88 Constellations and their Brightest Stars

by Mitchell Barrick, Logan Block, and Cody Gohl

Our team has been working on a project called "The 88 Constellations and Their Brightest Stars" which includes the 88 IAU recognized constellations, what they represent, where and when you can see them and we've even visually identified their brightest stars. It was fascinating putting it all together and we're proud of how it came out. The average astronomy enthusiast probably knows about popular constellations like Orion and Ursa Major, but how much do you know about the other 86 constellations that are officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union? The ancient Sumerians and the Greeks (as recorded by Ptolemy) established the majority of the northern constellations that we know today. This is the reason why many constellations are connected to mythological legends. Many of the remaining constellations were identified by the ancient Egyptians (and later the Babylonians), who connected 12 constellations to the progression of the seasons in order to develop the Zodiac signs. This infographic highlighting the 88 constellations and their brightest stars features every recognized constellation as well as the meaning behind their depictions and the best time of year to observe them. Some other interesting facts about the constellations:

  • Of the 88 constellations, 42 depict animals, 29 depict inanimate objects, and the remaining 17 depict humans or characters from mythology.

  • Hydra, which can be seen best in January, takes up 3.2% of the southern night sky, making it the largest of all 88 constellations.

  • The smallest constellation in the sky is Crux, which takes up just 0.17% of the sky.

  • The word “constellation” comes from a Latin phrase meaning “set with stars.”

  • There are many former constellations that are no longer recognized by the IAU today. This includes Argo Navis, which is the only one of Ptolemy’s original 48 constellations that is no longer recognized.

  • Some of the constellations belong to “families” based on certain defining characteristics like proximity to each other, historical origin, or common mythological theme. The Ursa Major Family, for instance, includes 10 northern constellations that are in close proximity to Ursa Major.

Which constellation is your favorite to observe?