Tech UPTechnologyHow to see constellations in the sky: the ultimate...

How to see constellations in the sky: the ultimate guide

The constellations that we recognize today have seen many changes throughout the millennia of human history. Some have their origins lost in the mists of time and others are more recent in our history.

What is the oldest constellation? Nobody really knows, but some are very, very old.The Big Dipper is believed to be one of the oldest, dating back to when the Ice Age took over the land. This constellation is known to the native peoples of Siberia and Alaska, suggesting that this constellation was known before the ice melted and broke the land bridge between the two continents, creating the Bering Strait.

The ancient Egyptians had their own constellations that can be placed at the end of the last Ice Age as well. His name for the bright star Vega was “The Vulture Star”.

The ancient Babylonians (around 5600 BC) created some constellations, but they also used some previously named. Because they kept accurate and detailed records of celestial events, they were one of the first peoples to figure out how to predict solar eclipses, follow the path of the sun through the stars (what we call the ecliptic) and could have created the first Zodiac.

While many of the constellations we now use are associated with Greek mythology, the ancient Greeks did not invent the shape of the constellations, but instead added their own stories to the constellations that already existed. Aratos, in 270 BC listed 42 constellations that he knew and that were already established. Ptolemy, in turn, listed 48 constellations in the 2nd century AD. Summarizing previous works, and Hipparchus (around 150 BC) was the first man to accurately trace the stars.

The Chinese independently developed their own constellations, but they were not recognized by the Western world. However, they recorded their observations very precisely and those records can still be used today to pinpoint the location of past supernovae, comets, and other celestial events.

The southern sky constellations were not added until Europeans began sailing around the world and sailors found an unknown sky. Johann Bayer (1572-1625) was the next to greatly increase the number of constellations.

The constellations had no fixed limits.The ancient Greeks only considered the stars that created the constellation pattern to be part of it. The first printed tables to appear in the 16th century were boundless, as they were supposed to be a guide to the stars with the naked eye.

At the end of the 19th century everything started to get a bit more complicated and logically it would turn out to be easier if everyone used the same constellations with the same limits. Therefore, in the 1920s, the newly created International Astronomical Union tasked the French Eugene Delaporte with the task of creating a uniform sky for the use of astronomers.

 

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