SkyEye

The Constellations

Modern Constellations

A constellation is a picture in the sky. Many of these familiar patterns of stars come to us from prehistoric times when humans first looked up into the night sky and tried to make sense of it. Others are of more recent origin, concocted when European explorers ventured far into the southern hemisphere. Today, the International Astronomical Union is the sole authority for assigning designations and names to celestial bodies, and in the early twenthieth century, they divided up the sky into 88 sections. These sections are irregular in shape and size as the IAU has tried to maintain ancient constellation boundaries as much as possible.

Official NameSome Obsolete NamesSources
Andromeda AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Antlia Antlia Pneumatica AJ ED GP JE NL RA
Apus Apis Indica, Avis Indica AJ ED JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA
Aquarius AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Aquila AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Ara AJ ED JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA Π
Aries AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Auriga Auriga vel Erichtonius, Erichthonis AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Boötes Boötes Bubulcus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Caelum Caela Scalptoris, Caelum Sculptorium, Cela Sculptoris AJ ED GP JE NL RA
Camelopardalis Camelopardal, Camelopardus AJ ED GP JE JF JH JV PP RA
Cancer AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Canes Venatici Asterion and Chara AJ ED GP JE JF JH JV RA
Canis Major AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA Π
Canis Minor AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Capricornus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA Π
Carina ED RA
Cassiopeia AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Centaurus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA Π
Cepheus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Cetus Cetus Ballena, Monstrum Marinum AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Chamaeleon Chameleon AJ ED JB JE JF JH JV NL RA PP
Circinus AJ ED JE NL RA
Columba Columba Noae, Columba Noachi AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA
Coma Berenices AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA
Corona Australis Corona, Corona Meridionalis AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA Π
Corona Borealis Corona, Corona Firmiana, Corona Septentrionalis AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Corvus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Crater Crater Vas, Hydra et Crater AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Crux Crux Australis, Cruzero AJ ED JB JE JV NL PP RA
Cygnus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Delphinus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Dorado Dorada, Xiphias AJ ED JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA
Draco Draco Infernalis AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Equuleus Equus Minor AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Eridanus Fluvius Eridanus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA Π
Fornax Apparatus Chemicus, Fornax Chemiae, Officina Chemica AJ ED GP JE NL RA
Gemini AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Grus Phaenicopterus, Phoenicopterus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA
Hercules Engonali Hercules AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Horologium Horologium Oscillatorium, Horologium Pendulum AJ ED GP JE NL RA
Hydra Serpens Aquaticus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA Π
Hydrus AJ ED JB JE JF JH JV PP RA
Indus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA
Lacerta Lacerta sive Stellio AJ ED GP JE JF JH JV RA
Leo AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Leo Minor AJ ED GP JE JF JH JV RA
Lepus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Libra AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Lupus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA Π
Lynx Lynx sive Tigris AJ ED GP JE JF JH JV RA
Lyra Vultur et Lyra AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Mensa Mons Mensae ED JE NL RA
Microscopium AJ ED GP JE NL RA
Monoceros Monoceros Unicornu AJ ED GP JE JF JH JV PP RA
Musca Apis, Muia, Musca Australis ED JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA
Norma Norma Euclidis, Norma et Regula, Regula AJ ED JE NL RA
Octans Octans Nautica, Quadrans AJ ED JE NL RA
Ophiuchus Ophiuchus vel Serpentarius, Serpentarius, Serpentary AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA Π
Orion AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Pavo AJ ED JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA
Pegasus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Perseus Perseus et Caput Medusae AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Phoenix AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA
Pictor Equuleus Pictoris, Pluteum Pictoris AJ ED JE NL RA
Pisces Pisces Australis, Pisces Borealis, Piscis Austrinus, Piscus Boreus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Piscis Austrinus Piscis Australis, Piscis Notius AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA Π
Puppis ED RA
Pyxis Pixis Nautica, Pyxis Nautica AJ ED GP JE NL RA
Reticulum Reticulus, Reticulus Rhomboidalis ED JE NL
Sagitta AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Sagittarius AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA Π
Scorpius Scorpio AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA Π
Sculptor Apparatus Sculptoris, Officina Sculptoris AJ ED GP JE NL RA
Scutum Clypeus Sobieskii, Scutum Sobiescian, Scutum Sobiesii, Scutum Sobieski AJ ED GP JE JH JV RA
Serpens Serpens Ophiuchi AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Sextans Sextans Uraniae AJ ED GP JE JF JH JV RA
Taurus AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Telescopium Tubus Astronomicus AJ ED GP JE NL RA
Triangulum Triangulum Majus ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Triangulum Australe Libella, Triangulum AJ ED JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA
Tucana Toucan AJ ED JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA
Ursa Major AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Ursa Minor AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Vela ED RA
Virgo AJ ED GP JB JE JF JH JV PP RA Π
Volans Hirundo Marina, Piscis Volans ED JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA
Vulpecula Vulpecula cum Ansere AJ ED GP JE JF JH JV RA

