2What is a Constellation?? A constellation is any of the 88 groups of stars forming patterns.This word came from the Middle English constellacioun "the position of the stars in the sky at the time of a person's birth", from early French constellation (same meaning), derived from Latin constellatus "studded with stars", from con-, com- "with" and stella "star"]
3What is a celestial sphere?? Stars, which are celestial bodies, are so far from earth that they appear to be located inside the surface of a hollow sphere. This sphere is believed to have an infinite radius. We call this sphere the celestial sphere.
4Constellations for January These are some of the constellationsThis is MensaMensa is one of January’s constellations. The constellation Mensa was first described by the French astronomer Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille, who called it Mons Mensae, or Table Mountain because of the way he saw it, like a table. The picture on the right will explain more.Caelum is another of the many of January’s constellations. This constellation was also identified by Nicholas-Louis Lacaille. This constellation was identified in the 1750’s in the Southern Hemisphere. Caelum is supposed to represent a sculptors engraving tool, but the wavy line formed by connecting its brightest stars resembles nothing in particular.
5Constellations for February Gemini, meaning the twins, is one of the constellations of February. Gemini looks like two twins if you look at it carefully. There is a slight pattern and it doesn’t take a lot of imagining. The picture on the right is Gemini.Auriga, meaning the charioteer, is also a constellation of February. This constellation is a mystery because of its old age. This constellation was from the Babylonian times. It got its name because down through the years when the Greeks, Arabs, and Chinese have found this constellation similar to a chariot driver.
6Constellations for March Cancer, meaning the crab, is one of march’s constellations. This constellation isn’t the most famous, but can be useful. Cancer is midway between the constellations Gemini and Canis minor. This isn’t the easiest constellation to imagine however, cancer has the big stars Acubens for its left claw and Al Tarf for his left leg. If you trace lines leading to the closest stars on the right of each. After that, create a line from Al Tarf to the star at the right of Acubens. Then draw a line to the right of the star that is to the lower right of acubens. After you’ve reached that star, trace even more to the upper right to create the right claw. Lastly, draw a line upward from the star to the right of Al Tarf. Do you see Cancer?Canis Minor is also one of March’s constellations, Canis Minor meaning little dog, Canis meaning dog and minor meaning little. This constellation is very special because it has one of the two brightest stars that are visible to us, Procyon. This constellation by itself looks like nothing more than a line connecting to stars, but because of its big brother, Canis Major, meaning big dog, right next to it.
7Constellations for April Hydra, known as water snake, is the largest constellation and one of April’s constellations. Hydra forms one of the boundaries of the sea. Hydra is prominent in the sky around the time of the winter solstice. “For the Greeks, the constellation symbolized the many-headed swamp serpent killed by Heracles in one of his 12 labors. Today, the constellation is often pictured as a snake with a crow and a water vessel on its back.” the picture at the right is of Hydra.Leo is Latin for lion and is the 12th largest constellation covering 930 degrees. Leo, another one of April’s constellations, is also one of the 12 zodiac signs. Leo can be viewed from both the southern and northern hemispheres and is notable for its many galaxies. “A number of ancient cultures, including the Babylonian, Persian, Turkish, Syrian, Hebrew, Greek, and Roman, regarded Leo as a lion.”
8Constellations for May Centaurus means centaur in Latin and lies south of Hydra. Centaurus is visible near the southern horizon. Centaurus doesn’t need a lot of imagining to see, here’s a picture to the right. Can you imagine this being a centaur?Virgo meaning virgin has many myths and legends. From what we have traced Virgo is an earth goddess who dealt with the arrival of spring. It is also one of the 12 zodiac sign constellations. Virgo looks like a young earthly lady but is a little hard to imagine. Spica is a star on Virgo which is supposed to represent a stalk of wheat that the female is holding. Lastly, Virgo first appears in the east in March, reaches its greatest height in the sky in May, and drops below the western horizon in late July and Virgo is the 6th constellation of the zodiac.This is a picture of Centaurus the constellation. Look in the direction of the arrows……..^^^^^^^^^^^^
9Constellations for June Libra meaning scales in Latin is a relatively dim constellation. Libra never rises high above the horizon. Libra looks like an old time scale that balances items. Libra has a triangle formed by stars at the top then two lines leading to some other stars going down like the chains that hold the plates for a scale. That is what Libra looks like.Ursa Minor meaning little bear in Latin contains the Little Dipper. Ursa Minor looks like a little bear, but if you look closely its tail and part of its body is the Little Dipper. The picture on the right will give a better view of what I see. Do you see the Little Dipper yet?
10Constellations for July Hercules from the Greek legend is the 5th largest constellation with an area of 1,225 square degrees. Hercules looks like a man holding a wooden drumstick. For further explanation look at the picture on the right.Scorpius which is Latin for Scorpion is one of July’s constellations. Scorpius (obviously) looks like a scorpion, but you have to imagine the legs and head yourself because the stars only create the tail and two claws. This is a little hard to imagine, but picture a curved line of stars leading to a point in which it breaks of going sideways from both sides. Lastly imagine a scorpion around the outline of stars you just pictured. This is what Scorpius looks like.The picture above is a picture of Hercules.
