Do you know your constellations?
Do you know your constellations?
Humans used to think they were the center of the universe, but in actuality, mankind is not even the center of the galaxy. The Milky Way is pulled together by the dark, swirling masses of black holes packed with matter—potentially thousands.
As he gazed up at the night sky, Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy couldn’t have predicted the existence of gravity so concentrated it devours light. Comforted by geocentrism—the idea that humankind was at the heart of it all—the scientist recorded and charted paths of stars thousands of light years away: 48 constellations in all.
It may be getting harder to see the stars, but their stories prevail. In 2009, Pew Research reported that 25% of Americans believe in astrology. With this in mind, Stacker compiled 30 of the most compelling constellations, and the stories behind them. These slides are in question-and-answer format: a clue is provided on the first slide with a photo showing the constellation (via in-the-sky.org), and the correct constellation outlined on the second.
Mystery constellation #1
This constellation is home to the Little Dipper.
Known to the ancient Babylons as the "wagon of heaven," Ursa Minor is home to the group of stars known as the Little Dipper. It is also home to the North Star, Polaris, which rests at the tip of the Little Dipper's handle.
Mystery constellation #2
Which constellation is represented by the mythological satyr in Greek mythology?
If you look up late on a summer night and see a bow flashing across the Milky Way, you may have just spotted Sagittarius—a “satyr” to the Greeks. The Sun shines through Sagittarius in the winter months, making it the last Zodiac sign in the calendar year.
Mystery constellation #3
The largest recognized constellation, home to smaller constellations like Hercules.
The Hydra covers more than 3% of Earth's night sky, making it the largest in the solar system. Hydra is best seen snaking around the Milky Way during the fall months.
Mystery constellation #4
This is the only constellation easily visible to the naked eye from the Northern Hemisphere that lives outside of the Milky Way.
A hazy mass resembling a risen moon, Andromeda can be seen best in the dead of night during late November—but not well enough for individual stars to be identified without a telescope.
Mystery constellation #5
In Greek mythology, this constellation is said to resemble twins Castor and Pollux.
An orange-giant (Pollux) and sextulet star system (Castor) are said to be the heads of the twins in Gemini. One of the 13 Zodiac signs, Geminis are rumored to love gathering facts.
Mystery constellation #6
Some of the brightest stars and galaxies reside in this constellation, including Regulus.
One of the 48 constellations originally discovered by Greek astronomer Ptolemy, Leo is one of the easiest to identify, thanks to its conglomerate of shining stars. Said the be the “lion” constellation, Leo represents those born from July 22 to Aug. 22.
Mystery constellation #7
Six of the seven main stars in this famous constellation are young blue supergiants.
The hunter of the sky, Orion is one of the most recognizable constellations not belonging to the Zodiac. Located in the Northern Hemisphere, identifying Orion’s Belt is the easiest way to pinpoint the larger constellation: Just look for three bright, blue supergiants stretching across the night sky.
Mystery constellation #8
Although not one of the 88 officially recognized constellations, this formation has been used for centuries identify the start and end of farming seasons.
Within the zodiacal constellation Taurus lies Pleiades, a nebulous cluster of young stars. First examined by Galileo, Pleiades’ rise in the Northern Hemisphere has long marked the beginning of the agricultural season.
Mystery constellation #9
The southern pole star Polaris Australis lies in this constellation.
More difficult to see than the northern pole star Polaris, Polaris Australis has not traditionally been used for navigation purposes. As one of the constellations identified by French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1756, Octans spreads across the south pole, and has no representation in Greek mythology.
Mystery constellation #10
The Greek god Zeus is said to have taken the form of this constellation as a means of seduction.
Latin for “Swan,” Cygnus was the form Zeus took to seduce the nymph Nemesis. Its scientific impact, however, can be found in noteworthy identifiers such as Cygnus X-1: a black hole that provided the first scientific evidence of the existence of all black holes.
Mystery constellation #11
This is the smallest identified constellation.
Crux takes up just 0.17% of the night sky. Known as the “southern cross” for its four points, Crux is unable to be seen from much of the Northern Hemisphere, including most of the United States.
Mystery constellation #12
This zodiacal constellation represents the element of Earth, assigned to those born from Aug. 23 to Sept. 22.
The second-largest constellation, Virgo is home to multiple galaxies. In one mythological tale, Virgo represents the virgin goddess Astraea, usually depicted holding the scales of justice.
