Have you ever stopped and stared at the stars? Thousands of years ago, people would look at the stars and use their imaginations to see shapes and patterns created by the points of light. These shapes and patterns—called constellations—often represented gods, men and women from their myths and legends. We can still see these constellations today.
The Constellations of Spring (March to May)
You may already know the Big Dipper, or Plough, as it’s sometimes called. The dipper is formed from the seven brightest stars in the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear. The dipper can be seen high over the northern horizon during spring and has a double star you can see with just your eyes. Look at the middle star in the dipper’s curved handle. This is Mizar, and if you look carefully, you might see a tiny star beside it. This is Alcor. Turn a telescope towards the pair and you’ll see that Mizar is split in two!
The Constellations of Summer (June to August)
At this time of the year, the Big Dipper appears to the left of Polaris, and although it’s getting lower, we can still use it to find some other constellations.
The Constellations of Autumn (September to November)
A famous Greek legend tells the story of Queen Cassiopeia and her daughter, the princess Andromeda. Cassiopeia boasted about her beauty and angered the gods. They sent a sea monster to destroy the kingdom, and the only way to save the people was to chain Andromeda to a rock as a sacrifice. Fortunately, the hero Perseus swooped down on his flying horse, Pegasus, and saved the day. These characters can all be found in the autumn night sky.
The Constellations of Winter (December to February)