The study of celestial objects is an ancient one. Knowledge of the sun, moon, and stars, and their associated mythology, was passed from generation to generation but few conclusive records of prehistoric observations survive.
Constellations were part of the historical record in Mesopotamian culture around 4000 B.C. In the 8th century B.C. Homer mentioned a few now familiar constellations in his epic poem, the Odyssey. Four hundred years later Eudoxus of Cnidus wrote about 43 constellations (or 45 or 48 depending on one’s interpretation) which survive today. Eudoxus’ original work was lost but his ideas were kept alive by Aratus in a poem called Phaenomena (circa 270 B.C.). Continue reading
First printed edition, 1515
By Ian Ridpath
HERE is a page of the star catalogue from the first printed edition of Ptolemy’s Almagest, published in Venice in 1515. It is based on the Latin translation made by Gerard of Cremona (c.1114–1187) in Toledo, Spain, in 1175. Gerard worked from Arabic manuscripts, which were themselves translations of the Greek original.
Ptolemy’s original manuscript is thought to have been produced around AD 150 and was long lost by Gerard’s time, a thousand years later, although copies survived, both in Greek and in Arabic. Continue reading
The constellation Orion is one of the most recognizable in the night sky.
In modern astronomy, a constellation is an internationally defined area of the celestial sphere. These areas are grouped around asterisms (which themselves are generally referred to in non-technical language as “constellations”), which are patterns formed by prominent stars within apparent proximity to one another on Earth’s night sky.
There are also numerous historical constellations not recognized by the IAU or constellations Continue reading