A few noteworthy Constellations...(including the zodiac constellations)

In Greek mythology Andromeda was the daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia (both of whose constellations lie directly to the north of her). After Cassiopeia had boasted of being more beautiful than the sea nymphs, the sea god Neptune flooded the land and also sent a monster to ravage it. To placate the sea god, Andromeda was chained to a rock and was about to be devoured by the monster when she was rescued at the last moment by Perseus (another constellation to the east) whom she later married.

Features of interest: 
Andromeda Galaxy M31 and its companions M32 and M110; Open Star Cluster NGC 752; Blue Snowball planetary nebula NGC 7662 and Triangulum Galaxy M33.

A large constellation in the zodiac between Capricorn and Pisces and in Greek mythology
represents the "water bearer" Ganymede whom Zeus whisked off to Mount Olympus to be his cup bearer and a waiter to the gods. The stars Gamma Aquarii, Zeta Aquarii, Eta Aquarii and Pi Aquarii, make up the water jar from which a stream of water flows south towards Pisces Austrinus.

Features of interest: 
 Globular Cluster M2; Saturn Nebula NGC 7009; Helix Nebula NGC 7293.

This constellation in Greek mythology depicts the servant eagle of the god Zeus which carried the thunderbolts that Zeus would hurl at his enemies. One legend says Zeus either sent the eagle, or turned himself into an eagle, to carry the shepherd boy Ganymede (Aquarius) up to Mount Olympus where he would serve as waterboy and waiter to the gods. It lies in a rich area of the Milky Way with Cygnus to the north and Scutum and Sagittarius to the south. It's brightest star, Altair forms part of the asterism known as the "Summer Trianlge", along with Deneb (in Cygnus) and Vega (in Lyra).

Features of interest:
  Open Cluster NGC 6709; Open Cluster NGC 6755.

In Greek mythology, Aries was the ram whose Golden Fleece was hung out on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. Jason and the Argonauts (in the great Ship The Argo Narvis) undertook an epic voyage to bring this fleece back to Greece. Aries also represents the flying ram that was sent by the god Hermes (Mercury) to rescue the royal siblings Helle and Phryxus from their murderous stepmother Ino. 

It's most recognisable feature is a crooked line of three stars; Alpha Arietis (Hamal), Beta Arietis (Sheratan) & Gamma Arietis (Mesarthim).

Features of interest:
  Mesarthim, a double star whose components are actually both very similar blue-white stars.


In Greek mythology Auriga represents a charioteer, usually understood to be Ericthonius, the legendary King of Athens. It lies along the Milky Way band of stars between Gemini and Perseus, and north of Orion.

Features of interest:
  The Pinwheel Cluster M36; Auriga Salt and Pepper M37 and M38.

The faintest of the zodical constellations, Cancer lies between Gemini and Leo. In Greek mythology, it represents the crab that was sent by Hera (Juno) to harass Hercules while he battled with the multi-headed monster, the Hydra. Hercules took a few minutes to crush the crab and then proceeded to finish off the monster. Historically, Cancer is known for being the constellation that the Sun is in at the summer solstice, and today the highest latitude that the Sun reaches at noon on solstice day is still known as the Tropic of Cancer, even though the Sun's highest latitude attained during the summer solstice now actually occurs in the constellation of Gemini.

Features of interest:
  Beehive Cluster M44 (aka the Praesepe Cluster); NGC 2862 (M67).

Canis Major
The "Big Dog", one of the hunting dogs associated with the great hunter Orion - the other being Canis Minor, the "Little Dog". This constellation is famous as home to the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, which is one of the three stars (along with Procyon in Canis Minor, and Betelgeuse in Orion) that make up the famous asterism know as the "Winter Triangle".

Features of interest:
  Mexican Jumping Star (actually a cluster, NGC 2362); Open Cluster M41.

The smallest of the 12 zodiac constellations, Capricorn (Latin for "horned goat") lies in the southern sky between Sagittarius and Aquarius. In Greek mythology, it is associated with the goat-like god Pan, who is said to have jumped into a river and turned himself into a creature half-goat and half-fish in a desperate bid to escape the sea monster Typhon. About 2500 years ago the sun used to be in this constellation during the winter solstice, but due to the Earth's precessional motion the winter solstice now occurs with the Sun in Sagittarius, however the latitude of the Sun at it's southern most in the sky at winter solstice is still known today as the Tropic of Capricorn.

