A constellation is a chance grouping of stars. Constellations were seen by ancient people as pictures in the stars. Their origins date back hundreds of years into our past. These grouped alignments of stars, also called asterisms, are known today as the constellations. Ancient cultures around the world have assigned different pictures to these star groupings. Many of the images seen by ancient people find their roots shrouded in mythology. Many of the oldest known constellations were imagined by the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations.
Today, it can be difficult to make out some of the shapes of the constellations because city lights obscure many of the dim stars. But they are still used as an important organizational tool to help identify and locate objects in space. There are currently 88 main constellations recognized by the astronomical community. Here in Pictures in the Sky, we will explore the constellations and identify the major points of interest within each.
The constellations are often grouped according to the month in which they are best visible. These monthly listings assume that you are looking at the sky at 9:00 PM. For every hour later than 9:00, add half of a month. For every hour before 9:00, subtract half a month. At the bottom of the page is an alphabetic listing for those looking for a particular constellation. Please note that the illustrations of each constellation will show only the brightest stars for purposes of simplicity. If you need an accurate rendering of any of these star groupings, please consult a star chart or planisphere. For information on how to use this section, click here.