Who Named The Constellations

The scientific definition of constellation in modern astronomy is an area of celestial space or sphere. This simple and somewhat vague definition does not satisfy the idea of constellations that the average star gazer have today. It is widely known that as soon as man came into existence, its fascination with the stars began. Since ancient times, cultures have looked at the stars and found familiar and relevant shapes. These shapes have come to be the more common understanding of constellations. It is fairly obvious that the skies are filled with numerous amounts of stars, the wide range of stars visible to the human eye, resulted in a variety of constellations being identified and named after a multitude of different things. In ancient times, constellations were most easily identified for religious or cultural reasons. Throughout history constellations have been named after the different mythological gods, images, or animals of different civilizations. One of the most active identifiers of constellations were the Greeks. Through the years of Greek influence, they identified a total of 48 constellations that are still recognized today. It is through mythology that they named these constellations. Familiar constellations such as Aquarius, Aries, Cancer, Hercules, Gemini and Pisces were all named by the Greeks and connected to their mythology. In this sense, when asked the question �who named the constellations?� a large part of the answer is, �Greek astronomers.� The Greeks however, are not responsible for the names of all the constellations; there are 88 in total.

Modern scientists and astronomers are responsible for naming the remainder of the constellations. While Orion, Leo, Perseus, Aries, and Hercules are some of the more obvious Greek named constellations, science and technology were responsible for discovering the other 40 constellations. As scientists discovered these constellations they chose to name them with more of a scientific purpose and twist. With this in mind, it is easier to understand why some constellations are named after their position within the atmosphere, why some derived from Latin root words, and why the remaining constellations are named after their discoverer. Constellations that have a geographic name underlying their origination are typically ones that have been discovered in the more recent centuries. In doing so, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) left many of the original Greek mythological names alone due to their importance and cohesion that was so deeply integrated into Greek history as well as the history of astronomy.

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