This lesson will teach you about ancient constellations and how they came to be. We’ll define modern constellations and learn why they’re important. You’ll also learn about the differences between a constellation and an asterism.
What Are Ancient Constellations?
I live in a really big city. So big, that the light pollution obscures all but the brightest stars in the night sky. But, when you go out far into the country, far away from any big city, the night sky lights up with thousands of stars twinkling at you, almost teasing you to reach out and try to grab them.Long ago, ancient people would gaze up at night – with the same awe I do – to find a group of stars that fits into a recognizable pattern, something we now know as an ancient constellation.
These ancient people, from Greeks to Babylonians, would find a loose grouping of stars in the same general area of the night sky. They would assign a name to this group of stars that represented heroes, mythical beasts, and gods of their particular culture. Of all the ancient constellations, 48 are still in use today.The brightest stars were often chosen for an ancient constellation, while the fainter ones in the same area were commonly ignored. Stars of the Southern sky, not visible to the inhabitants of the Northern latitudes, were obviously not included at all, and the reverse is true as well.But let’s face it: such constellations don’t actually look like the hero, god, or mythical beast that’s drawn on the screen below.