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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





5 articles for "Constellation"

Constellation [Astro*Index]

An imaginary grouping of bright stars. The 12 zodiacal constellations, Orion, the Big Dipper, and the Pleiades are familiar to most people. The ancients named 48 constellations, mostly for objects or heroes of mythology. And, since AD1600, additional groups have been named, to fill the large spaces between the ancient groups (which were occupied, primarily, with inconspicuous stars), thus enlarging the number to 85 (or 88, if Argo is divided into 4 smaller groups). Astronomers, by international agreement, have redefined new boundaries for Astronomical Constellations, which omit no section of the sky; these new boundaries bear little resemblance to the ancient forms.

See also:
♦ Sidereal Zodiac ♦ Signs
Constellation [Astro*Index]

A configuration of stars; also a section of the celestial sphere containing the constellation. Not to be confused with zodiacal signs.

See also:
♦ Sidereal Zodiac ♦ Signs
Constellation [Astro*Index]

The abbreviations (as used by astronomers) include the abbreviation, name (nominative case), and Latin genitive case. In some cases, the abbreviations for zodiac constellations used by astrologers differ from those used by astronomers. Bright stars are designated by a Greek letter followed by the genitive case. Thus alpha Virginis (Spica) refers to the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.

		  And    Andromeda              Andromedae
		  Ant    Antlia                 Antliae
		  Aps    Apus                   Apodis
		  Aqr    Aquarius               Aquarii
		  Aql    Aquila                 Aquilae
		  Ara    Ara                    Arae
		  ...    Argo                   Argus
		  Ari    Aries                  Arietis
		  Aur    Auriga                 Aurigae
		  Boo    Bootes                 Bootis
		  Cae    Caelum                 Caeli
		  Cam    Camelopardalis         Camelopardalis
		  Cnc    Cancer                 Cancri
		  CVn    Canes Venatici         Canum Venaticorum
		  CMa    Canis Major            Canis Majoris
		  CMi    Canis Minor            Canis Minoris
		  Cap    Capricornus            Capricorni
		  Car    Carina                 Carinae
		  Cas    Cassiopeia             Cassiopeiae
		  Cen    Centaurus              Centauri
		  Cep    Cepheus                Cephei
		  Cet    Cetus                  Ceti
		  Cha    Chamaelon              Chamaeleontis
		  Cir    Circinus               Circini
		  Col    Columba                Columbae
		  Com    Coma Berenices         Comae Berenices
		  CrA    Corona Australis       Coronae Australis
		  CrB    Corona Borealis        Coronae Borealis
		  Crv    Corvus                 Corvi
		  Crt    Crater                 Crateris
		  Cru    Crux                   Crucis
		  Cyg    Cygnus                 Cygni
		  Del    Delphinus              Delphini
		  Dor    Dorado                 Doradus
		  Dra    Draco                  Draconis
		  Equ    Equuleus               Equulei
		  Eri    Eridanus               Eridani
		  For    Fornax                 Fornacis
		  Gem    Gemini                 Geminorum
		  Gru    Grus                   Gruis
		  Her    Hercules               Herculis
		  Hor    Horologium             Horologii
		  Hya    Hydra                  Hydrae
		  Hyi    Hydrus                 Hydri
		  Ind    Indus                  Indi
		  Lac    Lacera                 Lacertae
		  Leo    Leo                    Leonis
		  LMi    Leo Minor              Leonis Minoris
		  Lep    Lepus                  Leporis
		  Lib    Libra                  Librae
		  Lup    Lupus                  Lupi
		  Lyn    Lynx                   Lyncis
		  Lyr    Lyra                   Lyrae
		  Men    Mensa                  Mensae
		  Mic    Microscopium           Microscopii
		  Mon    Monoceros              Monocerotis
		  Mus    Musca                  Muscae
		  Nor    Norma                  Normae
		  Ocr    Octans                 Octantis
		  Oph    Ophiuchus              Ophiuchi
		  Ori    Orion                  Orionis
		  Pav    Pavo                   Pavonis
		  Peg    Pegasus                Pegasi
		  Per    Perseus                Persei
		  Phe    Phoenix                Phoenicis
		  Pic    Pictor                 Pictoris
		  Psc    Pisces                 Piscium
		  PsA    Piscis Australis       Piscis Australis
		  Pup    Puppis                 Puppis
		  Pyx    Pyxis                  Pyxis
		  Ret    Reticulum              Reticuli
		  Sge    Sagitta                Sagittae
		  Sgr    Sagittarius            Sagittarii
		  Sco    Scorpius               Scorpii
		  Sci    Sculptor               Sculptoris
		  Sct    Scutum                 Scuti
		  Ser    Serpens                Serpentis
		  Sex    Sextans                Sextantis
		  Tau    Taurus                 Tauri
		  Tel    Telescopium            Telescopii
		  Tri    Triangulum             Trianguli
		  TrA    Triangulum Australe    Trianguli Astralis
		  Tuc    Tucana                 Tucanae
		  UMa    Ursa Major             Ursae Majoris
		  UMi    Ursa Minor             Ursae Minoris
		  Vel    Vela                   Velae
		  Vir    Virgo                  Virginis
		  Vol    (Piscis) Volans        Volantis
		  Vul    Vulpecula              Vulpeculae
See also:
♦ Sidereal Zodiac ♦ Signs
Constellation [Munkasey M.]

