The International Astronomical Union recognizes 88 official constellations in contemporary astronomy. 42 depict animals, 29 depict inanimate objects, and 17 depict human beings or mythological characters.
The majority of these constellations were established by ancient Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, and Greeks. Myths and legends from these civilizations explore the origins of stars and constellations in epic, mystifying ways. One of the Zodiac signs, the Aries constellation, is associated with the legendary golden ram of Greek mythology.
Ursa Major has been interpreted a bear by many distinct civilizations across time. In Roman mythology, Ursa Major was once a beautiful forest nymph before she was transformed into a bear by Juno, the jealous and vengeful queen of the gods.
Bears are awesome, but it is actually a dog constellation that contains the brightest star in the night sky. Sirius is colloquially referred to as the “Dog Star” because it is a part of the constellation Canis Major. Many ancient civilizations utilized the patterns of Sirius to determine date and season. For Egyptians, the rising of Sirius marked the impending summer floods of the Nile. Ancient Greeks knew that its return to the northern sky meant the return of sweltering hot days, sparking the term “the dog days of summer”.
This infographic provides fascinating information and visualization of the 88 officially recognized modern constellations, including the historical meaning, the brightest star, how much of the sky it encompasses, and the best time to see each one. How many of these constellations have you spotted?