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In contemporary astronomy, the sky is divided into 88 regions called constellations, generally based on the asterisms (which are also called "constellations") of Greek and Roman mythology. The number of 88, along with the contemporary scientific notion of "constellation", was conventioned in 1922 by the International Astronomical Union in order to establish a universal pattern for professional astronomers, who defined constellations from then on as regions of the sky separated by arcs of right ascensions and declinations and grouped by asterisms of their historically most important stars, which cover the entire celestial sphere. The constellations along the ecliptic are called the zodiac. The ancient Sumerians, and later the Greeks (as recorded by Ptolemy), established most of the northern constellations in international use today. When explorers mapped the stars of the southern skies, European and American astronomers proposed new constellations for that region, as well as ones to fill gaps between the traditional constellations. Not all of these proposals caught on, but in 1922, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) adopted the modern list of 88 constellations. After this, Eugène Joseph Delporte drew up precise boundaries for each constellation, so that every point in the sky belonged to exactly one constellation.

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Table of Contents

    1. History

    Some constellations are no longer recognized by the International Astronomical Union, but may appear in older star charts and other references. Most notable is Argo Navis, which was one of Ptolemy's original 48 constellations.

    2. Modern Constellations

    The 88 constellations depict 42 animals, 29 inanimate objects and 17 humans or mythological characters.

    2.1. Abbreviations

    Each of the IAU constellations has an official 3 letter abbreviation. They are actually abbreviations of the genitive form of the constellation names, so some letters appearing in the abbreviation may come from the genitive form without appearing in the base name (as in Sge for Sagitta/Sagittae, to avoid confusion with Sagittarius, abbreviated Sgr).

    The majority of the abbreviations are just the first three letters of the constellation, with the first character capitalised: Ori for Orion, Ara for Ara/Arae, Com for Coma Berenices. In cases where this would not unambiguously identify the constellation, or where the name and its genitive differ in the first three letters, other letters beyond the initial three are used: Aps for Apus/Apodis, CrA for Corona Australis, CrB for Corona Borealis, Crv for Corvus. (Crater is abbreviated Crt to prevent confusion with CrA.)

    When letters are taken from the second word of a two-word name, the first letter from the second word is capitalised: CMa for Canis Major, CMi for Canis Minor.

    The abbreviations are unambiguous, with two exceptions. Leo for the constellation Leo could be mistaken for Leo Minor (abbreviated LMi), and Tri for Triangulum could be mistaken for Triangulum Australe (abbreviated TrA).[1]

    2.2. List

    For help with the literary English pronunciations, see the pronunciation key. There is considerable diversity in how Latinate names are pronounced in English. For traditions closer to the original, see Latin spelling and pronunciation.