A group of visible stars in the same section of thesky associated together in a form for visual recognition and classification. Examples include: Andromeda, Pisces, Cetus, Libra, etc. Constellations differ from Signs of the Zodiac even though (unfortunately) they share some of the same names.

See also:
♦ Sidereal Zodiac ♦ Signs
Constellation [DeVore]

Some 90 subdivisions of the heavens, mostly named according to some outline traced among the principal stars within the area. There is no sharp line of demarcation between the various contiguous constellations. Twelve of these groups lie along the ecliptic, and are thus known as the Zodiac of Constellations. At about the commencement of the Christian era, these constellations coincided with the divisions of the ecliptic based on the point of the Vernal Equinox, where the ecliptic intersects the celestial equator. Since at no time did astrologers attribute the influences which repose in the twelve 30-degree arcs of the Earth's annual revolution around the Sun, to the background of stars against which celestial positions are measured, the name of the constellations were appropriated and attached to the zodiac of signs based upon the points of the Equinoxes and the Solstices.

The symbology of the constellations along the ecliptic is of interest in that it is probable the astrological significances preceded the naming of the constellations, which were named to symbolize the influences ascribed to the different arcs. The constellations of the Zodiac are:

Aries. The ram.
It is mentioned by Aratus, in the third century B.C. According to Grecian mythology Nephele, mother of Phrixus and Helle, gave her son a ram with a golden fleece. To escape the evil designs of their stepmother, Hera, Phrixus and Helle mounted the ram and fled. As they reached the sea and attempted to cross, Helle fell into the water and perished — hence, the Hellespont. Arriving in Colchis, Phrixus was received by the King, Aeetes, who sacrificed the ram to Zeus, to whom he dedicated the fleece — later carried away by Jason. Zeus translated the ram into the heavens as a constellation.

Taurus. The Bull.
A constellation of great antiquity containing two star-clusters: the Pleiades and the Hyades, which are referred to in the Old Testament. The principal star of the Hyades, Aldebaran, is mentioned by Hesiod and Homer. According to the Greeks it was the bull which carried Europa across the seas to Crete, and which Jupiter raised to the heavens. The Hyades, named Ambrosia, Coronis, Eudora, Pasitho‰, Plexaris, Pytho and Tycho-after the seven daughters of Atlas-and Aethra, were also transformed into stars by Jupiter, for bewailing the death of their brother Hyas. The central star of the Pleiades, Alcyone, also Ple‹one and Atlas — are stars of the 3rd magnitude. They were the seven daughters of Atlas and Ple‹one, hence half-sisters of the Hyades. They too were said to have been turned into stars for grieving over the loss of their sisters, and the suffering of their father: but another account tells how the sisters met the great hunter Orion in Boeotia, whose passions were so inflamed at the sight of them that he pursued them through the woods for five years, until Zeus translated the lot of them — the sisters, Orion, and his dogs Sirius and Betelguese — into the sky. As the Pleiades rise in mid-May, they are, as daughters of Atlas, the bringer of the fertilizing spring rains which come out of the west; as they set at the end of October, they are, as the pursued of Orion, the forerunners of the autumn storms. To them, Homer, in his Odyssey (XII. 62) probably alluded as the &ves that brought Ambrosia from the west to Zeus. That one,of the doves was lost while pursuing the wandering rocks, the Planetae, is a reference to the fact that one of the Pleiades, Merope, is always invisible — from hiding her light for shame at having had intercourse with Sisyphus — a mortal. However, all the Pleiades became ancestresses of heroic or divine families, called by the Romans: Vergiliae (probably from ver — Spring).

Gemini. The twins.
The constellation Gemini contains Castor and Pollux, the Dioscuri, twin sons of Jupiter and Leda, associated with Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. The constellation Lupus represents the wolf by whom the twins were suckled in infancy. In other references the twins are identified as Hercules and Apollo, and as Triptolemus and Iasion. With the Arabians — the twins were a pair of peacocks.