Extinct Constellations

Before the twentieth century, when the International Astronomical Union recognised 88 constellations and established their formal boundaries, constellations came and went, with astronomers and cartographers adding or renaming constellations with every new atlas published. Some honoured new-fangled inventions (the electricity generator, the hot air balloon), some flattered the important leaders of the day (Charles Ⅱ, George Ⅲ), some might even have been suggested as a joke (the pangolin?), but in the end, most of them didn't survive to the modern day.

Name(s)NotesSources
Anguilla JH
Anser part of Vulpecula AJ GP JE JF JH JV RA
Antinous AJ GP JE JF JH JV PP RA
Apes, Apis, Musca, Musca Borealis AJ GP JB JE JV PP RA
Aranea JH
Argo Navis, Navis split into Carina, Puppis, Vela; also called Arca Noachi AJ GP JB JE JF JH JV NL PP RA Π
Bufo JH
Cancer Minor PP RA
Caput Medusae part of Perseus JE PP RA
Cerberus, Cerberus et Ramus Pomifer part of Hercules AJ JB JE JH JV RA
Custos Messium, Messier AJ GP JE RA
Dentalium JH
Felis AJ JE RA
Frederici Honores, Floria Frederici, Honores Friderici, Trophaeus Frederici AJ GP JE RA
Gallus JH PP
Globus Aerostaticus, Le Ballon Aerostatique AJ JE RA
Gryphites JH
Harpa Georgii, Psalterium Georgii AJ JE RA
Hippocampus JH
Hirudo JH
Jordanus Fluvius PP RA
L'Atelier De L'Imprimeur, Machina Typographica, Officina Tyopgraphica AJ JE RA
Limax JH
Linon, Linum Austrinum, Linum Boreum, Linum Piscium JE JH JV RA
Lochium Funis JE RA
Lumbricus JH
Machina Electrica AJ JE RA
Manis JH
Mons Maenalus, Mons Menalis AJ JE JV RA
Mural Quadrant, Quadrans Muralis AJ GP JE RA
Noctua AJ RA
Norma Nilotica AJ RA
Patella JH
Pinna Marina JH
Rangifer, Tarandus AJ JE RA
Robur Carolinum, Robur Caroli Ⅱ AJ JE JF JH JV RA
Scarabaeus JH
Sceptrum Brandenburgicum JE RA
Solarium AJ RA
Solitaire, Turdus Solitarius GP JE RA
Taurus Poniatovii, Taurus Poniatowski AJ GP JE RA
Telescopium Herschelii AJ JE RA
Testudo JH
Triangula comprised of Triangulum and Triangulum Minor AJ RA
Triangulum Minor, Triangulum Minus JE JV RA
Uranoscopus JH

The Christian Sky

There have been attempts to 'Christianise' the celestial sphere for as long as there has been a Christian religion. Perhaps the best known member of this movement is Julius Schiller, a German lawyer who based his 1627 star atlas Coelum stellatum Christianum on Johann Bayer's earlier work. In it Schiller replaced the zodiacal constellations with the twelve apostles, the northern constellations with New Testament figures and the southern constellations with Old Testament figures. However, the saints were no match for the pagans and the snappy new names never caught on. As John Hill (Urania, 1754) said in his description of Cygnus:

Schickard, Schiller, and their followers, that they may make [Cygnus], as well as the other constellations, preserve some part of the scripture history, call this the Cross, or the Cross of Christ, and St. Helena the hinder part of it. But these have few followers. It is obvious to all men what confusion must attend altering the figures of the constellations.