    Constellation Abbreviations Genitive Origin Meaning Brightest star
    IAU[2] Other[3]
    Andromeda
    /ænˈdrɒmɪdə/[4]
    And Andr Andromedae
    /ænˈdrɒmɪd/
    ancient (Ptolemy) Andromeda (The chained maiden or princess) Alpheratz
    Antlia
    /ˈæntliə/[4]
    Ant Antl Antliae
    /ˈæntli/
    1763, Lacaille air pump α Antliae
    Apus
    /ˈpəs/[5]
    Aps Apus Apodis
    /ˈæpdɪs/[5]
    1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman Bird-of-paradise/Exotic Bird/Extraordinary Bird α Apodis
    Aquarius
    /əˈkwɛəriəs/[4]
    Aqr Aqar Aquarii
    /əˈkwɛəri/
    ancient (Ptolemy) water-bearer Sadalsuud
    Aquila
    /ˈækwɪlə/[4]
    Aql Aqil Aquilae
    /ˈækwɪl/
    ancient (Ptolemy) eagle Altair
    Ara
    /ˈɛərə/[5]
    Ara Arae Arae
    /ˈɛər/[5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) altar β Arae
    Aries
    /ˈɛər(i)z/[4][5]
    Ari Arie Arietis
    /əˈr.ɪtɪs/[5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) ram Hamal
    Auriga
    /ɔːˈrɡə/[4][5]
    Aur Auri Aurigae
    /ɔːˈr/[5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) charioteer Capella
    Boötes
    /bˈtz/[4]
    Boo Boot Boötis
    /bˈtɪs/
    ancient (Ptolemy) herdsman Arcturus
    Caelum
    /ˈsləm/[5]
    Cae Cael Caeli
    /ˈsl/[5]
    1763, Lacaille chisel or graving tool α Caeli
    Camelopardalis
    /kəˌmɛlˈpɑːrdəlɪs/[5]
    Cam Caml Camelopardalis
    /kəˌmɛlˈpɑːrdəlɪs/[5]
    1613, Plancius[6] giraffe β Camelopardalis
    Cancer
    /ˈkænsər/[4]
    Cnc Canc Cancri
    /ˈkæŋkr/
    ancient (Ptolemy) crab Tarf[7]
    Canes Venatici
    /ˈknz vɪˈnætɪs/[5]
    CVn CVen Canum Venaticorum
    /ˈknəm vɪnætɪˈkɒrəm/
    1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius hunting dogs Cor Caroli
    Canis Major
    /ˈknɪs ˈmər/[5]
    CMa CMaj Canis Majoris
    /ˈknɪs məˈɒrɪs/
    ancient (Ptolemy) greater dog Sirius
    Canis Minor
    /ˈknɪs ˈmnər/[5]
    CMi CMin Canis Minoris
    /ˈknɪs mɪˈnɒrɪs/
    ancient (Ptolemy) lesser dog Procyon
    Capricornus
    /ˌkæprɪˈkɔːrnəs/[5]
    Cap Capr Capricorni
    /ˌkæprɪˈkɔːrn/[5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) sea goat Deneb Algedi
    Carina
    /kəˈrnə/[4]
    Car Cari Carinae
    /kəˈrn/
    1763, Lacaille, split from Argo Navis keel Canopus
    Cassiopeia
    /ˌkæsiˈpə/[4][5]
    Cas Cass Cassiopeiae
    /ˌkæsiˈp/[5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) Cassiopeia (mythological character) Schedar[7]
    Centaurus
    /sɛnˈtɔːrəs/[4]
    Cen Cent Centauri
    /sɛnˈtɔːr/
    ancient (Ptolemy) centaur Rigil Kentaurus[7]
    Cepheus
    /ˈsfiəs, -fjuːs/[5]
    Cep Ceph Cephei
    /ˈsfi/[5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) Cepheus (mythological character) Alderamin
    Cetus
    /ˈstəs/[5]
    Cet Ceti Ceti
    /ˈst/[5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) sea monster (later interpreted as a whale) Diphda[7]
    Chamaeleon
    /kəˈmliən/[4]
    Cha Cham Chamaeleontis
    /kəˌmliˈɒntɪs/
    1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman chameleon α Chamaeleontis
    Circinus
    /ˈsɜːrsɪnəs/[4]
    Cir Circ Circini
    /ˈsɜːrsɪn/
    1763, Lacaille compasses α Circini
    Columba
    /kˈlʌmbə/[4]
    Col Colm Columbae
    /kˈlʌmb/
    1592, Plancius, split from Canis Major dove Phact
    Coma Berenices
    /ˈkmə bɛrəˈnsz/[5]
    Com Coma Comae Berenices
    /ˈkm bɛrəˈnsz/[5]
    1603, Uranometria, split from Leo Berenice's hair β Comae Berenices
    Corona Australis[8]
    /kˈrnə ɔːˈstrælɪs, -ˈstr-/[4][5]
    CrA CorA Coronae Australis
    /kˈrn ɔːˈstrælɪs/
    ancient (Ptolemy) southern crown Meridiana[7]
    Corona Borealis
    /kˈrnə ˌbɔːriˈælɪs, -ˈlɪs/[4][5]
    CrB CorB Coronae Borealis
    /kˈrn bɔːriˈælɪs/
    ancient (Ptolemy) northern crown Alphecca
    Corvus
    /ˈkɔːrvəs/[4]
    Crv Corv Corvi
