Mythology & Constellations

Mythology and constellations: spot your sign in the night sky? Read this article to find out the history and function of the constellations.

Constellations are perhaps one of the most humorous constructions in history. They have gained mythical status through their long existence. Many people unconsciously think that the stars are grouped in these formations for our own benefit. This is not so. The constellations are actually visual aids for humans, indicating place and direction though inconstant variation.

For this reason, you can easily locate certain familiar stars through the identification of certain constellations. Looking at the sky using these pattern, you can tell the season, the location of the earth, and even the tilt of the earth axis with respect to the sun. Sources of the constellations stem from the Greeks and Romans all the way to the nomadic tribes of eastern Asia. Originally, they simply represented what they were. The bull was a bull, the water dipper a dipper, etc. Around 5 B.C., the constellations become firmly associated with various sections of Greek and Roman mythology. The constellations were seen as omens in the sky, and astrological signs such as Virgo, Taurus, etc., were born.

There are some theories which hint that farmers may have needed the constellations to plant crops. Near the equator, there is usually a confusing mix of constellations, and it can be hard to distinguish one month from another. The constellations may have indicated the harvest time, the reaping time, the sowing time. Star formations are also used to predict the future and sometimes, the past. Predictions abound today every time a certain constellation appears in the sky. Signs such as Libra, Scorpio, etc. carry a characteristic significance. Taurus indicates a wild character, Libra a sexy character, and so on. The validity of this is often questioned, and astrologers are taken with a grain of salt. It's important to note, however, that they are simply letting the stars serve a function, in the same way that the farmers did so long ago.

The constellations, in order, are Andromeda, Aquarius, Aries, Cancer, Capricorn, Cassiopeia, Little Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Cetus, Corona Borealis, Cygnus, Draco, Eridanus, Gemini, Herculas, Hydra, Leo, Libra, Lyra, Orion, Orion's Belt, Perseus, Pisces, Saggitarius, Scorpious, Taurus, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Virgo. If you are eager to spot some in the night sky tonight, here is a list of some of the more notable ones:

The Big Dipper: A group of seven stars, with three as the handle of the dipper and four as the square pan that water is carried in. This constellation is actually a piece of a bigger constellation, the great bear.

The Little Dipper: A smaller version of the Big Dipper, found close to the bowl of its parent constellation. The North Star is located at the tip of the Little Dipper's handle.

Orion's Belt: This constellation is three stars in a straight line, evenly spaced from one another. It is easy to spot in the Northern Hemisphere.

Cassiopeia: Next to the Big Dipper and Orion's belt, Cassiopeia is a zigzag in the sky. It looks like a funky backwards uppercase E, for the curious.

While there are lots of constellations, these are the easiest to find. Good Luck!

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