ConstellationSchiller's NameMeaning
Andromeda Sepulchri Triumphatoris ΧΡΙ The Tomb of Christ, Triumphant
Apus Evae Matris Cunctorum Viventium Eve, the Mother of All Living Beings
Aquarius Sancti Iudae Thadaei Apostoli St Jude Thaddeus, Apostle
Aquila Sanctissimi Clavorum et Lanceae Christi Domini Crucifixi The Most Holy Nails and Lance of the Crucified Christ the Lord
Ara Altaris Thymiamatis The Altar of Incense
Argo Navis Arcae Patriarchae Noachi The Ark of the Patriarch Noah
Aries Sancti Petri Principis Apostolorum St Peter, First Apostle
Auriga Sancti Hieronymi Ecclesiae Doctoris St Jerome, Doctor of the Church
Boötes Sancti Silvestri Pontificis Maximis Pope St Sylvester
Cancer Sancti Ioannis Apostoli et Evangelistae St John, Apostle and Evangelist
Canis Major Sancti Regis et Prophetae David St David, King and Prophet
Canis Minor Agni Paschalis The Paschal Lamb
Capricornus Sancti Simonis Zelotis Apostoli St Simon the Zealot, Apostle
Cassiopeia Sanctae Mariae Magdalenae St Mary Magdalene
Centaurus Sanctorum Patriarcharum Abrahami et Isaaci The Holy Patriarchs, Abraham and Isaac
Cepheus Sancti Stephani Protomartyris St Stephen, the First Martyr
Cetus Sanctorum Ioachimi et Annae Parentum Deiparae Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Holy Mother
Columba Columbae Noachi The Dove of Noah
Coma Berenices Sacratissimi Flagelli ΧΡΙ Salvatoris The Most Sacred Scourge of Christ the Saviour
Corona Australis Diadematis Regis Salomonis The Crown of King Solomon
Corona Borealis Tremendae et Spineae ΧΡΙ Regis Regum Coronae The Crown of Thorns of Christ, King of Kings
Corvus and Crater Sanctae Arcae Foederis sive Testimonii Divini The Holy Ark of the Covenant or Divine Testimony
Cygnus Salutiferae et Termagnae Crucis ΧΡΙ, Cum Augusta Eius Inventrice Sancta Helena The Health-Giving Third Cross of Christ with Its Discoverer, Empress St Helena
Delphinus Hydriae Chananeae Aquae in Vinum Versae The Jars of Water Turned to Wine in Cana
Draco Sanctorum Innocentum Puerorum The Holy Innocent Children
Equuleus Rosae Mysticae sive Frondis Roseae The Mystic Rose or The Rose Branch
Eridanus Transistus Israel Nempe per Mare Rubrum Israel Crossing the Red Sea
Gemini Sancti Iacobi Maioris Apostoli St James the Greater, Apostle
Grus Aaronis Summi Sacerdotis Aaron, High Priest
Hercules Sanctorum Trium Regum The Three Kings
Hydra Iordanis Fluvii The Jordan River
Indus Servi Dei Iob Job, Servant of God
Leo Sancti Thomae Apostoli St Thomas, Apostle
Lepus Velleris Gedeonis The Fleece of Gideon
Libra Sancti Philippi Apostoli St Philip, Apostle
Lupus Sancti Israelis sive Iacobi Patriarchae The Holy One of Israel or The Patriarch Jacob
Lyra Ter Venerandi Praesepii Salvatoris Christi Thrice Venerated Manger of Christ the Saviour
Ophiuchus Sancti Patris Benedicti Inter Spinas St Benedict Amongst the Thorns
Orion Sancti Ioseph Viri Mariae St Joseph, Husband of Mary
Pegasus Sancti Gabrielis Archangeli St Gabriel, Archangel
Perseus Sancti Pauli Apostoli, Gentium que Doctoris St Paul, Apostle, Teacher of the People
Pisces Sancti Matthiae Apostoli St Matthew, Apostle
Piscis Austrinus Hydriae Farinae Sarepthanae Viduae The Grain Jar of the Widow of Zarephath
Sagitta Sanctae Catharinae Virginis et Martyris St Catherine, Virgin and Martyr
Sagittarius Sancti Matthaei Apostoli et Evangelistae St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Scorpius Sancti Bartholomaei Apostoli St Bartholomew, Apostle
Serpens Spinarum Sancti Benedicti The Thorns of St Benedict
Taurus Sancti Andreae Apostoli St Andrew, Apostle
Triangulum Mitrae Pontificalis Sancti Petri The Pontifical Mitre of St Peter
Triangulum Australe Signi Mystici Tau The Sign of the Mystical Tau
Tucana Sancti Raphaelis Archangeli St Raphael, Archangel
Ursa Major Naviculae Sancti Petri Apostoli The Boat of St Peter, Apostle
Ursa Minor Sancti Michaelis Archangeli, Principis Militae St Michael, Archangel, Military Leader
Virgo Sancti Iacobi Minoris, Apostoli St James the Lesser, Apostle
Volans Abelis Iusti Abel the Just