    /ˈkɔːrv/
    ancient (Ptolemy) crow Gienah
    Crater
    /ˈkrtər/[4]
    Crt Crat Crateris
    /krəˈtɪərɪs/
    ancient (Ptolemy) cup δ Crateris
    Crux
    /ˈkrʌks/[4]
    Cru Cruc Crucis
    /ˈkrsɪs/
    1603, Uranometria, split from Centaurus southern cross Acrux
    Cygnus
    /ˈsɪɡnəs/[4]
    Cyg Cygn Cygni
    /ˈsɪɡn/
    ancient (Ptolemy) swan or Northern Cross Deneb
    Delphinus
    /dɛlˈfnəs/[4]
    Del Dlph Delphini
    /dɛlˈfn/
    ancient (Ptolemy) dolphin Rotanev
    Dorado
    /dəˈrɑːd/[9]
    Dor Dora Doradus
    /dəˈrdəs/
    1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman dolphinfish α Doradus
    Draco
    /ˈdrk/[5]
    Dra Drac Draconis
    /drəˈknɪs/[5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) dragon Eltanin[7]
    Equuleus
    /ɪˈkwliəs/[5]
    Equ Equl Equulei
    /ɪˈkwli/[5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) pony Kitalpha
    Eridanus
    /ɪˈrɪdənəs/[5]
    Eri Erid Eridani
    /ɪˈrɪdən/[5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) river Eridanus (mythology) Achernar
    Fornax
    /ˈfɔːrnæks/
    For Forn Fornacis
    /fɔːrˈnsɪs/
    1763, Lacaille chemical furnace Dalim[7]
    Gemini
    /ˈɛmɪn/[4]
    Gem Gemi Geminorum
    /ˌɛmɪˈnɒrəm/
    ancient (Ptolemy) twins Pollux
    Grus
    /ˈɡrʌs/[5]
    Gru Grus Gruis
    /ˈɡrɪs/[5]
    1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman Crane Alnair
    Hercules
    /ˈhɜːrkjʊlz/[5]
    Her Herc Herculis
    /ˈhɜːrkjʊlɪs/
    ancient (Ptolemy) Hercules (mythological character) Kornephoros
    Horologium
    /ˌhɒrəˈlɒiəm, -ˈl-/[4][5]
    Hor Horo Horologii
    /ˌhɒrəˈli/
    1763, Lacaille pendulum clock α Horologii
    Hydra
    /ˈhdrə/[4]
    Hya Hyda Hydrae
    /ˈhdr/
    ancient (Ptolemy) Hydra (mythological creature) Alphard
    Hydrus
    /ˈhdrəs/[4]
    Hyi Hydi Hydri
    /ˈhdr/
    1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman lesser water snake β Hydri
    Indus
    /ˈɪndəs/[4]
    Ind Indi Indi
    /ˈɪnd/
    1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman Indian (of unspecified type) α Indi
    Lacerta
    /ləˈsɜːrtə/[4]
    Lac Lacr Lacertae
    /ləˈsɜːrt/
    1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius lizard α Lacertae
    Leo
    /ˈl/[4]
    Leo Leon Leonis
    /lˈnɪs/
    ancient (Ptolemy) lion Regulus
    Leo Minor
    /ˈl ˈmnər/[4]
    LMi LMin Leonis Minoris
    /lˈnɪs mɪˈnɒrɪs/
    1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius lesser lion Praecipua
    Lepus
    /ˈlpəs/[5]
    Lep Leps Leporis
    /ˈlɛpərɪs/[4][5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) hare Arneb
    Libra
    /ˈlbrə, ˈl-/[4]
    Lib Libr Librae
    /ˈlbr/
    ancient (Ptolemy) balance Zubeneschamali[7]
    Lupus
    /ˈljpəs/[4]
    Lup Lupi Lupi
    /ˈljp/
    ancient (Ptolemy) wolf α Lupi
    Lynx
    /ˈlɪŋks/[4]
    Lyn Lync Lyncis
    /ˈlɪnsɪs/
    1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius lynx α Lyncis
    Lyra
    /ˈlrə/[4]
    Lyr Lyra Lyrae
    /ˈlr/
    ancient (Ptolemy) lyre / harp Vega
    Mensa
    /ˈmɛnsə/[4]
    Men Mens Mensae
    /ˈmɛns/
    1763, Lacaille Table Mountain (South Africa) α Mensae
    Microscopium
    /ˌmkrˈskpiəm/
    Mic Micr Microscopii
    /ˌmkrˈskpi/
    1763, Lacaille microscope γ Microscopii
    Monoceros
    /məˈnɒsɪrəs/[4][5]
    Mon Mono Monocerotis
    /ˌmɒnəsɪˈrtɪs/
    1613, Plancius unicorn β Monocerotis
    Musca
    /ˈmʌskə/[5]
    Mus Musc Muscae
    /ˈmʌs/[4][5]
    1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman fly α Muscae
    Norma
    /ˈnɔːrmə/[4]
    Nor Norm Normae
    /ˈnɔːrm/[4]
    1763, Lacaille carpenter's level γ2 Normae
    Octans
    /ˈɒktænz/[5]
    Oct Octn Octantis
    /ɒkˈtæntɪs/[5]
    1763, Lacaille octant (instrument) ν Octantis
    Ophiuchus
    /ˌɒfiˈjuːkəs/[4]
    Oph Ophi Ophiuchi
