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How many constellations are there and how were they named?

Learn how many constellations there are and how they're named.

There are 88 recognized constellations in the heavens. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
There are 88 recognized constellations in the heavens.

How many consellations there are and how they are named is the job of the International Astronomical Union. There are 88 recognized constellations in the heavens whose boundaries were defined in the 1920s.

Constellations are groups of stars that seem to form some particular shape, that of a person, animal or object. They only appear to form this shape and be close to each other from earth; in actuality the stars in a constellation are often very distant from each other.

Constellation Genitive Abbreviation Meaning
Andromeda Andromedae And Chained Maiden
Antlia Antliae Ant Air Pump
Apus Apodis Aps Bird of Paradise
Aquarius Aquarii Aqr Water Bearer
Aquila Aquilae Aql Eagle
Ara Arae Ara Altar
Aries Arietis Ari Ram
Auriga Aurigae Aur Charioteer
Boötes Boötis Boo Herdsman
Caelum Caeli
Cae
Chisel
Camelopardalis
Camelopardalis
Cam
Giraffe
Cancer
Cancri
Cnc
Crab
Canes Venatici
Canum Venaticorum
CVn
Hunting Dogs
Canis Major
Canis Majoris
CMa
Big Dog
Capricornus
Capricorni
Cap
Goat
Carina
Carinae
Car
Ship's Keel
Cassiopeia
Cassiopeiae
Cas
Queen of Ethiopia
Centaurus Centauri
Cen
Centaur
Cepheus
Cephei
Cep
King of Ethiopia
Cetus
Ceti
Cet
Whale
Chamaeleon
Chamaeleonis
Cha
Chameleon
Circinus
Circini
Cir
Compass
Columba
Columbae
Col
Dove
Coma Berenices
Comae Berenices
Com
Berenice's Hair
Corona Australis
Coronae Australis
CrA
Southern Crown
Corona Borealis
Coronae Borealis
CrB
Northern Crown
Corvus
Corvi
CrV
Crow
Crater
Crateris
Crt
Cup
Crux
Crucis
Cru
Southern Cross
Cygnus
Cygni
Cyg
Swan
Delphinus
Delphini
Del
Dolphin
Dorado
Doradus
Dor
Goldfish
Draco
Draconis
Dra
Dragon
Equuleus
Equulei
Equ
Little Horse
Eridanus
Eridani
Eri
River Eridanus
Fornax
Fornacis
For
Furnace
Gemini
Geminorum
Gem
Twins
Grus
Gruis
Gru
Crane
Hercules
Herculis
Her
Hercules
Horologium
Horologii
Hor
Clock
Hydra
Hydrae
Hya
Hydra, Greek monster
Hydrus
Hydri
Hyi
Sea Serpent
Indus
Indi
Ind
Indian
Lacerta
Lacertae
Lac
Lizard
Leo
Leonis
Leo
Lion
Leo Minor
Leonis Minoris
LMi
Little Lion
Lepus
Leporis
Lep
Hare
Libra
Librae
Lib
Scales
Lupus
Lupi
Lup
Wolf
Lynx
Lyncis
Lyn
Lynx
Lyra
Lyrae
Lyr
Lyre or Harp
Mensa
Mensae
Men
Table Mountain
Microscopium
Microscopii
Mic
Microscope
Monoceros
Monocerotis
Mon
Unicorn
Musca
Muscae
Mus
Fly
Norma
Normae
Nor
Carpenter's Square
Octans
Octanis
Oct
Octant
Ophiuchus
Ophiuchi
Oph
Serpent Bearer
Orion
Orionis
Ori
Orion, the Hunter
Pavo
Pavonis
Pav
Peacock
Pegasus
Pegasi
Peg
Winged Horse
Perseus
Persei
Per
Perseus, a Greek hero
Phoenix
Phoenicis
Phe
Phoenix
Pictor
Pictoris
Pic
Painter
Pisces
Piscium
Psc
Fish
Piscis Austrinus
Piscis Austrini
PsA
Southern Fish
Puppis
Puppis
Pup
Ship's Stern
Pyxis
Pyxidis
Pyx
Ship's Compass
Reticulum
Reticuli
Ret
Net
Sagitta
Sagittae
Sge
Arrow
Sagittarius
Sagittarii
Sgr
Archer
Scorpius
Scorpii
Sco
Scorpion
Sculptor
Sculptoris
Scl
Sculptor
Scutum
Scuti
Sct
Shield
Serpens
Serpentis
Ser
Serpent
Sextans
Sextantis
Sex
Sextant
Taurus
Tauri
Tau
Bull
Telescopium
Telescopii
Tel
Telescope
Triangulum
Trianguli
Tri
Triangle
Triangulum
Trianguli Australis
TrA
Southern Australe Triangle
Tucana Tucanae
Tuc
Toucan
Ursa Major
Ursae Majoris
UMa
Big Bear
Ursa Minor
Ursae Minoris
UMi
Little Bear
Vela
Velorum
Vel
Ship's Sail
Virgo
Virginis
Vir
Virgin
Volans
Volantis
Vol
Flying Fish
Vulpecula
Vulpeculae
Vul
Little Fox



Different cultures in all parts of the world had their own constellations. However, because modern science is predominantly a product of western culture, many of the constellations represent characters from Greek and Roman mythology. When Europeans began to explore the Southern Hemisphere in the 16th and 17th centuries, they derived some of the new star patterns from the technological wonders of their time, such as the microscope.

