Constellations – A Game of Connecting the Dots

Constellations – A Game of Connecting the Dots

Constellations – A Game of Connecting the Dots

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it, we go nowhere.” – Carl Sagan

As we always say at Starscapes, an astronomer is simply a child at heart who never ceases to be amazed by space. How else can you explain “bears and bulls” in the sky?

Thanks to the limitless curiosity of early astronomers, who connected the dots, constellations were discovered and eventually named.

Here’s a fun fact: Most constellation names are rooted in ancient Middle Eastern, Greek, and Roman cultures. They were known to revere clusters of stars as gods, goddesses, animals, and objects in their narrative of life.

Read on to learn about the five most easily found constellations in the night sky. Then, with some simple orientation and tips, you can start identifying constellations that commonly appear at night.

Take time to acquaint yourself with the basic formations of constellations. Once you master this vital step, learning the rest about constellations comes more effortlessly.

The first and second on the list are the ‘two bears.’

The Big Dipper and the Little Dipper

Also known as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

The Big Dipper is not a constellation but is part of Ursa Major, a famous constellation. However, it is the most identifiable pattern of stars in the northern hemisphere, making it an ideal starting point to get oriented. Even rookies can easily spot the Big Dipper’s ‘bowl’ and ‘long handle.’ 

Six of the Big Dipper’s seven stars are Ursa Major’s brightest stars. Megrez, the dimmest, marks the juncture of the handle and bowl. Across the top of the bowl and farther from the handle is Dubhe, and diagonally below is Merak. These two pointer stars help find the Little Dipper, a.k.a. Ursa Minor. 

Polaris is the end star of the Little Dipper’s ‘handle.’ So locating the Little Dipper is not just crucial for finding Ursa Minor, but due to Polaris, it is a momentous constellation for navigation.

Let’s move on to yet another easy-to-find constellation.

Orion, The Hunter

Look for the three bright stars that construct the straight line of the hunter’s belt. From there, you should be able to make out Betelgeuse, the bright star that forms the hunter’s armpit, and move your eyes east along the hunter’s arm, holding a bow. Other stars fill out the torso of the hunter.

The following two gain their popularity because of their Astrological references.

The Stubborn Bull, a.k.a. Taurus

Located above Orion is the mighty Taurus. Preferably, you should start with finding the giant red star, Aldebaran, near the center of the bull’s horns. While the bottom ‘horn’ houses the Crab Nebula, above the bull, you’ll find a famous star cluster called the Pleiades.

These clusters can be enjoyed by naked eye observation, depending on location, weather, and timing.

The Gentle Twins, a.k.a. Gemini

Orion is key to locating the constellation Gemini. The twins can be found above and next to the hunter’s arm. The constellation resembles two stick figures with outstretched arms grazing one another. Begin by locating the two bright stars that serve as the twins’ heads, and the rest of the pattern should be pretty simple to trace.

Although there are many more constellations to spot, observe, and learn about, these are the most popular ones because almost anyone can learn to spot them. However, city lights and pollution make stargazing difficult, especially without expert equipment and knowledge. If you want to learn without obstacles and give yourself the best chance of spotting constellations and a lot more, visit us at any of our observatories to get the proper guidance and tools you need. Once you have all the trade secrets and tricks up your sleeve, you can explore the sky yourself. 

About Starscapes

Starscapes is the first chain of astronomy observatories in India. Our mission is to promote Astro-Tourism in the country and provide more avenues for amateur astronomers. Come, visit us in Kausani, Bhimtal, Jaipur, Coorg, and Ooty and study the sky and constellations with our astronomy tours and world-class telescopes. You can also learn about advances in astrophysics and space exploration through our workshops and online discussions with experts. That’s not all. One of our exciting offerings is astrophotography sessions that help you see the universe differently through your camera lens. 

There’s something more to experience every time you visit us.

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