11Constellations for August Sagittarius is visible in the southern hemisphere. Sagittarius looks like a mythical half-man half-horse who is holding a bow and arrow at shooting position. The picture at the right will give you a better picture of what it looks like.Lyra meaning lyre in Latin is a small constellation visible from the North hemisphere. Lyra looks like the parts on a lyre, however alone it looks like a parallelogram with a line attached to it. So in order to imagine it as a lyre takes a very large imagination.
12Constellations for September Aquila means eagle and is visible from both the Southern and Northern hemispheres. This constellation is easy to imagine because it looks like an eagle with outstretched wings.Capricornus is Latin for goat and represents a “sea-goat”. Capricornus is very unusual, it has the head of an elk, but when it comes to the tail and back legs it is the curled tail of an underwater fish. If that description doesn’t put an image in your mind the picture on the right will.This is a picture. of Capricornus.
13Constellations for October Octans is a faint constellation that was found in 1752 by the French astronomer Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille during an observing expedition to the Cape of Good Hope. Octans looks like a lightning bolt, but you could also look at it as a zig –zagged line. Octans doesn’t have any special shape or form therefore is easy to imagine.Aquarius is Latin for water carrier and is what the constellation looks like with a LOT of imagination. Without a lot of imagination Aquarius looks like a bunch of lines squiggling out of another line. Because this is so hard to describe, the picture at the right will explain more.
14Constellations for November Phoenix is a constellation of the Southern hemisphere. Phoenix looks like a triangle with lines coming out of it to the untrained eye. However it is really supposed to look like phoenix the mythical bird.Pisces is pretty hard to imagine. By itself the constellation looks like mere lines that connect stars in a slight pattern. But that’s not what astronomers saw when they looked a Pisces. They saw a line of stars connecting two fish by their tails. The picture on the right will help describe further.
15Constellations for December Aries is Latin for ram which is what the constellation is supposed to look like. However if you looked at the stars alone you would see 3 lines jutting out from one star. But these lines are important. Two lines connecting stars going northwest end where the horns are and the line connecting the stars southeast of the star end at the back leg of the ram. Get the picture? If you still don’t there is one on the right of Aries.Perseus the constellation has a famous Greek myth. By itself this constellation looks a little like a demented person standing on one leg, but astronomers saw it as a person. They thought it looked like Perseus a hero from the Greek myths so that is its name today. Can you imagine Perseus?
16The myth of Perseus“In Greek mythology Perseus was the young hero who slew Medusa, one of the fearful Gorgons who turned to stone anyone who dared to look at them. Perseus was the son of Zeus, king of the gods, and Danaë, the beautiful daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos. Acrisius had banished mother and son because an oracle had said Danaë's son would one day kill him. Polydecteswas king of the island where Danaë and Perseus had been carried under Zeus's guidance. The king wooed Danaë, but knew that he would have to get rid ofPerseus before he could win Danaë's hand. So he sent the youth to bring back the head of Medusa, thinkingPerseus would be killed.Medusa was one of three terrible sisters called Gorgons. They had leathery wings, brazen claws, and writhing poisonous snakes in place of hair. Anyone who looked at them turned to stone. But Perseus was helped by the gods. Athena lent him her brightly polished shield, and Hermes gave him a magic sword. Perseus came to the land of night where the three Gray Sisters (the Graeae) lived. They had only one eye and one tooth among them. They refused to help Perseus, but he stole their eye and returned it only when they told him where to find the Gorgons.With winged sandals that enabled him to fly, the helmet of Hades that made him invisible, and a bag in which to conceal the head, he set out again and finally found the three Gorgons asleep. He put on his cap of darkness and flew nearer. Alighting, he looked into his shining shield, thus avoiding a direct look at the Gorgons. With one stroke of his sword he cut off Medusa's head. On his way home Perseus came across the beautiful maiden Andromeda, who was chained to a rock and left to be devoured by a sea monster. Perseus waited beside her and when the monster appeared he cut off its head. Her rejoicing parents, Cepheus and Cassiopeia, gave Andromeda to Perseus as his bride.Perseus continued home and rescued his mother by turning Polydectes and his supporters to stone at the sight of Medusa's head.Perseus gave the Gorgon's head to Athena, who placed it on her shield, and he accompanied his mother back to Argos. Later, as Perseus threw the discus in a great athletic contest, it swerved and fell among the spectators, accidentally killing his grandfather Acrisius and thus fulfilling the prophecy. After his own death Perseus was taken into the sky by his father Zeus, as were also Andromeda, Cassiopeia, and Cepheus. There they became constellations, all according to the old Greek myths.”
