The Dog-star and Aldebaran, pointing to the restless Pleiades, were half-way up the Southern sky, and between them hung Orion, which gorgeous constellation never burnt more vividly than now, as it soared forth above the rim of the landscape. Castor and Pollux with their quiet shine were almost on the meridian: the barren and gloomy Square of Pegasus was creeping round to the north-west; far away through the plantation Vega sparkled like a lamp suspended amid the leafless trees, and Cassiopeia’s chair stood daintily poised on the uppermost boughs.
— Thomas Hardy, "Far From the Madding Crowd", 1874

A constellation is a picture in the sky, and societies around the world grouped the stars into figures meaningful to them and their culture. Many of these familiar patterns of stars come to us from prehistoric times when humans first looked up into the night sky and tried to make sense of it. Others are of more recent origin, concocted when European explorers ventured far into the southern hemisphere.

The constellation charts are drawn in colour on a dark background. Coloured circles of varying radii are used to represent stars. The larger the circle, the brighter the star. Binary and multiple star systems that appear as a single object to the naked eye are represented by their combined magnitude. The colours represent the spectral types (surface temperatures) of the stars, with blue being the hottest and red the coolest. A selection of other interesting celestial objects are drawn in green, with thick green lines representing the figures of the constellations. Star positions (epoch J2000), magnitudes and colours are taken from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Star Catalog. The limiting stellar magnitude is +6.5 (except for very faint but noteworthy stars) but there is no limiting magnitude for other objects.

Modern Constellations

Today, the International Astronomical Union is the sole authority for assigning designations and names to celestial bodies and in the early twenthieth century, they divided up the sky into 88 sections. These sections are irregular in shape and size as the IAU has tried to maintain ancient constellation boundaries as much as possible.

Official NameSome Other NamesKey
Andromeda 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Antlia Antlia Pneumatica 7,8,9,10,11,12
Apus Apis Indica, Avis Indica, Avis Paradisi 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,11,12
Aquarius Ganymede, Hydrochoös 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Aquila Alub, Aluk, Ganymede, Merops 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Ara Acerra, Pharos, Puteus, Sacrareum 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,11,12
Aries Chrysomallus 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Auriga Auriga vel Erichtonius, Erichthonis, Hippolytus, Myrtilus 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Boötes Boötes Bubulcus 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Caelum Caela Scalptoris, Caelum Sculptorium, Cela Sculptoris 7,8,9,10,11,12
Camelopardalis Camelopardal, Camelopardus 3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Cancer Carcinus, Nepa, Octipes 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Canes Venatici Asterion and Chara 4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Canis Major 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Canis Minor 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Capricornus Ægoceros, Bushgali 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Carina 11,12
Cassiopeia Sedes Regia 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Centaurus Chiron 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Cepheus Al Aghnām, Keikaus, Keiphus 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Cetus Cetus Ballena, Monstrum Marinum, Prestis 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Chamaeleon Chameleon 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,11,12
Circinus 7,8,10,11,12
Columba Columba Noae, Columba Noachi 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Coma Berenices 2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Corona Australis Corona, Corona Meridionalis 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Corona Borealis Ariadne's Crown, Corona, Corona Firmiana, Corona Septentrionalis 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Corvus 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Crater Calpe, Crater Vas, Hydra et Crater, Patera 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Crux Crux Australis, Cruzero 2,3,4,7,8,10,11,12
Cygnus 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Delphinus 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Dorado Dorada, Xiphias 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,11,12
Draco Draco Infernalis 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Equuleus Equus Minor 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Eridanus Fluvius, Fluvius Eridanus 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Fornax Apparatus Chemicus, Fornax Chemiae, Officina Chemica 7,8,9,10,11,12
Gemini Dioscuri 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Grus Phaenicopterus, Phoenicopterus 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Hercules Engonali Hercules, Engonasin 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Horologium Horologium Oscillatorium, Horologium Pendulum 7,8,9,10,11,12
Hydra Serpens Aquaticus 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Hydrus 2,3,4,5,6,8,10,11,12
Indus 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Lacerta Lacerta sive Stellio 4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Leo Artān 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Leo Minor 4,5,68,9,10,11,12
Lepus 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Libra Chelæ Scorpionis, Jugum 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Lupus Fera 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Lynx Lynx sive Tigris 4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Lyra Fidiula, Vultur Candens, Vultur et Lyra 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Mensa Mons Mensae 7,8,11,12
Microscopium 7,8,9,10,11,12
Monoceros Monoceros Unicornu 3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Musca Apis, Muia, Musca Australis 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,11,12
Norma Norma Euclidis, Norma et Regula, Regula 7,8,10,11,12
Octans Octans Nautica, Quadrans 7,8,10,11,12
Ophiuchus Ophiuchus vel Serpentarius, Serpentarius, Serpentary 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Orion Al Jabbār, Jugula 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Pavo 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,11,12
Pegasus 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Perseus Perseus et Caput Medusae 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Phoenix 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Pictor Equuleus Pictoris, Pluteum Pictoris 7,8,10,11,12
Pisces 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Piscis Austrinus Piscis Australis, Piscis Magnus, Piscis Notius 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Puppis 11,12
Pyxis Pyxis Nautica 7,8,9,10,11,12
Reticulum Reticulus, Reticulus Rhomboidalis 7,8,11
Sagitta 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Sagittarius Crotus, Sagittary 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Scorpius Akrab, Scorpio 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
Sculptor Apparatus Sculptoris, Officina Sculptoris 7,8,9,10,11,12
Scutum Clypeus Sobieskii, Scutum Sobiescian, Scutum Sobiesii, Scutum Sobieski 4,6,8,9,10,11,12
Serpens Serpens Ophiuchi 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Sextans Sextans Uraniae 4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Taurus 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Telescopium Tubus Astronomicus 7,8,9,10,11,12
Triangulum Deltoton, Nili Donum, Triangulum Majus 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,11,12
Triangulum Australe Libella, Triangulum 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,11,12
Tucana Toucan 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,11,12
Ursa Major 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Ursa Minor Cynosura 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Vela 11,12
Virgo Bethulah, Erigone, Justicia 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
Volans Hirundo Marina, Piscis Volans 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,11,12
Vulpecula Vulpecula cum Ansere 4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12

