Our sky is filled by millions of stars, all varying in size, colour, magnitude and distance. Early travellers used the stars as a navigational tool relying on the knowledge of time and position to guide them across the land and oceans.

Early astronomers could see pictures formed by the stars, often used to depict scenes from 48 classic Greek legends and Mythical stories. A total of 88 constellations listed below are recognised by the International Astronomical Union.

The constellations are used to recognise different sections of the sky and help name the stars in those groups. The Greek alphabet is used to nominate each star according to magnitude or brightness, alpha being the brightest and beta being the second brightest and so on. Using the constellation Centaurus as an example, the brightest star is named Alpha Centauri with the next brightest Beta Centauri etc. In some constellations an object such as a globular cluster or nebula may be included in the Greek list. This system was devised by Johann Bayer. Notice that the Genitive version of the Name is used

Even as recently as the 1930, Constellation boundaries have been changed which confuses the sequence of stars in the constellation and their Greek name order. Twelve of the 88 constellations are known as Zodiac constellations. The Zodiac constellations are all found on the ecliptic being the path that the Sun, Moon and Planets travel across the sky. These constellations have been common place names representing the horoscope constellations used by Astrologists.

Some of the constellations are not visible from the southern hemisphere and some not visible from the northern hemisphere. As Astronomy was first documented in the Northern Hemisphere, many of the characters and images drawn to represent the constellation have been seen from the northern aspect. If you are viewing these from the south the image will appear upside down. It can also be said that the further north you are, the elliptic is further to the south, not over head. This emphasises the pictorial image as seen by the original astronomers where the image is standing up and not on its side such as viewed directly overhead.

Listed below are the Greek letters used in the constellations:

α alpha i iota r rho
β beta k, kappa s sigma
γ gamma λ and ι lambda and iota τ tau
δ delta μ mu υ upsilon
ε epsilon ν nu φ phi
ζ zeta ξ xi χ chi
η eta ο omicron ψ psi
θ theta π pi ω omega

 

Remember, not every star or object is named by a Greek letter, some have catalogue names or numbers such as M45 or NGC1336.

 Constellations:

Andromeda

Antila

Apus / Apodis

Aquarius

Aquila

Ara

Aries

Auriga

Bootes

Caelum

Camelopardis

Cancer

Canes Venatici

Canis Major

Canis Minor

Capricornus

Carina

Cassiopeia

Centaurus

Cepheus

Cetus

Chamaeleon

Circinus

Columba

Coma Berenices

Corona Australis

Corona Borealis

Corvus

Crater

Crux

Cygnus

Delphinus

Dorado

Draco

Equuleus

Eridanus

Fornax

Gemini

Grus

Hercules

Horologium

Hydra

Hydrus

Indus

Lacerta

Leo

Leo Minor

Lepus

Libra

Lupus

Lynx

Lyra

Mensa

Microscopium

Monoceros

Musca

Norma

Octans

Ohpiuchus

Orion

Pavo

Pegasus

Perseus

Pheonix

Pictor

Pisces

Pisces Austrinus

Puppis

Pyxis

Reticulum

Sagitta

Sagittarius

Scorpius

Sculptor

Scutum

Serpens (Caput / Cauda)

Sextans

Taurus

Telescopium

Triangulum

Triangulum Australe

Tucana

Ursa Major

Ursa Minor

Vela

Virgo

Volans

Vulpecula