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A constellation is a group of stars that, when seen from Earth, form a pattern. The sky is divided, rather like countries on the Earth, into 88 constellations, formed around these groups of stars.

The Constellations were mostly named by the Ancient Greeks, and there is a lot of Greek Mythology surrounding them, and how the Greeks believed stories how how these people and creatures were placed in the sky, often by a God.

The brightest constellation in the sky is Crux (the Southern Cross). The constellation with the greatest number of visible stars in it is Centaurus (the Centaur, with 101 stars). The largest constellation is Hydra (The Water Snake) which extends over 3% of the sky. However, all three of these Constellations are only visible in the Southern skies.

There are also asterisms, smaller apparent star patterns within a constellation, like the Plough (or Big Dipper in the USA) in Ursa Major, the Keystone in Hercules, and the Pleiades in Taurus.

The most famous Constellations as seen from the Northern Hemisphere are Ursa Major (because of the familiar Plough), Orion, and Cassiopeia.

It is a good idea to learn these three first, and use them as 'pointers' to other Constellations.

Northern Hemisphere Maps

The following charts of the sky show the visible portion of the sky from places in the Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, and show which constellations are visible during different times of the year.




Constellation Charts and Details

Detailed charts are needed of each Constellation, so you can start to get familiar with them, and the rich bounties each may have in the form of galaxies, star clusters, nebulae, and other objects.

Here are a few places to get the charts:

Charts on Astronomy Central
Wikipedia List of Constellations

Mid-Kent Astronomical Society
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