The Constellations

The Constellations - Ursa Major that is a constellation A well-known grouping of stars like the Big Dipper that is not officially recognized as a

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The Constellations Historically, constellations were groupings of stars that were thought to outline the shape of something, usually with mythological significance. There are 88 recognized constellations, with their names tracing as far back as Mesopotamia, 5000 years ago. The Historical Constellations In some cases one can discern easily the purported shape; for example, the constellation Leo shown on the right might actually look like a lion with the dots connected as they are. In other cases the supposed shape is very much in the eye of the beholder, as the example of Canis Minor (The Little Dog) shown on the left indicates. This certainly could be a little dog, or a cow, or a submarine, or . . . Star Groupings and Asterisms Some of the more familiar "constellations" are technically not constellations at all. For example, the grouping of stars known as the Big Dipper is probably familiar to most, but it is not actually a constellation. The Big Dipper is part of a larger grouping of stars called the Big Bear (
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Unformatted text preview: Ursa Major ) that is a constellation. A well-known grouping of stars like the Big Dipper that is not officially recognized as a constellation is called an asterism . Constellations Are Not Physical Groupings The apparent groupings of stars into constellations that we see on the celestial sphere are not physical groupings. In most cases the stars in constellations and asterisms are each very different distances from us, and only appear to be grouped because they lie in approximately the same direction. This is illustrated in the following figure for the stars of the Big Dipper, where their physical distance from the Earth is drawn to scale (numbers beside each star give the distance from Earth in light years). The relative distances to stars in the Big Dipper It is important to make this distinction because later we shall consider groupings that are physical groupings, such as star clusters and binary star systems....
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This note was uploaded on 12/04/2011 for the course ANT ANT2000 taught by Professor Monicaoyola during the Fall '10 term at Broward College.

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The Constellations - Ursa Major that is a constellation A well-known grouping of stars like the Big Dipper that is not officially recognized as a

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