Cancer. The crab.
It contains a loose cluster of stars, Praesepe, the beehive, visible to the naked eye as a nebulous patch. Aratus mentions it in the third century B.C., and Ptolemy catalogued 13 stars within the area, none brighter than the 3d magnitude. Encyclopaedia Britannica explains the name as possibly due to the fact that at this point the Sun, passing the point of its greatest elongation, apparently retraces its path in a sidelong manner resembling a crab.

Leo. The Lion.
The Nemean lion, slain by Hercules, and raised to the heavens in his honor, by Zeus. Regulus, the Lion's Heart, also known as Basilicus, is its brightest star, of a magnitude of 1-23. The Leonids are a meteoric swarm which radiate from the area, appearing in November.

Virgo. The Virgin.
According to different fables she was Justitia, daughter of Astraeus and Ancora, who lived before man sinned, and taught him his duty; and at the end of the golden age she returned to her place in the heavens. Hesiod identified her as the daughter of Jupiter and Themis. Others variously identify her as Erigone, daughter of Icarius; and Parthene, daughter of Apollo. The principal star of the constellation is Spica, a star of the first magnitude, with a very faint companion.

Libra. The Balance.
It was mentioned by Manetho in the 3d century, B.C. and by Germinus in the 1st Century Bc. It was not mentioned by Aratus, but Ptolemy catalogued 17 stars in the area. It contains the important star Algol, a variable, of a magnitude of from 5 to 6.2, with a period of 2d 7h 51m. Encyclopaedia Britannica finds no explanation for the name beyond the fact that there the days and nights are of equal duration, which would also apply to Aries.

Scorpio. The Scorpion.
According to a Greek myth Orion boasted to Diana and Latona that he would kill every animal on the Earth. Whereupon the goddesses sent a scorpion which stung him to death. Jupiter then raised the scorpion to the heavens, but later, at the request of Diana, he also raised Orion. The chief star of the constellation is Antares, a reddish star of the first magnitude which. has a green companion of the seventh magnitude.

Sagittarius. The Archer.
The Greeks represented this constellation as a centaur in the act of releasing an arrow; they identified him as Crotus, son of Eupheme, the nurse of the Muses. The constellation contains no notably large stars.

Capricorn. The Goat.
Literally translated it means a goat with horns. Ptolemy and Tycho Brahe catalogued 28 stars in this area, none of notable size. The ancients sometimes represented it as a goat, at other times only as the forepart of that animal with the tail of a fish. No record is available as to the origin of the term, but Eudoxus mentions it in the fourth century B.C.

Aquarius. The Waterbearer.
A constellation mentioned by Aratus in the third century B.C. Ptolemy catalogued 47 stars in the area; Tycho Brahe 41. There appear to be no records that appear to connect the name with any of the stars or configurations within the area. The Encyclopaedia Britannica merely says that perhaps it was because the period when it was tenanted by the Sun was the rainy season.

Pisces. The Fishes.
Sometimes represented by the two fishes tied together by their tails. It is mentioned by Eudoxus in the fourth century B.C., and Ptolemy catalogued 38 stars in the area. In Greek mythology Aphrodite and Eros, surprised by Typhon on the banks of the Euphrates, sought safety in the water and were changed into two fishes; but this is said to be an adaptation of an earlier Egyptian tale. The constellation contains no notably large stars.

Listed are all the constellations within 45° on each side of the equator. The month indicated is that in which the constellation is on the meridian at approx. 9 P.M.

Andromeda   Nov.
Antlia   Apr.
Aquarius   Oct.
Aquila et Antinous   Aug.
Aries   Dec.
Auriga   Feb.
Bootes   Jun.
Caelum   Jan.
Cancer   Mar.
Canes Venatici   May
Canis Major   Feb.
Canis Minor   Mar.
eb. Cetus   Dec.
Columba   Feb.
Coma Berenices   May
Corona Australis   Aug.
Corona Borealis   Jul.
Corvus   May
Crater   Apr.
Cygnus   Sep.
Serpens (Caput)   Jul.
Delphinus   Sep.
Equuleus   Sep.
Eridanus   Dec.
Fornax   Dec.
Gemini   Feb.
Hercules   Jul.
Hydra   Apr.
Leo   Apr.
Leo Minor   Apr.
Lepus   Jan.
Libra   Jun.
Lupus   Jun.
Lyra   Aug.
Microscopiiim   Sep.
Monoceros   Mar.
Ophiuchus   Jul.
Orion   Jan.
Pegasus   Oct.
Pisces   Nov.
Pyxis   Mar.
Sagitta   Aug.
Sagittarius   Aug.
Scorpio   Jul.
Sculptor   Nov.
Scutum Sobieskii   Aug.
Serpens   Aug.
Sextans   Apr.
Taurus   Jan.
Triangulum   Dec.
Vela   Mar.
Virgo   Jun.
Vulpeculacum Anscre   Sep.
See also:
♦ Sidereal Zodiac ♦ Signs


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine


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