    /ˌɒfiˈjuːk/
    ancient (Ptolemy) serpent-bearer Rasalhague
    Orion
    /ˈrən/[4]
    Ori Orio Orionis
    /ˈrənɪs, ˌɒriˈnɪs/[5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) Orion (mythological character) Rigel
    Pavo
    /ˈpv/[4][5]
    Pav Pavo Pavonis
    /pəˈvnɪs/[5]
    1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman peacock Peacock
    Pegasus
    /ˈpɛɡəsəs/[4]
    Peg Pegs Pegasi
    /ˈpɛɡəs/
    ancient (Ptolemy) Pegasus (mythological winged horse) Enif
    Perseus
    /ˈpɜːrsiəs, -sjs/[5]
    Per Pers Persei
    /ˈpɜːrsi/[5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) Perseus (mythological character) Mirfak
    Phoenix
    /ˈfnɪks/[4]
    Phe Phoe Phoenicis
    /fɪˈnsɪs/
    1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman phoenix Ankaa
    Pictor
    /ˈpɪktər/[5]
    Pic Pict Pictoris
    /pɪkˈtɔːrɪs/[5]
    1763, Lacaille easel α Pictoris
    Pisces
    /ˈpsz, ˈpɪ-/[4][5]
    Psc Pisc Piscium
    /ˈpɪʃiəm/[5]
    ancient (Ptolemy) fishes Alpherg
    Piscis Austrinus
    /ˈpsɪs ɔːˈstrnəs/
    PsA PscA Piscis Austrini
    /ˈpsɪs ɔːˈstrn/
    ancient (Ptolemy) southern fish Fomalhaut
    Puppis
    /ˈpʌpɪs/[5]
    Pup Pupp Puppis
    /ˈpʌpɪs/[5]
    1763, Lacaille, split from Argo Navis poop deck Naos
    Pyxis
    /ˈpɪksɪs/[4]
    Pyx Pyxi Pyxidis
    /ˈpɪksɪdɪs/
    1763, Lacaille mariner's compass α Pyxidis
    Reticulum
    /rɪˈtɪkjʊləm/[4]
    Ret Reti Reticuli
    /rɪˈtɪkjʊl/
    1763, Lacaille eyepiece graticule α Reticuli
    Sagitta
    /səˈɪtə/[4]
    Sge Sgte Sagittae
    /səˈɪt/
    ancient (Ptolemy) arrow γ Sagittae
    Sagittarius
    /sæɪˈtɛəriəs/[4]
    Sgr Sgtr Sagittarii
    /ˌsæəˈtɛəri/
    ancient (Ptolemy) archer Kaus Australis
    Scorpius
    /ˈskɔːrpiəs/[4]
    Sco Scor Scorpii
    /ˈskɔːrpi/
    ancient (Ptolemy) scorpion Antares
    Sculptor
    /ˈskʌlptər/[4]
    Scl Scul Sculptoris
    /skəlpˈtɒrɪs/
    1763, Lacaille sculptor α Sculptoris
    Scutum
    /ˈskjuːtəm/[4]
    Sct Scut Scuti
    /ˈskjuːt/
    1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius shield (of Sobieski) α Scuti
    Serpens[10]
    /ˈsɜːrpɛnz/
    Ser Serp Serpentis
    /sərˈpɛntɪs/
    ancient (Ptolemy) snake Unukalhai
    Sextans
    /ˈsɛkstənz/[5]
    Sex Sext Sextantis
    /sɛksˈtæntɪs/[5]
    1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius sextant α Sextantis
    Taurus
    /ˈtɔːrəs/[4]
    Tau Taur Tauri
    /ˈtɔːr/
    ancient (Ptolemy) bull Aldebaran
    Telescopium
    /ˌtɛlɪˈskɒpiəm/
    Tel Tele Telescopii
    /ˌtɛlɪˈskɒpi/
    1763, Lacaille telescope α Telescopii
    Triangulum
    /trˈæŋɡjʊləm/
    Tri Tria Trianguli
    /trˈæŋɡjʊl/
    ancient (Ptolemy) triangle β Trianguli
    Triangulum Australe
    /trˈæŋɡjʊləm ɔːˈstræl, -ˈstr-/
    TrA TrAu Trianguli Australis
    /trˈæŋɡjʊl ɔːˈstrælɪs/
    1603 Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman southern triangle Atria
    Tucana
    /tjˈknə/
    Tuc Tucn Tucanae
    /tjˈkn/
    1603 Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman toucan α Tucanae
    Ursa Major
    /ˌɜːrsə ˈmər/[4]
    UMa UMaj Ursae Majoris
    /ˌɜːrs məˈɒrɪs/
    ancient (Ptolemy) great bear Alioth
    Ursa Minor
    /ˌɜːrsə ˈmnər/[4]
    UMi UMin Ursae Minoris
    /ˌɜːrs mɪˈnɒrɪs/
    ancient (Ptolemy) lesser bear Polaris
    Vela
    /ˈvlə/[4]
    Vel Velr Velorum
    /vɪˈlɔːrəm/
    1763, Lacaille, split from Argo Navis sails γ2 Velorum
    Virgo
    /ˈvɜːrɡ/[4]
    Vir Virg Virginis
    /ˈvɜːrɪnɪs/
    ancient (Ptolemy) virgin or maiden Spica
    Volans
    /ˈvlænz/[5]
    Vol Voln Volantis
    /vˈlæntɪs/[5]
    1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman flying fish β Volantis
    Vulpecula
    /vʌlˈpɛkjʊlə/[4]
    Vul Vulp Vulpeculae
    /vʌlˈpɛkjʊl/
    1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius fox Anser