Features of interest:
 Globular Cluster M30 (NGC 2362).

This constellation lies in a prominent band of the Milky Way between Perseus and Cepheus and in Greek mythology is named after the infamously vain Greek (Ethiopian?) Queen who was married to King Cepheus and whose boast of her own personal beauty nearly cost her daughter Andromeda to be consumed by a maurauding sea monster sent by Neptune. It's five main stars form an easily recognisable 'W' shape, and the Queen is usually depicted as hanging upside down, as punishment for her vanity.

Features of interest:
  Cassiopeia Salt-And-Pepper Cluster M52; M103 Cluster ; Pac Man Nebula.

In Greek mythology Centaurus is regarded as the centaur Chiron (a creature with the body of a horse and head chest and arms of a man). Chiron taught many Greek heroes including Jason (of the Argonauts) and Hercules, who accidentally shot Chiron with a poisoned arrow, and although Chiron was immortal, he was given permission to die by the god Zeus, thereby relieving him of the potentially everlasting pain from the poisoned arrowCentaurus is famous for being home to the closest star to our Sun, Proxima Centauri, the third member of a Multiple Star System that includes the Alpha Centauri binaries (Rigel Kentaurus A and Rigel Kentaurus B). The chart graphic below also shows the southern constellations of Crux and Musca, which just so happen to be in very close proximity.

Features of interest:
 Globular Cluster Omega Centauri (NGC 5139); Centaurus A galaxy (NGC 5128); Blue Planetary Nebula (NGC 3918).

The main stars of the constellation of Cepheus form a shape resembling a tower with pointed steeple. It lies between the constellations of Cassiopeia and Draco and represents the mythical King of Ethiopa, who was married to Queen Cassiopeia and was the father of Andromeda. This constellation also contains the star, Delta Cephei, that lends its name to specific types of variables stars that are today used as "standard candles" for measuring the relationship between a star's size and brightness in a way that helps to determine stellar distances.

Features of interest:
 Yellow Supergiant Delta Cephei; Garnet Star Mu Cehpei in cluster IC1396.

Cetus is one of the original Greek 48 constellations listed by Ptolemy in his Almagest. In Greek mythology, Cetus is the sea monster which Neptune had sent to devour Andromedia as punishment for her mum Cassiopeia's vanity, before it was killed by Perseus, Andromedia's rescuer. It is home to a famous variable star Mira, the first variable star to be discovered in the late 16th century, and one which lends it's name to types of long-period variable stars known as Mira variables. Also, Tau (t) Ceti is a star very similar to our own Sun in terms of size and luminosity, and as such makes a prime candidate for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

Features of interest: Omicron (o) Ceti (Mira); Seyfert spiral galaxy M77.

In Greek mythology, Gemini represents the twin sons of Leda, who was seduced by Zeus after he had disguised himself as a swan (see the Cygnus constellation). However, Leda also slept with her husband right about the same period and so she had the twins (one mortal, Castor, and the other immortal, Pollux). Of the two stars, Pollux, an orange giant 34 light-years away from our Sun, is the brighter at magnitude 1.2, compared to the blue-white Castor of magnitude 1.6, 52 light-years away. In mid-December each year, the Geminid meteor showers radiate from a point close to Castor.
Features of interest: Open Cluster M35; The Eskimo Nebula NGC 2392 (aka Clown Face Nebula); NGC 2129;

One of the oldest signs of the Zodiac and just below the Big Bear Ursa Major, Leo was recognised as a Lion by various ancient civilisations, including the Persians, Babylonians and Egyptians. In Greek mythology Leo represents the Nemean Lion with an impenetrable hide which Hercules had to slay as the first of his twelve labours, which he eventually accomplished using his bare hands. The stars that mark the Lion's head also make up a very familiar asterism known as "The Sickle". The Leonid meteors radiate from the region near The Sickle each November.
Features of interest: Spiral Galaxies M65 and M66; fainter Spiral Galaxies M95 and M96.

