Astrophysical Directions by Michael Erlewine



In Astrophysical Directions
Introduction Coordinate Systems The Solar System The Solar Neighborhood The Galaxy Galactic Objects The Fixed Stars Star Clusters & Nebulae Non-Visual Astronomy External Galaxies Finder-Lists, etc.
The Fixed Stars


  Constellation Guide


Constellation Guide

The 26 nearest stars to our Sun are mapped in the accompanying diagram. The stars are mapped using New Galactic Longitude and Latitude and the numbers within the circles indicate the distance of the star above or below the galactic plane (through the Sun) in light years.

The constellations are as old as time. Coma Berenices was added to the ancient list around 200 BC. No further additions were made until the 17th century, when some constellations were formed in the hitherto uncharted southern sky.

Since the middle of the 18th century, when 13 names were added in the southern hemisphere (and the old constellation Argo or Argo Navis was sub-divided into Carinai Malus [now Pyxis], Puppis and Vela), no new constellations have been recognized.

The star names listed below have, for the most part, been handed down from classical or early mediaeval times -- most are Arabic. In 1603, a system was devised that designated the bright stars of each constellation by the small letters of the Greek alphabet, the brightest star usually designated as alpha, the second brightest beta, etc. --although, in some cases, the sequence or position in the constellation figure was preferred. When the Greek letters were exhausted, the small Roman letters a, b, c, etc. were.employed, and after these the capitals, A, B, etc. (mostly in southern constellations). The capitals after Q were not required, from R, S, etc, have been used to denote variable stars (which see).

The-fainter stars have been designated by their numbers in some star catalog. The numbers of Flamsteed have been adopted for stars to which no Greek letter has been assigned, while for stars not appearing in that catalog, the numbers of some other catalog are used. The standard method of denoting any lettered or numbered star in a constellation is to give the letter or Flamsteed number, followed by the genitive case of the Latin name of the constellation. Thus alpha Cygnus is described as a Cygnii. We have not used the genitives in this writing, to avoid confusion for beginning students.




© Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine


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