Names of constellations are usually given in Latin. Individual stars in a constellation are usually designated with Greek letters in the order of brightness; the brightest star is alpha, the second brightest is beta, and so on. The genitive, or possessive, form of the constellation name is used, thus Alpha Orionis is the brightest star of the constellation Orion. The table below lists the constellations and what they represent.

Constellation|Genitive|Abbreviation|Meaning

Andromeda|Andromedae|And|Chained Maiden

Antlia|Antliae|Ant|Air Pump

Apus|Apodis|Aps|Bird of Paradise

Aquarius|Aquarii|Aqr|Water Bearer

Aquila|Aquilae|Aql|Eagle

Ara|Arae|Ara|Altar

Aries|Arietis|Ari|Ram

Auriga|Aurigae|Aur|Charioteer

Boes|Bois|Boo|Herdsman

Caelum|Caeli|Cae|Chisel

Camelopardalis|Camelopardalis|Cam|Giraffe

Cancer|Cancri|Cnc|Crab

Canes Venatici|Canum Venaticorum|CVn|Hunting Dogs

Canis Major|Canis Majoris|CMa|Big Dog

Canis Minor|Canis Minoris|CMi|Little Dog

Capricornus|Capricorni|Cap|Goat

Carina|Carinae|Car|Ships Keel

Cassiopeia|Cassiopeiae|Cas|Queen of Ethiopia

Centaurus|Centauri|Cen|Centaur

Cepheus|Cephei|Cep|King of Ethiopia

Cetus|Ceti|Cet|Whale

Chamaeleon|Chamaeleonis|Cha|Chameleon

Circinus|Circini|Cir|Compass

Columba|Columbae|Col|Dove

Coma Berenices|Comae Berenices|Com|Berenices Hair

Corona Australis|Coronae Australis|CrA|Southern Crown

Corona Borealis|Coronae Borealis|CrB|Northern Crown

Corvus|Corvi|Crv|Crow

Crater|Crateris|Crt|CUP

Crux|Crucis|Cru|Southern Cross

Cygnus|Cygni|Cyg|Swan

Delphinus|Delphini|Del|Dolphin

Dorado|Doradus|Dor|Goldfish

Draco|Draconis|Dra|Dragon

Equuleus|Equulei|Equ|Little Horse

Eridanus|Eridani|Eri|River Eridanus

Fornax|Fornacis|For|Furnace

Gemini|Geminorum|Gem|Twins

Grus|Gruis|Gru|Crane

Hercules|Herculis|Her|Hercules

Horologium|Horologii|Hor|Clock

Hydra|Hydrae|Hya|Hydra, Greek monster

Hydrus|Hydri|Hyi|Sea Serpent

Indus|Indi|Ind|Indian

Lacerta|Lacertae|Lac|Lizard

Leo|Leonis|Leo|Lion

Leo Minor|Leonis Minoris|LMi|Little Lion

Lepus|Leporis|Lep|Hare

Libra|Librae|Lib|Scales

Lupus|Lupi|Lup|Wolf

Lynx|Lyncis|Lyn|Lynx

Lyra|Lyrae|Lyr|Lyre or Harp

Mensa|Mensae|Men|Table Mountain

Microscopium|Microscopii|Mic|Microscope

Monoceros|Monocerotis|Mon|Unicorn

Musca|Muscae|Mus|Fly

Norma|Normae|Nor|Carpenters Square

Octans|Octanis|Oct|Octant

Ophiuchus|Ophiuchi|Oph|Serpent Bearer

Orion|Orionis|Ori|Orion, the Hunter

Pavo|Pavonis|Pav|Peacock

Pegasus|Pegasi|Peg|Winged Horse

Perseus|Persei|Per|Perseus, a Greek hero

Phoenix|Phoenicis|Phe|Phoenix

Pictor|Pictoris|Pic|Painter

Pisces|Piscium|Psc|Fish

Piscis Austrinus|Piscis Austrini|PsA|Southern Fish

Puppis|Puppis|Pup|Ships Stern

Pyxis|Pyxidis|Pyx|Ships Compass

Reticulum|Reticuli|Ret|Net

Sagitta|Sagittae|Sge|Arrow

Sagittarius|Sagittarii|Sgr|Archer

Scorpius|Scorpii|Sco|Scorpion

Sculptor|Sculptoris|Scl|Sculptor

Scutum|Scuti|Sct|Shield

Serpens|Serpentis|Ser|Serpent

Sextans|Sextantis|Sex|Sextant

Taurus|Tauri|Tau|Bull

Telescopium|Telescopii|Tel|Telescope

Triangulum|Trianguli|Tri|Triangle

Triangulum|Triangli Australis|TrA|Southern Australe Triangle

Tucana|Tucanae|Tuc|Toucan

Ursa Major|Ursae Majoris|UMa|Big Bear

Ursa Minor|Ursae Minoris|UMi|Little Bear

Vela|Velorum|Vel|Ships Sail

Virgo|Virginis|Vir|Virgin

Volans|Volantis|Vol|Flying Fish

Vulpecula|Vulpeculae|Vul|Little Fox

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