An essential part of astrophotography is having a good grasp of the night sky. The best way to do it is to dive into astronomy and get familiar with constellations because they can help you navigate the stars quickly and easily.
Our journey into this field started with us wanting to capture all Messier objects to create our own catalog. It was our primary focus, but we've enjoyed finding other targets along the way and imaged many NGC and IC objects.
On top of other pursuits, like planetary imaging and wide-field photography, we have added a new type of target to our hunting list: constellations.
Constellations are groups of stars that resemble the shape of animals, objects, or mythical beings. To help visualize the constellations, humankind used stories to "paint a picture."
We've compiled the stories behind the 88 constellations of the night sky to help you easily remember them. Some are only visible from the southern hemisphere, so it may take some time to view them all.
Who Discovered the Constellations?
There are several key observers who recorded and documented the constellations as scientific discoveries. Astronomers such as Claudius Ptolemy, Johannes Hevelius, Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille, and Petrus Plancius were pivotal in observing the night sky.
Most constellations had stories and myths behind them created by early civilizations, and many of those names stuck when constellations were coined by the first astronomers.
1) Claudius Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy was a Greco- Roman astronomer, mathematician, and geographer born in 100 AD.
Ptolemy had a huge impact on how we see our night sky today.
He was the first to publish a full list of groups of stars forming a pattern, known as constellations.
He entered them in the Almagest and named them after beasts, heroes, and objects from Greek mythology.
2) Johannes Hevelius
Johannes Hevelius was a Polish astronomer born on January 28, 1611.
Hevelius is renowned as the last astronomer to have a major impact on the world without using a telescope.
He is credited as the founder of lunar topography, and of course, is known as one of the fathers of the constellations.
3) Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille
French astronomer Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille started his life as an abbot.
He was sent to the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa on April 19th, 1751. Using a quadrant, a sextant, and a tiny, 26-inch focal-length telescope, Lacaille observed the sky every night for over a year.
He recorded the position of more than 10,000 stars and 42 deep sky objects, some appear in the Messier catalog.
4) Petrus Plancius
In 1595, Petrus Plancius sent two Dutch explorers on a mission to record the position of the stars in the Indies.
Out of 248 sailors that embarked on the perilous journey across the sea, sadly, only 81 survived.
As a result of the efforts of the brave Dutch explorers, 16 new constellations were added.
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Constellation Astrophotography RESOURCES
Below are several posts with information about our attempts at constellation astrophotography. Our focus has always been deep-sky imaging, but we hope to create more constellation entries and capture the details hidden within them.