Extinct Constellations

Before the twentieth century, when the International Astronomical Union recognised 88 constellations and established their formal boundaries, constellations came and went, with astronomers and cartographers adding or renaming constellations with every new atlas published. Some honoured new-fangled inventions (the electricity generator, the hot air balloon), some flattered the important leaders of the day (Charles Ⅱ, George Ⅲ), some might even have been suggested as a joke (the pangolin?), but in the end, most of them did not survive to the modern day.

Anguilla 6
Anser part of Vulpecula 4,5,6,8,9,10,12
Antinous 3,4,5,6,8,9,10,12
Apes, Apis, Musca, Musca Borealis 2,3,4,8,9,10,12
Aranea 6
Argo Navis, Navis split into Carina, Puppis, Vela; also called Arca Noachi 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,12
Bufo 6
Cancer Minor 3,12
Caput Medusae part of Perseus 3,8,12
Cerberus, Cerberus et Ramus Pomifer part of Hercules 2,4,6,8,10,12
Custos Messium, Messier 8,9,10,12
Dentalium 6
Felis 8,10,12
Frederici Honores, Floria Frederici, Honores Friderici, Trophaeus Frederici 8,9,10,12
Gallus 3,6
Globus Aerostaticus, Le Ballon Aerostatique 8,10,12
Gryphites 6
Harpa Georgii, Psalterium Georgii 8,10,12
Hippocampus 6
Hirudo 6
Jordanus Fluvius 3,12
L'Atelier De L'Imprimeur, Machina Typographica, Officina Tyopgraphica 8,10,12
Limax 6
Linon, Linum Austrinum, Linum Boreum, Linum Piscium 4,6,8,12
Lochium Funis 8,12
Lumbricus 6
Machina Electrica 8,10,12
Manis 6
Mons Maenalus, Mons Menalis 4,8,10,12
Mural Quadrant, Quadrans Muralis 8,9,10,12
Noctua 10,12
Norma Nilotica 10,12
Patella 6
Pinna Marina 6
Rangifer, Tarandus 8,10,12
Robur Carolinum, Robur Caroli Ⅱ 4,5,6,8,10,12
Scarabaeus 6
Sceptrum Brandenburgicum 8,12
Solarium 10,12
Solitaire, Turdus Solitarius 8,9,12
Taurus Poniatovii, Taurus Poniatowski 8,9,10,12
Telescopium Herschelii 8,10,12
Testudo 6
Triangula comprised of Triangulum and Triangulum Minor 10,12
Triangulum Minor, Triangulum Minus 4,8,12
Uranoscopus 6

