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88 modern constellations

In contemporary astronomy, a constellation is one of 88 regions of the sky generally based on the asterisms (which are also called "constellations") of Greek and Roman mythology. The number 88, along with the contemporary scientific concept of "constellation" as regions of the sky, bordered by arcs of right ascensions and declinations, that together cover the entire celestial sphere, was established in 1922 by the International Astronomical Union.[1]

The ancient Sumerians, and later the Greeks (as recorded by Ptolemy), established most of the northern constellations in international use today. The constellations along the ecliptic are called the zodiac. When explorers mapped the stars of the southern skies, European and American astronomers proposed new constellations for that region, as well as ones to fill gaps between the traditional constellations. Not all of these proposals caught on, but in 1922, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) adopted the modern list of 88 constellations.[2] After this, Eugène Joseph Delporte drew up precise boundaries for each constellation,[2] so that every point in the sky belonged to exactly one constellation.



Some constellations are no longer recognized by the International Astronomical Union, but may appear in older star charts and other references. Most notable is Argo Navis, which was one of Ptolemy's original 48 constellations.

Modern constellationsEdit

The 88 constellations depict 42 animals, 29 inanimate objects and 17 humans or mythological characters.


Each of the IAU constellations has an official 3 letter abbreviation. They are actually abbreviations of the genitive form of the constellation names, so some letters appearing in the abbreviation may come from the genitive form without appearing in the base name (as in Sge for Sagitta/Sagittae, to avoid confusion with Sagittarius, abbreviated Sgr).

The majority of the abbreviations are just the first three letters of the constellation, with the first character capitalised: Ori for Orion, Ara for Ara/Arae, Com for Coma Berenices. In cases where this would not unambiguously identify the constellation, or where the name and its genitive differ in the first three letters, other letters beyond the initial three are used: Aps for Apus/Apodis, CrA for Corona Australis, CrB for Corona Borealis, Crv for Corvus. (Crater is abbreviated Crt to prevent confusion with CrA.)

When letters are taken from the second word of a two-word name, the first letter from the second word is capitalised: CMa for Canis Major, CMi for Canis Minor.

The abbreviations are unambiguous, with two exceptions. Leo for the constellation Leo could be mistaken for Leo Minor (abbreviated LMi), and Tri for Triangulum could be mistaken for Triangulum Australe (abbreviated TrA).[3]


For help with the literary English pronunciations, see the pronunciation key. There is considerable diversity in how Latinate names are pronounced in English. For traditions closer to the original, see Latin spelling and pronunciation.

