The Wonder of Stars and Stargazing
Just like the sun, stars move across the sky on a regular schedule. There are certain groupings of stars seen, called constellations, that provide amusement and awe for us simple folks. Actually, they originated as instruments to help people in ancient times mark the time of year. Today, these star constellations continue to stand as tools for astronomers and stargazers.
Different constellations appear at sunset at various times of the year. They rotate based on the earth’s path through space, and so are able to tell the beginning and ending of seasons.
Before Greek and Roman times, people already are mapping the skies. And then these great empires came and gave Greek and Roman names to the constellations. The Greeks adopted their system from the Babylonians who took their origins in turn from the Sumerians some 3,000 years before. However, further back, star markings were found in cave walls in southern France believed created over 17,000 years back. This must be the first known star map.
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially defined 88 constellations in 1929, fixing the boundaries and enabling astronomers to communicate about the regions of the sky they study. The official constellations are rectangular slices of the sky holding the stars within it and included individual groupings. The constellation of Ursa Major, for instance, contains all of the stars around the shape known by the same name. Some groupings are not considered constellations, but very popular like the Big Dipper, considered an asterism, a group of stars not officially recognized.
The sun, the moon, and the planets travel on a set path through the sky known as the ecliptic as the Earth rotates. The list of 13 constellations they pass through are known as the stars of the Zodiac we recognize from Capricorn to Sagittarius. Astrologers use 12 of these as signs of the Zodiac to make predictions. They omit Ophiuchus, considered the 13th constellation, deemed an unlucky number. Signs differ from constellations, bearing only a loose reference to one another. If you are born under a particular sign, that constellation it is named for is not visible at night. Instead, the sun is passing through it around that time of year, making it a daytime constellation that can’t be seen. That is how Zodiac signs and constellations relate to one another.
Your Zodiac and Related Constellation
What’s your Zodiac sign? Learn more about your sign and the related constellations at the Psychic Shop in Lynnwood.