The Christian Sky

There have been attempts to 'Christianise' the celestial sphere for as long as there has been a Christian religion. Perhaps the best known member of this movement is Julius Schiller, a German lawyer who based his 1627 star atlas Coelum stellatum Christianum on Johann Bayer's earlier work. In it Schiller replaced the zodiacal constellations with the twelve apostles, the northern constellations with New Testament figures and the southern constellations with Old Testament figures. However, the saints were no match for the pagans and the snappy new names never caught on. As John Hill (Urania, 1754) said in his description of Cygnus:

Schickard, Schiller, and their followers, that they may make [Cygnus], as well as the other constellations, preserve some part of the scripture history, call this the Cross, or the Cross of Christ, and St. Helena the hinder part of it. But these have few followers. It is obvious to all men what confusion must attend altering the figures of the constellations.
ConstellationSchiller's NameMeaning
Andromeda Sepulchri Triumphatoris ΧΡΙ The Tomb of Christ, Triumphant
Apus Evae Matris Cunctorum Viventium Eve, the Mother of All Living Beings
Aquarius Sancti Iudae Thadaei Apostoli St Jude Thaddeus, Apostle
Aquila Sanctissimi Clavorum et Lanceae Christi Domini Crucifixi The Most Holy Nails and Lance of the Crucified Christ the Lord
Ara Altaris Thymiamatis The Altar of Incense
Argo Navis Arcae Patriarchae Noachi The Ark of the Patriarch Noah
Aries Sancti Petri Principis Apostolorum St Peter, First Apostle
Auriga Sancti Hieronymi Ecclesiae Doctoris St Jerome, Doctor of the Church
Boötes Sancti Silvestri Pontificis Maximis Pope St Sylvester
Cancer Sancti Ioannis Apostoli et Evangelistae St John, Apostle and Evangelist
Canis Major Sancti Regis et Prophetae David St David, King and Prophet
Canis Minor Agni Paschalis The Paschal Lamb
Capricornus Sancti Simonis Zelotis Apostoli St Simon the Zealot, Apostle
Cassiopeia Sanctae Mariae Magdalenae St Mary Magdalene
Centaurus Sanctorum Patriarcharum Abrahami et Isaaci The Holy Patriarchs, Abraham and Isaac
Cepheus Sancti Stephani Protomartyris St Stephen, the First Martyr
Cetus Sanctorum Ioachimi et Annae Parentum Deiparae Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Holy Mother
Columba Columbae Noachi The Dove of Noah
Coma Berenices Sacratissimi Flagelli ΧΡΙ Salvatoris The Most Sacred Scourge of Christ the Saviour
Corona Australis Diadematis Regis Salomonis The Crown of King Solomon
Corona Borealis Tremendae et Spineae ΧΡΙ Regis Regum Coronae The Crown of Thorns of Christ, King of Kings
Corvus and Crater Sanctae Arcae Foederis sive Testimonii Divini The Holy Ark of the Covenant or Divine Testimony
Cygnus Salutiferae et Termagnae Crucis ΧΡΙ, Cum Augusta Eius Inventrice Sancta Helena The Health-Giving Third Cross of Christ with Its Discoverer, Empress St Helena
Delphinus Hydriae Chananeae Aquae in Vinum Versae The Jars of Water Turned to Wine in Cana
Draco Sanctorum Innocentum Puerorum The Holy Innocent Children
Equuleus Rosae Mysticae sive Frondis Roseae The Mystic Rose or The Rose Branch
Eridanus Transistus Israel Nempe per Mare Rubrum Israel Crossing the Red Sea
Gemini Sancti Iacobi Maioris Apostoli St James the Greater, Apostle
Grus Aaronis Summi Sacerdotis Aaron, High Priest
Hercules Sanctorum Trium Regum The Three Kings
Hydra Iordanis Fluvii The Jordan River
Indus Servi Dei Iob Job, Servant of God
Leo Sancti Thomae Apostoli St Thomas, Apostle
Lepus Velleris Gedeonis The Fleece of Gideon
Libra Sancti Philippi Apostoli St Philip, Apostle
Lupus Sancti Israelis sive Iacobi Patriarchae The Holy One of Israel or The Patriarch Jacob
Lyra Ter Venerandi Praesepii Salvatoris Christi Thrice Venerated Manger of Christ the Saviour
Ophiuchus Sancti Patris Benedicti Inter Spinas St Benedict Amongst the Thorns
Orion Sancti Ioseph Viri Mariae St Joseph, Husband of Mary
Pegasus Sancti Gabrielis Archangeli St Gabriel, Archangel
Perseus Sancti Pauli Apostoli, Gentium que Doctoris St Paul, Apostle, Teacher of the People
Pisces Sancti Matthiae Apostoli St Matthew, Apostle
Piscis Austrinus Hydriae Farinae Sarepthanae Viduae The Grain Jar of the Widow of Zarephath
Sagitta Sanctae Catharinae Virginis et Martyris St Catherine, Virgin and Martyr
Sagittarius Sancti Matthaei Apostoli et Evangelistae St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Scorpius Sancti Bartholomaei Apostoli St Bartholomew, Apostle
Serpens Spinarum Sancti Benedicti The Thorns of St Benedict
Taurus Sancti Andreae Apostoli St Andrew, Apostle
Triangulum Mitrae Pontificalis Sancti Petri The Pontifical Mitre of St Peter
Triangulum Australe Signi Mystici Tau The Sign of the Mystical Tau
Tucana Sancti Raphaelis Archangeli St Raphael, Archangel
Ursa Major Naviculae Sancti Petri Apostoli The Boat of St Peter, Apostle
Ursa Minor Sancti Michaelis Archangeli, Principis Militae St Michael, Archangel, Military Leader
Virgo Sancti Iacobi Minoris, Apostoli St James the Lesser, Apostle
Volans Abelis Iusti Abel the Just


