Facts About the Constellations


Constellations are groupings of stars that resemble a pattern when an observer looks up into the sky at night. Ancient civilizations designated 88 constellations, giving them names corresponding to the mythical objects or individuals that they felt the star patterns represented.


  • Orion is one of the brightest and most familiar constellations, containing the brilliant stars named Rigel and Betelgeuse as well as an asterism known as Orion's belt---three stars in a row.


  • An asterism is a familiar pattern of stars that occur within a constellation, such as the Big Dipper in Ursa Major, a constellation also known as the Great Bear.


  • The Zodiac constellations are a group of 12 constellations that exist along the ecliptic, which is the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. Because the Earth is tilted on its axis, constellations seem to rise and set.


  • The Zodiac constellations form a band around the sky, and as the planets orbit the Sun they seem to travel through them. Constellations such as Taurus the Bull, Gemini the Twins and Leo the Lion are Zodiac constellations.


  • The mythology behind the constellations led to the formation of constellation families, groups of constellations that are close to each other in the heavens or connected by the same myth.

Perseus Family

  • The Perseus family is an example of a constellation family. It includes the constellations Perseus, Andromeda, Cassiopeia and Pegasus--all figures in a prominent Greek story.


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