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iMost of the stars we see have little relation to one another, but people are very good at finding patterns and throughout history have grouped stars that appear close to one another into configurations called constellations. Different cultures have had different constellations, although a few of the more obvious ones tend to appear over and over again - e.g. Orion and Scorpius.

The IAU divides the sky into 88 official constellations with precise boundaries, so that every direction belongs to exactly one constellation. These are mostly based upon the constellations of the ancient Greek tradition, passed down through the Middle Ages. The zodiac includes the following 12:

Plus PtolemY? listed the following additional constellations:

In more recent times this list has been added to, first to fill gaps between Ptolemy's patterns (the Greeks considered the sky as including both constellations and dim spaces between) and second to fill up the southern sky as explorers sailed where they could see it. The new constellations are:

There were also other constellations that didn't make the cut, most notably QuadransMuralis? (now part of Bootes) for which the QuadrantidMeteors? are named. Various other less official patterns have existed alongside the constellations called asterisms, such as the BigDipper? and LittleDipper?.

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Last edited February 16, 2001 11:55 am by JoshuaGrosse (diff)