A constellation is a cluster of stars that create an imaginary shape… a celestial connect-the-dots. In a sky full of millions of stars, these connections between the brightest objects helps astronomers, storytellers, and night sky enthusiasts find their way in the vastness of space, like storied landmarks on a map.
In these two lessons from Crash Course Kids, Sabrina Cruz explains these Super Star clusters and, below, how we find constellation locations in the night sky. More from SpaceAnswers.com:
There are 88 constellations across the sky between the northern and southern hemispheres and, in both these parts of the celestial sphere, these patterns of stars differ. The current list, which includes constellations such as Orion, Cassiopeia, Taurus and the Plough*, has been recognised by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) since around 1922 and are based on the 48 which were previously identified by Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemy.
Constellations often carry names and take the shape of gods, hunters, princesses, objects and mythical beasts associated with Greek mythology – however, at times, it requires quite an imagination to draw out what some constellations are supposed to represent! Some of the most obvious stars in a constellation are often given names and in general, the most visible stars of each constellation are assigned Greek letters with the brightest taking on the first letter of the greek alphabet (alpha), the second brightest taking beta and so on. As an example, the brightest star in Lyra is Vega which is also called alpha Lyrae.
*The Plough is known as the Big Dipper in the United States.
Watch this next: The Violent End Stage of Star Formation.