About the Charts

The online charts are drawn in colour on a dark background. Coloured circles of varying radius are used to represent stars. The larger the circle, the brighter the star. Binary and multiple star systems that appear as a single object to the naked eye are represented by their combined magnitude. The colours represent the spectral types (surface temperatures) of the stars, with blue being the hottest and red the coolest.

A selection of other interesting naked-eye objects are drawn in green. Galaxies are represented by ellipses, nebulae are triangles, open clusters are squares, globular clusters are circles and other objects of interest are denoted with a spiked circle. The positions of meteor shower radiants are shown with five splayed lines. The thick green lines represent the outlines of the constellations.

Star positions (epoch 2000), magnitudes and colours are taken from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Star Catalog. The limiting stellar magnitude is +6.5 but there is no limiting magnitude for other objects.

A listing of the image files may be found here.

Sources

For the two centuries between 1600 and 1800, celestial cartography flourished in Europe. This was its golden age. Atlases became more elaborate, more inclusive and more accurate. Perhaps the four star atlases that epitomised the age were Uranometria: omnium asterismorum continens schemata, nova methodo delineata, aereis laminis expressa (Johann Bayer, 1603), Firmamentum Sobiescianum, sive Uranographia (Johannes Hevelius, 1690), Atlas Coelestis (John Flamsteed, 1729) and Uranographia sive Astrorum Descriptio (Johann Elert Bode, 1801).

AJ Alexander Jamieson Celestial Atlas 1822 [London]
ED Eugène Delporte Dèlimitation scientifique des constellations 1930 Cambridge University Press
GP Giuseppe Piazzi Praecipuarum Stellarum Inerrantium Positiones Mediae Ineunte Saeculo ⅩⅨ 1814 [Palermo]
JB Johann Bayer Uranometria: omnium asterismorum continens schemata, nova methodo delineata, aereis laminis expressa 1603 [Augsburg]
JE Johannes Elert Bode Uranographia sive Astrorum Descriptio 1801 [Berlin]
JF John Flamsteed Atlas Coelestis 1729 [London]
JH John Hill Urania, or a Compleat View of the Heavens 1754 [London]
JV Johannes Hevelius Firmamentum Sobiescianum, sive Uranographia 1690 [Gdańsk]
NL Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille Coelum Australe Stelliferum 1763 [Paris]
PP Petrus Plancius celestial globe of 1612 1612 [Amsterdam]
RA Richard Hinkley Allen Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning 1899/
1963
G.E. Stechert/
Dover Publications, Inc.
Π Κλαύδος Πτολεμαι̃ος (Claudius Ptolemy) Almagest second century [Alexandria]