Lepus is Latin for "hare" and is Orion's favourite prey, somewhat evident from the fact that the hare is being pursued across the sky by one of Orion's hunting dogs, Canis Major. (The brightest star in Lepus, Arneb is also Arabic for "hare".) According to one legend though, the constellation commemorates a plague of hares that overran the Greek island of Leros when a breeding programme got out of control.
Features of interest: Globular Cluster M79 (aka NGC 1904); NGC 2017.

A constellation of the zodiac between Virgo and Scorpio, Libra represents the scales of justice held by Virgo - both the Egyptians and Romans (who added it to the constellations that make up the zodiac) saw this constellation as scales. The ancient Greeks however, visualized the constellation as the claws of the neighbouring scorpion, as a result, its two brightest stars still retain names that translate as "northern claw" and "southern claw". 
Features of interest: faint Globular Cluster NGC 5897;

Lupus is Latin for "wolf" and is a constellation that was known to the Greeks as well as the Romans, but not necessarily as a wolf. The Greeks called it Therion, which means "wild animal", whilst the Romans called it Bestia, which essentially has a similar meaning. In Greek mythology Lupus is a beast being speared by Chiron the Centaur and is a sacrifice to be placed on the altar (nearby constellation Ara).
Features of interest: Open Cluster NGC 5822.

One of the most glorious constellations and one of the easiest to recognise. Orion in Greek mythology, was the son of Poseidon (Neptune), god of the sea. Orion once boasted of hunting down every animal on earth, but this angered the gods and so Zeus sent a giant scorpion to kill him. After a long fight, Orion succumbed and was stung to death. However, at the request of Diana goddess of the hunt, Zeus placed Orion in the sky; he placed the scorpion in the sky as well, but at the opposite end, to ensure the two never fought again. 
Features of interest: Orion Nebulae M42 and M43; Trapezium - four star system; Betelgeuse - one of the biggest ever supergiants known; Horsehead Nebula (near IC 434); Nebula NGC 1977; Star Cluster NGC 1981.

A prominent northern constellation, Perseus lies in a rich band of the Milky Way between Auriga and Cassiopeia. In Greek mythology it represents the brave warrior that was sent to slay the Gorgon Medusa, a woman so hideous that looking at her would turn the unfortunate beholder to stone. 
He is depicted holding the Gorgon's head, represented by the famous variable star, Algol. Mounted on his flying horse Pegasus, Perseus also later rescued Andromeda from the sea monster, Cetus, which had been sent by the sea god Neptune to devour her due to her mother Cassiopeia's vanity. Every August the Perseid meteor  showers appear to radiate from the constellation.

Features of interest: Eclipsing binary star - Algol; Spiral Cluster M34; The Double Cluster NGC 869 and NGC 884 (aka the Sword-Handle);

Although not a very prominent constellation of the zodiac, Pisces is most significant for being the home of the current vernal equinox, the point where the celestial line of right ascension intersects with the celestial line of 0 dgrees (zero degrees) of declination (i.e. the celestial equator). Because of the Earth's slow precession (wobble), this point is gradually moving along the celestial equator and will eventually wind up in the neighbouring constellation of Aquarius right about the year AD2600. In Greek mythology, Pisces represents Aphrodite and her son Eros, after they transformed themselves into fish and plunged in the Euphrates to escape a monster called Typhon. The Cirle of stars that form the body of one of the fish forms a very recognisable asterism called the "Circlet".

Features of interest: The Circlet Asterism; Spiral Galaxy M74.

"The Archer", represents the mythical beast that is half man and half horse, and is thought to be Crotus the offspring of the goat god Pan and the nymph Eupheme, nurse of the Muses (among whom he was raised). Crotus grew to be skilled in the arts as well as a great hunter, and at his death the Muses entreated Zeus to place him among the stars. The most recognisable feature of this constellation is the asterism known as the "Teapot". The handle of the teapot is also often referred to as the "Milk Dipper", imagined to be scooping into the Milky Way. The exact centre of our Milky Way Galaxy is thought coincide with a strong radio source known as Sagittarius A, which lies just south of the spout of the teapot asterism, where there is believed to be a Black Hole.