Constellation Abbreviations Genitive Origin Meaning Brightest star
IAU[2] Other[4]
And Andr Andromedae
ancient (Ptolemy) Andromeda (The chained maiden or princess) Alpheratz
Ant Antl Antliae
1763, Lacaille air pump α Antliae
Aps Apus Apodis
1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman Bird-of-paradise/Exotic Bird/Extraordinary Bird α Apodis
Aqr Aqar Aquarii
ancient (Ptolemy) water-bearer Sadalsuud
Aql Aqil Aquilae
ancient (Ptolemy) eagle Altair
Ara Arae Arae
ancient (Ptolemy) altar β Arae
Ari Arie Arietis
ancient (Ptolemy) ram Hamal
Aur Auri Aurigae
ancient (Ptolemy) charioteer Capella
Boo Boot Boötis
ancient (Ptolemy) herdsman Arcturus
Cae Cael Caeli
1763, Lacaille chisel or graving tool α Caeli
Cam Caml Camelopardalis
1613, Plancius[7] giraffe β Camelopardalis
Cnc Canc Cancri
ancient (Ptolemy) crab Tarf[8]
Canes Venatici
/ˈknz vɪˈnætɪs/[6]
CVn CVen Canum Venaticorum
/ˈknəm vɪnætɪˈkɒrəm/
1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius hunting dogs Cor Caroli
Canis Major
/ˈknɪs ˈmər/[6]
CMa CMaj Canis Majoris
/ˈknɪs məˈɒrɪs/
ancient (Ptolemy) greater dog Sirius
Canis Minor
/ˈknɪs ˈmnər/[6]
CMi CMin Canis Minoris
/ˈknɪs mɪˈnɒrɪs/
ancient (Ptolemy) lesser dog Procyon
Cap Capr Capricorni
ancient (Ptolemy) sea goat Deneb Algedi
Car Cari Carinae
1763, Lacaille, split from Argo Navis keel Canopus
Cas Cass Cassiopeiae
ancient (Ptolemy) Cassiopeia (mythological character) Schedar[8]
Cen Cent Centauri
ancient (Ptolemy) centaur Rigil Kentaurus[8]
/ˈsfiəs, -fjuːs/[6]
Cep Ceph Cephei
ancient (Ptolemy) Cepheus (mythological character) Alderamin
Cet Ceti Ceti
ancient (Ptolemy) sea monster (later interpreted as a whale) Diphda[8]
Cha Cham Chamaeleontis
1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman chameleon α Chamaeleontis
Cir Circ Circini
1763, Lacaille compasses α Circini
Col Colm Columbae
1592, Plancius, split from Canis Major dove Phact
Coma Berenices
/ˈkmə bɛrəˈnsz/[6]
Com Coma Comae Berenices
/ˈkm bɛrəˈnsz/[6]
1603, Uranometria, split from Leo Berenice's hair β Comae Berenices
Corona Australis[9]
/kˈrnə ɔːˈstrælɪs, -ˈstr-/[5][6]
CrA CorA Coronae Australis
/kˈrn ɔːˈstrælɪs/
ancient (Ptolemy) southern crown Meridiana[8]
Corona Borealis
/kˈrnə ˌbɔːriˈælɪs, -ˈlɪs/[5][6]
CrB CorB Coronae Borealis
/kˈrn bɔːriˈælɪs/
ancient (Ptolemy) northern crown Alphecca
Crv Corv Corvi
ancient (Ptolemy) crow Gienah
Crt Crat Crateris
ancient (Ptolemy) cup δ Crateris
Cru Cruc Crucis
1603, Uranometria, split from Centaurus southern cross Acrux
Cyg Cygn Cygni
ancient (Ptolemy) swan or Northern Cross Deneb
Del Dlph Delphini
ancient (Ptolemy) dolphin Rotanev
Dor Dora Doradus
1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman dolphinfish α Doradus
Dra Drac Draconis
ancient (Ptolemy) dragon Eltanin[8]
Equ Equl Equulei
ancient (Ptolemy) pony Kitalpha
Eri Erid Eridani
ancient (Ptolemy) river Eridanus (mythology) Achernar
For Forn Fornacis
1763, Lacaille chemical furnace Dalim[8]
Gem Gemi Geminorum
ancient (Ptolemy) twins Pollux
Gru Grus Gruis
1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman Crane Alnair
Her Herc Herculis
ancient (Ptolemy) Hercules (mythological character) Kornephoros
/ˌhɒrəˈlɒiəm, -ˈl-/[5][6]
Hor Horo Horologii
1763, Lacaille pendulum clock α Horologii
Hya Hyda Hydrae
ancient (Ptolemy) Hydra (mythological creature) Alphard
Hyi Hydi Hydri
1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman lesser water snake β Hydri
Ind Indi Indi
1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman Indian (of unspecified type) α Indi
Lac Lacr Lacertae
1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius lizard α Lacertae
Leo Leon Leonis
ancient (Ptolemy) lion Regulus
Leo Minor
/ˈl ˈmnər/[5]
LMi LMin Leonis Minoris
/lˈnɪs mɪˈnɒrɪs/
1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius lesser lion Praecipua
Lep Leps Leporis
ancient (Ptolemy) hare Arneb
/ˈlbrə, ˈl-/[5]
Lib Libr Librae
ancient (Ptolemy) balance Zubeneschamali[8]
Lup Lupi Lupi
ancient (Ptolemy) wolf α Lupi
Lyn Lync Lyncis
1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius lynx α Lyncis
Lyr Lyra Lyrae
ancient (Ptolemy) lyre / harp Vega
Men Mens Mensae
1763, Lacaille Table Mountain (South Africa) α Mensae
Mic Micr Microscopii