17The myth for Pegasus“According to Greek mythology the winged horse Pegasus sprang from the blood of the Gorgon Medusa as she was beheaded by the hero Perseus. Using Athena's gift of a golden bridle, Bellerophon caught and tamed Pegasus. Mounted on Pegasus, Bellerophon was invincible. He was able to kill the Chimera, a fire-breathing monster, and he succeeded in conquering the fierce Amazons (see Amazon).Pegasus remained the faithful companion of Bellerophon. Bellerophon angered the gods when he tried to ride Pegasus up to Mount Olympus, home of the gods. Pegasus refused and threw Bellerophon, who fell to the Earth, lame and blind. Pegasus, however, was placed among the stars. A constellation was named after him.”
18The myth of Hercules“The strongest and most celebrated of the heroes of classical mythology, Hercules, called Heracles by the Greeks, was the son of the god Zeus and the mortal Alcmene. The goddess Hera, who hated the infant Hercules, sent two serpents to destroy him in his cradle, but Hercules strangled them. As a boy Hercules was trained by the centaur Chiron.When Hercules was a young man, two maidens came to him. Arete represented virtue; Kakia was vice. Kakia offered Herculespleasure and riches if he would follow her. Arete offered him only glory for a lifelong struggle against evil. Hercules chose to be guided by Arete.In a fit of frenzy caused by Hera, Hercules slew his own children. To atone he had to serve his cousin King Eurystheus, who ordered him to perform the tasks known as the 12 labors of Hercules.The first was the slaying of the Nemean lion. Hercules strangled the animal and wore the lion's skin. He then slew the Hydra, a terrible serpent with nine heads. The third and fourth labors involved the capture of two wild creatures—the Ceryneian stag with golden horns and the wild Erymanthian boar.For his next labor Hercules had to clean the Augean stables, which had not been cleaned for 30 years. He turned two rivers, the Alpheus and the Peneus, through the stables, finishing the work in a single day. Next he slew the fierce Stymphalian birds, after which he captured the Cretan bull. Then he captured the flesh-eating wild mares of Diomedes, king of Thrace. Hercules killed Diomedes and fed him to the horses. He then had to obtain the belt of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. He defeated the Amazons, killed the queen, and took the belt. For his tenth labor Hercules captured the oxen of the monster Geryon, which dwelt on the fabled island Erytheia.The last two labors were the most difficult. One involved stealing the golden apples guarded by four sister nymphs called the Hesperides. Their father was Atlas, who supported the heavens on his back. To obtain the apples Herculestook Atlas's place while Atlas took the apples. Finally Hercules traveled to Hades, where he captured Cerberus, the many-headed dog who guarded the gates of the underworld. He brought Cerberus to Eurystheus, but the king was so terrified that Hercules had to return to Hades to take the monster back.Having completed the 12 tasks, Hercules was now free, but he performed other feats. The centaur Nessus tried to carry off Hercules' wife, Deianeira.Hercules shot Nessus with a poisoned arrow. The dying centaur had Deianeira keep some of his blood as a love charm. When Hercules fell in love with another maiden, Deianeira sent him a robe steeped in the blood. Hercules put it on, and poison spread through his body like fire. He fled to Mount Oeta, built a funeral fire, and threw himself on it to die.” This is the myth of heculles.
19The myth of Sagittarius “Sagittarius is Latin for “archer,” and since ancient times the constellation has been represented as a creature wielding a bow and arrow. The archer's best-known identity was that of a centaur, a beast with the upper body of a man and the lower body, hind legs, and tail of a horse. Although the centaur was most common in Greek mythology, it was also widely recognized in earlier cultures. The ancient Egyptians saw Sagittarius as a similar beast, but with the head of a lion. In the ancient Indian zodiac, the constellation was pictured as a horse. Ptolemy of Alexandria cataloged information about Sagittarius during the 2nd century AD in the Almagest, his compilation of astronomical knowledge.The significance of Sagittarius in Greek mythology remains unresolved. Some records describe the constellation as Chiron, a wise and peaceful centaur. Chiron, however, is most closely associated with the more southern constellation Centaurus. According to other accounts, Chiron identified the constellation to help guide Jason and the Argonauts on the quest for the Golden Fleece. Many historians of myth dispute the connection between Chiron and Sagittarius, however, and say the constellation represents a more typical, unruly centaur. In many illustrations Sagittarius appears as a fierce beast, aiming his arrow at the heart of Scorpius, the legendary Scorpion.”
20When is the best time to see a constellation? Depending on the constellation and where you are, you can see the constellation at its best when it’s at its highest point. For example, the constellation Leo reaches its highest point around April 1st .
21What is the “Big Dipper” and how does it help locate the North star? “The key to locating the North Star in the night sky is to first find the Big Dipper, a constellation of stars known as Ursa Major (the dippers are not a true constellations. They are groups of stars known as asterisms located within a constellation). The Big Dipper is perhaps the best known group of stars in the northern sky and is easy to distinguish from all others. Also known as the Great Bear, the Big Dipper is located just north of the celestial pole. Knowing how to find the Big Dipper makes it easy to find the north star.”(look in bibliography)