For the two centuries between 1600 and 1800, celestial cartography flourished in Europe. This was its golden age. Atlases became more elaborate, more inclusive and more accurate. Perhaps the four star atlases that epitomised the age were Uranometria: omnium asterismorum continens schemata, nova methodo delineata, aereis laminis expressa (Johann Bayer, 1603), Firmamentum Sobiescianum, sive Uranographia (Johannes Hevelius, 1690), Atlas Coelestis (John Flamsteed, 1729) and Uranographia sive Astrorum Descriptio (Johann Elert Bode, 1801).

  1. Κλαύδος Πτολεμαι̃ος (Claudius Ptolemy), Almagest (second century CE)
  2. Johann Bayer, Uranometria: omnium asterismorum continens schemata, nova methodo delineata, aereis laminis expressa (1603)
  3. Petrus Plancius, celestial globe of 1612
  4. Johannes Hevelius, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, sive Uranographia (1690)
  5. John Flamsteed, Atlas Coelestis (1729)
  6. John Hill, Urania, or a Compleat View of the Heavens (1754)
  7. Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille, Coelum Australe Stelliferum (1763)
  8. Johannes Elert Bode, Uranographia sive Astrorum Descriptio (1801)
  9. Giuseppe Piazzi, Praecipuarum Stellarum Inerrantium Positiones Mediae Ineunte Saeculo ⅩⅨ (1814)
  10. Alexander Jamieson, A Celestial Atlas: Comprising A Systematic Display of the Heavens in a Series of Thirty Maps Illustrated by Scientific Description of their Contents, And accompanied by Catalogues of the Stars and Astronomical Exercises (1822)
  11. Eugène Delporte, Dèlimitation scientifique des constellations (1930)
  12. Richard Hinkley Allen, Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning (Dover reprint, 1963)