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Constellation Information

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Explanation

Constellations are groupings of stars in the sky. Observers use these groupings to navigate the otherwise random placement of the stars.

The following pieces of information about a constellation are officially standardized by the IAU, the International Astronomical Union:

The Latin genitive form is used to denote star names in some catalogs. For example, the "alpha" star of Ursa Minor, is called "alpha Ursae Minoris" (i.e., "alpha of Ursa Minor"), and is usually shortened in print to "alpha UMi". The proper name of this star is Polaris.

The constellation boundaries were set in 1930 so that all the boundaries lay along constant lines of right ascension or declination at epoch 1875, in order to correspond with a popular catalog. Of course, the Earth's rotational precession since then has caused these lines to shift so that they no longer lie along constant lines of right ascension or declination.

The English names, which are usually just translations from the Latin, are not standardized. For example, Ursa Major is called the "Great Bear", "Greater Bear", "Large Bear", or "Big Bear".

The way that the constellation figures are constructed — which stars in the constellation are connected to make the constellation figure — is also not standardized. There are many variations in various sources.

The last three columns of the table include information about the brightest star in the constellation. Its position in the sky — right ascension (RA) and declination (Decl) — give an indication of the position of the constellation itself. One constellation, Serpens, the Serpent, is split into two parts which lie on either side of Ophiuchus, the Serpent Holder, and each part has its own row in the table.

(If your browser can't properly display the table below, here are two other forms:

  1. Pre-formatted Text File
  2. Comma-separated Value File

The first can be used with any text editor or word processor, the second with a database or spreadsheet program.)

