The first thing you need to know is that constellations are not real, however, they are a useful guide to finding your way around the sky.
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Constellations - Being asked most people would name the twelve constellations of the zodiac and some more they have heard of or even seen (most common is surely the Big Dipper, though it is not a constellation but an asterism). In total there are 88 constellations, which can be divided into eight constellation families (see Menzel, "A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets").
The Constellations and their Stars - The constellations are totally imaginary things that poets, farmers and astronomers have made up over the past 6,000 years (and probably even more!). The real purpose for the constellations is to help us tell which stars are which, nothing more. On a really dark night, you can see about 1000 to 1500 stars. Trying to tell which is which is hard. The constellations help by breaking up the sky into more managable bits. They are used as mnemonics, or memory aids. For example, if you spot three bright stars in a row in the winter evening, you might realize, "Oh! That's part of Orion!" Suddenly, the rest of the constellation falls into place and you can declare: "There's Betelgeuse in Orion's left shoulder and Rigel is his foot." And once you recognize Orion, you can remember that Orion's Hunting Dogs are always nearby. Then you might recognize the two bright stars in the upper and lower left of the photograph as Procyon in Canis Minor and Sirius in Canis Major, respectively.
Arabic Star Names -- Many star names are of Arabic origin, most of which were used by other nations in the past following almost the same Arabic nomenclature, and many of which have survived in modern scientific astronomical atlases. Listed are some of these Arabic star names and their meanings.
© Copyright 2010 - Samuel J. Wormley