Constellation Families


The Ursa Major Family

  1. The constellation Ursa Major (Great Bear)is certainly one of the most famous constellations; it includes the familiar asterism Big Dipper (the Britsh call it the Plow, the Wain or the Wagon; in German it is known as the "Große Wagen"). Ursa Major is an excellant staring point to explore the night sky.
  2. The group of stars, which form the Ursa Minor, the Little Bear is often called Little Dipper for its form strongly reminds one on an oldfashioned cream ladle or gravy spoon.
  3. One of the very few constellation, who really resembles the figure it was named after, is Draco, the dragon.
  4. The constellation of the Canes Venatici , the Hunting Dogs, consists of two bright stars. A modern view is, that these two "dogs" are hunting the Great Bear.
  5. The Bear Driver Boötes is sometimes called the Herdman. It lies south and east of the Great Bear.
  6. The constellation Coma Berenice has it name after the beautiful Egyptian Queen Berenice, i.e. after the shorn locks.
  7. A wunderful circlet is being formed by Corona Borealis , lying between Boötes and Hercules.
  8. In a region where stars are few the constellation of Camelopardalis (the Giraffe) can be found.
  9. Lynx (the Lynx), likewise in a barren region, forms a sort of fence in front of the Great Bear.
  10. North of the constellation Leo lies the Leo Minor, the Smaller Lion.
    The last three constellations are modern astronomical images providing identification for a few fainter stars unattacged to the older groups.


    The Zodiacal Family

    As the name implies belong to this familiy the twelve constellations of the zodiac. There is a nice rhyme to memorize these constellations.
    (One remark here: Actually, nowadays there are two more constellation through which the sun passes along the ecliptic: Ophiuchus and Cetus, the Whale.)
  11. Looking like the king of beasts is the constellation of Leo, the Lion; it forms an arched mane.
  12. South of Coma Berenice lies the group forming Virgo, the Virgin.
  13. The stars of Libra, the Scale, remind of the claws of an old scale.
  14. On the edge of the Milky Way there can be the realistic form of the Scorpius, the Scorpion, be found.
  15. Sagittarius, the Archer, represents a Centaur holding an bow.
  16. Capricorn, The Goat,
  17. Aquarius, the Water Carrier, and
  18. Pisces, the Fishes, occupy a region of the sky which is largely devoted to water creatures of the sea.
  19. According to greek mythology an expedition of the Argonauts went out to get the golden fleece of the Aries, the Ram.
  20. With its long curved horns and its bright red eye (the star Aldebaran) the constellation of Taurus, the Bull, is most impressive in the sky. The Bull moves continuously away from the advancing Hunter Orion.
  21. The Twins Gemini are again a reference to the greek mythology. The both leading stars are named Castor and Pollux after the twin sons of Zeus.
  22. The constellation Cancer, the Crab, is not only part of the Zodiacal Family but as well associated with the Hercules Family.

    The Perseus Family

  23. The heavenly W, the constellation Cassiopeia (sometimes called "The Lady of the Chair) is one of those constellations which can be easily found in the northern sky. In the latidude of Central Europe it appears nearly in the zenith.
  24. Cepheus, the royal consort of Cassiopeia, lies to the north and west of the Lady.
  25. Andromeda
  26. The body of Perseus extends approximately parallel to the Milky Way.
  27. Pegasus (see Eridanus).
  28. Like the Cancer the Whale Cetus does not only belong to just one family. It also belongs to the family "Heavenly Waters".
  29. The Charioteer Auriga.
  30. A inconspicuous modern group is that of the Lizard Lacerta. Its lying between Cepheus on the north and Pegasus on the south.
  31. Some nce starfields can be found in the constellation Triangulum, the Triangle.