Mystery constellation #13
This constellation is also known as “Queen of Ethiopia.”
In Greek mythology, this constellation was named for a queen whose vanity drove Poseidon to send a sea monster to ravage her kingdom. The constellation looks like a “W”—or “M”, depending on the time of year—and can be easily identified without a telescope.
Mystery constellation #14
One of the faintest of the 13 zodiacal constellations, those represented by this sign are rumoured to be passionate—if a little moody.
A crablike form compiled from relatively lackluster stars, Cancer has one saving grace: the famous Beehive, one of the brightest star clusters. Despite its small role in larger mythology, in some cultures Cancer was rumoured to be the “gate of men,” a portal for souls to travel to the heavens.
Mystery constellation #15
This constellation is home to the Big Dipper.
Latin for “the greater bear,” Ursa Major is one of the largest constellations in our solar system. It contains the Big Dipper, which is used as a point of reference for identifying many other constellations.
Mystery constellation #16
This constellation is the first sign of zodiac and represented by a ram.
Aries is the zodiac sign for those born from March 21 to April 19. First identified by Ptolemy, the constellation is in the Northern Hemisphere between Pisces and Taurus.
Mystery constellation #17
This constellation belongs to the Perseus family, and is the seventh-largest constellation.
Named after a winged horse that appears throughout Greek mythology, Pegasus has nine stars with confirmed planets.
Mystery constellation #18
In Greek mythology, the namesake of this constellation carried Zeus’ thunderbolts.
According to the ancient Greeks, Aquila was an eagle responsible for keeping Zeus’ thunderbolts handy. Aquila can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere from July through October.
Mystery constellation #19
This constellation was one devised by Johannes Hevelius, and is made up of nine stars.
Also known as “the lizard,” Lacerta is located in the Northern Hemisphere, and contains three exoplanets.
Mystery constellation #20
This zodiacal constellation governs the period from Oct. 24 to Nov. 21.
With a line of stars curling around its spiny tail, Scorpius is depicted as a scorpion. In Greek mythology, it is said to have been responsible for Orion’s death.
Mystery constellation #21
The second-brightest star in the sky can be found in this constellation.
Located in the Southern Hemisphere, Carina was originally part of a larger constellation before Lacaille broke it up.
Mystery constellation #22
This constellation shares a name with an animated Disney movie.
Around for much longer than Disney’s “Hercules,” this constellation rests in the northern sky and can be seen most brightly in July. The Hercules Star Cluster lives on Hercules’ torso: a ball of bright stars, 25,000 light years from Earth.
Mystery constellation #23
This constellation is one of few second-century discoveries to have no specific mythological ties.
Although discovered by Ptolemy, Equuleus—meaning “little horse”—was not named after one specific mythological character.
Mystery constellation #24
This constellation is shaped by the faint outline of two fish.
With just one Messier object, Pisces is faint compared to other zodiacal constellations. According to ancient Greek lore, the goddess Aphrodite and her son Eros turned into fish to escape a monster, tying themselves together with string to avoid being separated.
Mystery constellation #25
This southern constellation’s Latin translation is “flying.”
Discovered by Dutch navigators Pieter Dircksz Keyser and Frederick de Houtman, Volans covers just 0.3% of the sky. The best chance of seeing it is on a moonless night in January.
Mystery constellation #26
The Quadrantid meteor shower is found in this northern constellation.
Each year as January begins, the Quadrantid meteor shower sparks across the boundaries of Boötes. The third-brightest star in the sky, Arcturus, can also be found in Boötes.
Mystery constellation #27
This zodiacal constellation used to be considered part of Scorpius.
Mystery constellation #28
The four brightest stars in this constellation form a diamond.
A small constellation, Delphinus’ brightest stars form the asterism known as “Job’s Coffin.” First catalogued by Ptolemy, Delphinus has no astrological significance, but it does belong to the Heavenly Waters family of constellations, alongside Equuleus and Vela.
Mystery constellation #29
This constellation contains Beta Pictoris: a star that may have neighboring planets.
Catalogued by Lacaille in 1754, Pictor is a small constellation in the Southern Hemisphere. The aforementioned star, Beta Pictoris, is known for its surrounding unidentified debris, which may contain planets.
Mystery constellation #30
The first recorded mentions of this zodiacal constellation are found in Babylonian catalogs.
Represented by the water element in Greek mythology, Aquarius was a cupbearer to the gods. One of the oldest constellations, references to the constellation appear in the lore of many cultures.