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    powerwindows1985's Avatar
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    Default Astronomy Hacks: Hack 16 - Know Your Constellations



    This chapter gives a nice chart with all the constellations, proper pronunciation, and which season it is best observed in.

    The importance of knowing constellations can not be overstated. I would have been far less frustrated in the beginning if I had known more constellations, instead of using the "learn them as you go" approach. When I first started I think I only knew Orion, and the Big Dipper (which I learned is not a constellation but an asterism). This made finding things quite challenging at first.

    Next Hack: Understanding Celestial Coordinate Systems

  2. #2
    Michael Steen's Avatar
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    Very very true, Powerwindows. I often find, though, that the lines drawn to sketch out the constellations don't match from diagram to diagram. For instance, I usually visualize the constellation of Andromeda as an elongated "V" stretching out from one corner of Pegasus. Sky and Telescope, though, does not draw it that way, though other star maps do. It can be pretty tricky going from one map to the other, expecting to see a familiar constellation describing a particular pattern in the sky, and being blindsided by a completely different rendering. It's as if several different kids were given a "connect-the-dots" book, but without the numbers, and told to make some pictures.
    I find it helpful, therefore, to not only know the constellations but to be able to pick out notable stars and understand the area around them. Let's see someone draw a single star differently from map to map!
    Learning the sky--one star at a time.
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    powerwindows1985's Avatar
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    I totaly agree. Your assesment of Andromeda is right on. Most of my charts have it as a "V", however there is this web site that has it looking nothing like a "V", more like a disfigured, sideways stick man. I also tend not to see the "whole constellation" in many of them. For example I don't see Sagittarius as much as I see the "Teapot", same thing with Hercules. All that being said, at least learning several of the easier ones (Cassiopea, Orion, Leo, etc.) will make things easier in the beginning. There are also a few constellations that no matter how hard I try to find them I can't (Cancer and Vulpecula come to mind). I don't know if they are too faint, or I just can't see.

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    I know what you mean. I too am an asterism guy. I can find the man in Orion, but not necessarily the bow he's drawing. And forget Vulpecula and Camelopardis, and even Ophiucus and Libra! I think the constellation namers had to have SOMETHING for these areas of sky, but darned if I can see it.
    I can see the parallelogram of Lyra and the keystone of Hercules, though. And Cygnus, to me, really IS a swan! I'll be sorry when it disappears for the winter.
    Learning the sky--one star at a time.
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