Features of interest: Lagoon Nebula M8; Trifid Nebula M20; Omega Nebula M17 (aka Horseshoe Nebula); Open Cluster M25 (IC 4725); 
Open Cluster M23; Globular Cluster M22 (NGC 6626); Star Field M24;

This constellation is Part of the zodiac and lies in the southern sky between Libra and Sagittarius. In Greek mythology it represents the scorpion sent out by the immortal god Zeus to sting the famous hunter to death, after Orion had boasted of being able to hunt down every animal on earth. The Scorpions heart is marked by the red supergiant Antares (which is hundreds of times larger than our own Sun!) and a distinctive curve of stars marks the scorpion's tail. The tail extends into a very rich area of the Milky Way that marks the centre of our Galaxy. Scorpio is one of the few constellations, like Leo, that actually resembles the thing for which it is named.

Features of interest: Butterfly Cluster M6; Ptolemy's Cluster M7; Globular Cluster M4; Open Cluster NGC 6383;

A large and prominent constellation of the zodiac that lies between Aries and Gemini and contains a wealth of objects for astronomical instruments of all sizes; most notable are the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters and the Crab Nebula. In Greek mythology, Taurus was said to represent the disguise adopted by the immortal god Zeus to seduce Princess Europa of Phoenicia, swimming across the Mediterranean with her on his back, carrying her off to Crete where she bore him three children. The Pleiades represent the seven daughters of the titan Atlas, and who while being pursued by Orion the hunter, where transformed by the gods into doves. The Hyades, also daughters of Atlas, were turned into stars in pity at their weeping for their dead brother Hyas, and their appearance in the sky was said to bring rain. The Taurid meteors appear to radiate out of a point just to the south of the Pleiades in early November every year. 
Features of interest: Hyades Star Cluster; Pleiades Star Cluster; Crab Nebula M1; Eclipsing Binary Lamba (?) Tauri.

Ursa Major
"The Big Bear" is a large and prominent constellation of the northern sky which is usually visible all year from mid to northern latitudes. Seven of its stars form the familiar asterism known as "The Plough" or "Big Dipper", but this asterism only makes up a part of the whole constellation. The two stars Merak and Dubhe in the part of the bowl furthest from the handle act as pointers to the North Pole star Polaris. In Greek mythology, Ursa represents Zeus's lover, Hera, who was turned into a bear by his wife Hera in a fit of jealousy. In another legend, Usra is said to represent Adrasteia, one of the two nymphs who nursed an infant Zeus, hiding him from his murderous father, Cronus. The other nymph is represented by Ursa Minor, "The Little Bear", whose tail tip marks Polaris.
Features of interest: Bodes Galaxy M81; Irregular Galaxy M82 (companion to M81); Pinwheel Galaxy M101; The Owl Nebula M97; Spiral Galaxy M109.

The largest of the zodiac constellations, and the second largest overall, Virgo the virgin is usually associated with Demeter, Greek goddess of the harvest, reinforced by the fact that the figure is often portrayed holding wheat, and also the brightest star Spica means "ear of wheat". Virgo is also  linked to Astraea, the goddess of justice, (and thereby associated with the constellation of Libra, "the scales of justice"). The sun enters the constellation of Virgo at the time of the September equinox every year, and spends at least six weeks in this constellation - the longest of any of the zodiac constellations.
Features of interest: Sombrero Galaxy M104; Smoking Gun Galaxy M87; Virgo Cluster of Galaxies M49, M60, M84, M86 M87.

Charts created using a very recent version of Stellarium - v 0.11.1

Greek alphabet (Α α: alpha), (Β β: beta), (Γ γ: gamma), (Δ δ: delta), (Ε ε: epsilon), (Ζ ζ: zeta), (Η η: eta), (Θ θ: theta), (Ι ι: iota), (Κ κ: kappa), (Λ λ: lambda), (Μ μ: mu), (Ν ν: nu), (Ξ ξ: xi), (Ο ο: omicron), (Π π: pi), (Ρ ρ: rho), (Σ σ/ς: sigma), (Τ τ: tau), (Υ υ: upsilon), (Φ φ: phi), (Χ χ: chi), (Ψ ψ: psi), (Ω ω: omega).


This video is a shot of our planet Earth from NASA's Voyager1 spacecraft, from 3.7 billion miles away, on its voyage beyond the outer bounds of the Solar System. Narration is by the late astronomer Carl Sagan

The twin Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft continue exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. + years after their 1977 launches, they each are much farther away from Earth and the Sun than Pluto. Read more here...

Carl Sagan's Message to planet Earth:

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