Why Star Constellations Matter

Why Star Constellations Matter

It's fun to lay on a blanket and talk about the stars and the Constellations.  Here's a few tips about where to start.

Orion Taurus Jupiter

 

It's easy to learn the constellations, and for the serious amateur-astronomer - necessary.

Many of us are familiar with the twelve constellations that define the Zodiac, but there are in fact 88 official constellations.  Astronomers haven't created many new constellations for hundreds of years, and when a new star or star group is discovered they are usually associated with the constellation in closest proximity to their location.

 

Why Learn the Constellations

The Constellations are fundamental for any Astronomer.  They act as our benchmarks in the night sky for the occurrence of planets, meteorite showers, comets and as a basic navigation system determined by history.   Many recurring meteorite showers are named for constellations from the Perseids to the Geminids.  Do you know where to look? 

 

OrionCC.jpg

by Till Credner


Ways to Help to Learn the Constellations

There's some interesting technology that can make this much simpler.  Apps you can download for not a lot of money that will enable you to simply point your wireless device to the sky and discover. 

 

A popular one for the iPad and iPhone is the StarWalk app.  It's keyed to the GPS of the devices and gives a real-time view of what you are viewing with some fascinating detail.   All you do is hold your iPhone or iPad to the sky and it tracks what you're looking at and identifies constellations, planets and stars. 

 

You can also download constellation maps if you're in the old blanket and pillow crowd, but you'll probably need that old-fashioned red-filter flashlight to read it.  You could also access Google Sky for free and study at your leisure.   Google also offers an app for the Android called Google Sky Map that works very much like the Apple Star Walk product.   


Learn About the Mythology

It's also fun to learn about constellations and share the concept and stories with family and friends.  Ancient astronomers created a story across the sky and it's fascinating to understand and appreciate the mythology of the night sky.


Using Your New Knowledge

What's critical to understand is that your ability to identify key constellations is crucial to your astronomical viewing.  The constellations are used as a reference point for the current locations of planet, comets, stars, meteorite showers and other celestial events such as the exact location of the northern lights in the northern sky.   The more you understand the location and configuration of constellations, the easier it will be for you to quickly locate the event or celestial body you are trying to view. 

 

It's also impressive to know the constellations and a bit about their history and legends simply as a sharing-point with friends and family.  You could even create your own constellations and name them after friends or family members.    Who knows, if astronomers haven't created a new constellation for a few hundred years - maybe it's your time. To get started why not have a look at the free constellation guide on this website. It doesn’t yet include all of the constellations but it’ll give you a good start about the history, mythology, meteorite showers and nearby deep space objects to see.

Here is an article on the evolution of the constellations.

Find more on: Observing the Night Sky

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