope to escape Typhon, Greek mythologyís worst sea monster. Alpherg is the brightest star in this constellation. As all of the contained stars are very dim or very far away Pisces is usually best viewed only in a rural area. The constellation looks like a large print V with a circle off of the top right point and a triangle over the top left.

 

Scorpius

Meaning: Scorpion

Best seen in: July

Description: Scorpius looks like a sideways question mark that instead of a dot at the bottom splits off into 5 straight lines only intersecting at that point. The curved part of the question mark represents the tail while the 5 lines represent the head and claws. According to legend the scorpion was the only beast the great hunter Orion couldnít kill so it was celebrated in the stars. Antares is its brightest star and is at the heart of the scorpion.

 

Taurus

Meaning: Bull

Best seen in: January

Description: Taurus looks like a vaguely curved print capital H in the sky. The middle part of the curved H is made up of 5 stars which appear to be very close together making it easy to spot. Aldebaran, is the brightest star and makes the bullís right eye. Taurus is one of the oldest known constellations referenced for sure as far back as 4,000 BC in the Bronze Age with some researchers believing certain drawings as old as 15,000 BC show recognition of the constellation. The Babylonians have Taurus, the bull of Heaven, sent down to kill Gilgamesh for scorning the advances of the goddess Ishtar.

 

Ursa Major

Meaning: Greater Bear

Best seen in: April

Description: Visible all year round in the northern hemisphere, the famed big dipper or plough is not its own constellation but part of this one known as an asterism. According to Greek legend, the nymph Callisto was one of several of Zuesí unfortunate love interests who was turned into a bear to hide her from his wife Hera. While being a bear, Callisto ran to her son Arcas who tried to shoot her with a bow. As Zues could stand that happening he turned Arcas into a bear too making the constellation Ursa Minor when he banished them both into the sky. The outer edge of the big dipperís bowl always points to the North and forms the bearís back while the rest looks very much like the shape of a bear. This constellation covers 3% of the night sky. Dubhe, Arabic for ďthe bearĒ is itís brightest star.

 

Ursa Minor

Meaning: Lesser Bear

Best seen in: June

Description: Contains Polaris, the Northern Star which is the bearís tail. It has similar features to Ursa Major and represents the son Arcas in the same story. It is notably smaller than Ursa Major and has a much more curved tail.