Table 1: Information for all 88 constellations, sorted by 3-character abbreviation (3CA).
Constellation Bright Star
3CA Latin Name Latin Genitive English Name Proper Name RA Decl
AndAndromedaAndromedaeAndromedaAlpheratz00h08m+29.1°
AntAntliaAntliaeAir Pump(alpha Ant)10h27m-31.1°
ApsApusApodisBird of Paradise(alpha Aps)14h48m-79.0°
AqlAquilaAquilaeEagleAltair19h51m+8.9°
AqrAquariusAquariiWater CarrierSadalsuud21h32m-5.6°
AraAraAraeAltar(beta Ara)17h25m-55.5°
AriAriesArietisRamHamal02h07m+23.5°
AurAurigaAurigaeCharioteerCapella05h17m+46.0°
BooBootesBootisHerdsmanArcturus14h16m+19.2°
CMaCanis MajorCanis MajorisBig DogSirius06h45m-16.7°
CMiCanis MinorCanis MinorisLittle DogProcyon07h39m+5.2°
CVnCanes VenaticiCanum VenaticorumHunting DogsCor Caroli12h56m+38.3°
CaeCaelumCaeliChisel(alpha Cae)04h41m-41.9°
CamCamelopardalisCamelopardalisGiraffe(beta Cam)05h03m+60.4°
CapCapricornusCapricorniSea GoatDeneb Algiedi21h47m-16.1°
CarCarinaCarinaeKeelCanopus06h24m-52.7°
CasCassiopeiaCassiopeiaeCassiopeia(gamma Cas)00h57m+60.7°
CenCentaurusCentauriCentaurRigel Kent14h40m-60.8°
CepCepheusCepheiCepheusAlderamin21h19m+62.6°
CetCetusCetiWhaleDiphda00h44m-18.0°
ChaChamaeleonChamaeleontisChameleon(alpha Cha)08h19m-76.9°
CirCircinusCirciniCompasses(alpha Cir)14h43m-65.0°
CncCancerCancriCrabAltarf08h17m+9.2°
ColColumbaColumbaeDovePhakt05h40m-34.1°
ComComa BerenicesComae BerenicesBerenice's Hair(beta Com)13h12m+27.9°
CrACorona AustralisCoronae AustralisSouthern CrownAlfecca Meridiana19h09m-37.9°
CrBCorona BorealisCoronae BorealisNorthern CrownAlphekka15h35m+26.7°
CrtCraterCraterisCup(delta Crt)11h19m-14.8°
CruCruxCrucisSouthern CrossAcrux12h27m-63.1°
CrvCorvusCorviCrowGienah Ghurab12h16m-17.5°
CygCygnusCygniSwanDeneb20h41m+45.3°
DelDelphinusDelphiniDolphinRotanev20h38m+14.6°
DorDoradoDoradusGoldfish(alpha Dor)04h34m-55.0°
DraDracoDraconisDragonEtamin17h57m+51.5°
EquEquuleusEquuleiLittle HorseKitalpha21h16m+5.2°
EriEridanusEridaniRiverAchenar01h38m-57.2°
ForFornaxFornacisFurnaceFornacis03h12m-29.0°
GemGeminiGeminorumTwinsPollux07h45m+28.0°
GruGrusGruisCraneAlnair22h08m-47.0°
HerHerculesHerculisHerculesKornephoros16h30m+21.5°
HorHorologiumHorologiiPendulum Clock(alpha Hor)04h14m-42.3°
HyaHydraHydraeWater SnakeAlphard09h28m-8.7°
HyiHydrusHydriLittle Water Snake(beta Hyi)00h26m-77.3°
IndIndusIndiIndian(alpha Ind)20h38m-47.3°
LMiLeo MinorLeonis MinorisLittle LionPraecipua10h53m+34.2°
LacLacertaLacertaeLizard(alpha Lac)22h31m+50.3°
LeoLeoLeonisLionRegulus10h08m+12.0°
LepLepusLeporisHareArneb05h33m-17.8°
LibLibraLibraeScalesZuben Elschemali15h17m-9.4°
LupLupusLupiWolf(alpha Lup)14h42m-47.4°
LynLynxLyncisLynx(alpha Lyn)09h21m+34.4°
LyrLyraLyraeLyreVega18h37m+38.8°
MenMensaMensaeTable(alpha Men)06h10m-74.7°
MicMicroscopiumMicroscopiiMicroscope(gamma Mic)21h01m-32.3°
MonMonocerosMonocerotisUnicorn(alpha Mon)07h41m-9.6°
MusMuscaMuscaeFly(alpha Mus)12h37m-69.1°
NorNormaNormaeLevel(gamma2 Nor)16h20m-50.2°
OctOctansOctantisOctant(nu Oct)21h41m-77.4°
OphOphiuchusOphiuchiSerpent HolderRasalhague17h35m+12.6°
OriOrionOrionisHunterRigel05h15m-8.2°
PavPavoPavonisPeacockPeacock20h26m-56.7°
PegPegasusPegasiWinged HorseEnif21h44m+9.9°
PerPerseusPerseiPerseusMirphak03h24m+49.9°
PhePhoenixPhoenicisPhoenixAnkaa00h26m-42.3°
PicPictorPictorisPainter's Easel(alpha Pic)06h48m-61.9°
PsAPiscis AustrinusPiscis AustriniSouthern FishFomalhaut22h58m-29.6°
PscPiscesPisciumFishes(eta Psc)01h31m+15.3°
PupPuppisPuppisSternSuhail Hadar08h04m-40.0°
PyxPyxisPyxidisCompass(alpha Pyx)08h44m-33.2°
RetReticulumReticuliNet(alpha Ret)04h14m-62.5°
SclSculptorSculptorisSculptor(alpha Scl)00h59m-29.4°
ScoScorpiusScorpiiScorpionAntares16h29m-26.4°
SctScutumScutiShield(alpha Sct)18h35m-8.2°
SerSerpensSerpentisSerpent...
.Serpens Caput.Serpent's HeadUnukalhai15h44m+6.4°
.Serpens Cauda.Serpent's BodyAlava18h21m-2.9°
SexSextansSextantisSextant(alpha Sex)10h08m-0.4°
SgeSagittaSagittaeArrow(gamma Sge)19h59m+19.5°
SgrSagittariusSagittariiArcherKaus Australis18h24m-34.4°
TauTaurusTauriBullAldebaran04h36m+16.5°
TelTelescopiumTelescopiiTelescope(alpha Tel)18h27m-46.0°
TrATriangulum AustraleTrianguli AustralisSouthern Triangle(alpha TrA)16h49m-69.0°
TriTriangulumTrianguliTriangle(beta Tri)02h10m+35.0°
TucTucanaTucanaeToucan(alpha Tuc)22h19m-60.3°
UMaUrsa MajorUrsae MajorisBig BearAlioth12h54m+56.0°
UMiUrsa MinorUrsae MinorisLittle BearPolaris02h32m+89.3°
VelVelaVelorumSailsSuhail al Muhlif08h10m-47.3°
VirVirgoVirginisVirginSpica13h25m-11.2°
VolVolansVolantisFlying Fish(gamma Vol)07h09m-70.5°
VulVulpeculaVulpeculaeFoxAnser19h29m+24.7°

There are many other sources of information about the constellations on the web. Here are a few links:


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Last modified: Wednesday, 24-Sep-2014 11:45:14 EDT