    The Hercules Family

  32. Named after the mythological figure the constellation Hercules shows the strongest man kneeling on the head of draco holding a bow in the hand.
  33. The Arrow Sagitta flies from this bow in the direction of Aquila, Lyra and Cygnus.
  34. The Eagle Aquila.
  35. Lyra, the Lyre, has a distinctive geometrical form consisting of a parallelogram an an equilateral triangle.
  36. The constellation Cygnus, the Swan, is also known as the "Northern Cross".
  37. South of the Swan lies Vulpecula, the Fox.
  38. One of the largest constellations is Hydra, the Sea Serpent.
  39. The modern goup Sextans, the Sextant.
  40. The Cup (of Bacchus ?) Crater and
  41. the Crow Corvus are located between the Sea Serpent and the zodiacal groups Lion and Virgin.
  42. The Serpent Holder Ophiuchus is busily struggling with the
  43. Serpens, the Serpent.
  44. Scutum, the Shield, together with Sagittarius and Centaurus are spectacular to view.
  45. Another creature of the legends about Hercules is the Centaurus.
  46. The group of stars forming the Lupus, the Wolf, seems to have undergone several transformation in history.
  47. The Southern Crown Corona Australis.
  48. The Altar Ara and
  49. the Southern Triangle Triangulum Australis lie on the outhern fringe of the Milky Way.
  50. One of the most conspicous constellations of the southern hemisphere is build from the 4 bright Magnitude stars forming the famous Soutern Cross Crux.


    The Orion Family

  51. Followed by his two dogs the giant Orion is struggling against the Bull. Orion is certainly one of the most striking figures in the sky.
  52. The Larger Dog Canis Major.
  53. The Smaller Dog Canis Minor.
  54. Behind Orion there comes the Unicorn, Monoceros galopping towards him.
  55. Located beneath Orion is the small constellation of the Hare, Lepus


    The Heavenly Waters

  56. The Doplhin Delphinus and
  57. Equuleus, the Little Horse, are lying between Pegasus and Aquila.
  58. Near the star Rigel (beta Ori) the river Eridanus is flowing toward the bright star Archenar (alpha Eri).
  59. Pisces Austrinus, the Southern Fish.
    The great ship Argo has been divided into the following four constellations:
  60. Carina, the Keel.
  61. Puppis, the Stern
  62. Vela, the Sails
  63. Pyxis, the Mariner's Compass.
  64. Near the stern of the ship flies the Dove Columba.


    The Bayer Group

    The following constellations got their name from the astronomer Johann Bayer (early 17th century). He followed the tradition and gave them names related to sea creatures:
  65. Hydrus, the Water Snake.
  66. Dorado, the Goldfish.
  67. Volans, the Flying Fish.
  68. Apus, the Bird of Paradise.
  69. Pavus, the Peacock.
  70. Grus, the Crane, lying south of the Southern Fish.
  71. Phoenix, the Phoenix.
  72. Tucana, the Toucan.
  73. Indus, the Indian.
  74. South of the Keel lies the Chamaeleon, the Chameleon - extending its tongue to the neighboring minor constellations.
  75. Musca, the Fly. Originally Bayer had designed it as a bee and it was changed somewhen later.


    The La Caille Family

    In order to fill the star poor regions between the Bayer Group and the other families the astronomer La Caille (well known for his catalog of nebulous objects) conceived the following 13 constellations. He broke with the tradition and gave them scientific names (with one exception: Mensa):
  76. Norma, the Level.
  77. Circinus, the Compasses
  78. Telescopium, the Telescop.
  79. Miscroscope, the Microscope.
  80. Sculptor, the Sculptor's Apparatus.
  81. Fornax, the Furnace.
  82. Caelum, the Graving Tool.
  83. Horologium, the Clock.
  84. Octans, the Octant.
  85. Mensa, the Table Mountain (the Table Mountain at Capetown was the site of La Caille's observatory)n
  86. Reticulum, the Net.
  87. Pictor, the Easel.
  88. Antlia, the Air Pump.



    Reference: "A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets" by Donald H Menzel; 1964


    C. Kronberg --- 96/08/05 --- smil@agleia.de