1763, Lacaille microscope γ Microscopii
Mon Mono Monocerotis
1613, Plancius unicorn β Monocerotis
Mus Musc Muscae
1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman fly α Muscae
Nor Norm Normae
1763, Lacaille carpenter's level γ2 Normae
Oct Octn Octantis
1763, Lacaille octant (instrument) ν Octantis
Oph Ophi Ophiuchi
ancient (Ptolemy) serpent-bearer Rasalhague
Ori Orio Orionis
/ˈrənɪs, ˌɒriˈnɪs/[6]
ancient (Ptolemy) Orion (mythological character) Rigel
Pav Pavo Pavonis
1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman peacock Peacock
Peg Pegs Pegasi
ancient (Ptolemy) Pegasus (mythological winged horse) Enif
/ˈpɜːrsiəs, -sjs/[6]
Per Pers Persei
ancient (Ptolemy) Perseus (mythological character) Mirfak
Phe Phoe Phoenicis
1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman phoenix Ankaa
Pic Pict Pictoris
1763, Lacaille easel α Pictoris
/ˈpsz, ˈpɪ-/[5][6]
Psc Pisc Piscium
ancient (Ptolemy) fishes Alpherg
Piscis Austrinus
/ˈpsɪs ɔːˈstrnəs/
PsA PscA Piscis Austrini
/ˈpsɪs ɔːˈstrn/
ancient (Ptolemy) southern fish Fomalhaut
Pup Pupp Puppis
1763, Lacaille, split from Argo Navis poop deck Naos
Pyx Pyxi Pyxidis
1763, Lacaille mariner's compass α Pyxidis
Ret Reti Reticuli
1763, Lacaille eyepiece graticule α Reticuli
Sge Sgte Sagittae
ancient (Ptolemy) arrow γ Sagittae
Sgr Sgtr Sagittarii
ancient (Ptolemy) archer Kaus Australis
Sco Scor Scorpii
ancient (Ptolemy) scorpion Antares
Scl Scul Sculptoris
1763, Lacaille sculptor α Sculptoris
Sct Scut Scuti
1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius shield (of Sobieski) α Scuti
Ser Serp Serpentis
ancient (Ptolemy) snake Unukalhai
Sex Sext Sextantis
1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius sextant α Sextantis
Tau Taur Tauri
ancient (Ptolemy) bull Aldebaran
Tel Tele Telescopii
1763, Lacaille telescope α Telescopii
Tri Tria Trianguli
ancient (Ptolemy) triangle β Trianguli
Triangulum Australe
/trˈæŋɡjʊləm ɔːˈstræl, -ˈstr-/
TrA TrAu Trianguli Australis
/trˈæŋɡjʊl ɔːˈstrælɪs/
1603 Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman southern triangle Atria
Tuc Tucn Tucanae
1603 Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman toucan α Tucanae
Ursa Major
/ˌɜːrsə ˈmər/[5]
UMa UMaj Ursae Majoris
/ˌɜːrs məˈɒrɪs/
ancient (Ptolemy) great bear Alioth
Ursa Minor
/ˌɜːrsə ˈmnər/[5]
UMi UMin Ursae Minoris
/ˌɜːrs mɪˈnɒrɪs/
ancient (Ptolemy) lesser bear Polaris
Vel Velr Velorum
1763, Lacaille, split from Argo Navis sails γ2 Velorum
Vir Virg Virginis
ancient (Ptolemy) virgin or maiden Spica
Vol Voln Volantis
1603, Uranometria, created by Keyser and de Houtman flying fish β Volantis
Vul Vulp Vulpeculae
1690, Firmamentum Sobiescianum, Hevelius fox Anser


Various other unofficial patterns exist alongside the constellations. These are known as "asterisms". Examples include the Big Dipper/Plough and the Northern Cross. Some ancient asterisms, for example Coma Berenices, Serpens, and portions of Argo Navis, are now officially constellations.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Eugène Delporte; International Astronomical Union (1930). Délimitation scientifique des constellations. At the University press.
  2. ^ a b c "The Constellations". International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  3. ^ Russell, Henry Norris (1922). "The New International Symbols for the Constellations". Popular Astronomy. 30: 469. Bibcode:1922PA.....30..469R.
  4. ^ NASA Dictionary of terms for Aerospace Use - table V, Constellations
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf OED, 2nd edition
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg Random House Dictionary
  7. ^ The constellations Camelopardalis, Columba, and Monoceros, formed by Petrus Plancius in 1592 and in 1613, are often erroneously attributed to Jacob Bartsch and Augustin Royer
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "Naming Stars". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  9. ^ Corona Australis is sometimes called "Corona Austrina" /ɔːˈstrnə/ (genitive: Coronae Austrinae)
  10. ^ "Definition of dorado". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
  11. ^ Serpens may be divided into Serpens Cauda (serpent's tail) and Serpens Caput (serpent's head)

External linksEdit