    3. Asterisms

    Various other unofficial patterns exist alongside the constellations. These are known as "asterisms". Examples include the Big Dipper/Plough and the Northern Cross. Some ancient asterisms, for example Coma Berenices, Serpens, and portions of Argo Navis, are now officially constellations.

    References

    1. Russell, Henry Norris (1922). "The New International Symbols for the Constellations". Popular Astronomy 30: 469. Bibcode: 1922PA.....30..469R.  http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1922PA.....30..469R
    2. "The Constellations". International Astronomical Union. http://www.iau.org/public/themes/constellations/. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
    3. NASA Dictionary of terms for Aerospace Use - table V, Constellations http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/hqlibrary/aerospacedictionary/aerodictall/tables/table5.html
    4. OED, 2nd edition
    5. Random House Dictionary
    6. The constellations Camelopardalis, Columba, and Monoceros, formed by Petrus Plancius in 1592 and in 1613, are often erroneously attributed to Jacob Bartsch and Augustin Royer
    7. "Naming Stars". IAU.org. https://www.iau.org/public/themes/naming_stars/. Retrieved 30 July 2018. 
    8. Corona Australis is sometimes called "Corona Austrina" /ɔːˈstriːnə/ (genitive: Coronae Austrinae)
    9. "Definition of dorado". Collins English Dictionary. http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/dorado. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
    10. Serpens may be divided into Serpens Cauda (serpent's tail) and Serpens Caput (serpent's head)
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