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Astrology Guide for Kids

Constellations are star groups or patterns ancient people believed formed pictures in the night sky. Astronomers use constellations to break down the expanse of stars into small chunks that are easier to observe.

Constellations were first described in a document called Phaenomena, written by Aratus in 270 BC. Ancient civilizations used the stars for navigation, gardening, to mark the seasons, and as the subjects of folk tales. The first official list of constellations was set up in 1922 by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). They named 88 constellations and eight star families. You can learn more about astronomy by enrolling in accredited online schools.

Star Families: Ursa Major, Perseus, Hercules, Orion, Heavenly Waters, Bayer Group, de Lacaille, and Zodiacal.

Bayer Group - Named by Johann Bayer

Dorado - Goldfish or Dolphin fish
Grus - Crane
Hydrus - Water Snake or Lesser Snake
Indus - Indian, in honor of American Indians
Lupus - Wolf
Musca - The Southern or Indian Fly
Phoenix - Firebird
Triangulum Australe - Southern Triangle
Tucana - Toucan
Volans - Flying Fish

De LacailleFamily - Named by Abbe de Lacaille

Caelum - Sculptor's Chisel or Graving Tool
Circinas - Compass
Fornax - Furnace
Horologium - Clock
Mensa - Table Mountain, where he star-gazed
Microscopium - Microscope
Norma - Level, scientific instrument.
Octans - Octant, commemorates the octant, precursor to the sextant
Pictor - Easel
Reticulum - Reticle, an instrument used to measure star positions
Sculptor, full name is Sculptor's Tool
Telescopium - Telescope

Zodiacal family contains the 13 constellations corresponding to the Zodiac: 

Aquarius - Water Bearer, associated with Zeus in Greek myths. 
Aries - Ram, his fleece is the Golden Fleece of mythology, marked the beginning of spring.
Capricornus - Sea Goat, pictured as a goat with a fish tail and believed to symbolize Pan.
Cancer - Crab, battled Hercules but lost.
Gemini - Twins, the sons of Zeus, Castor and Pollux.
Leo - Lion
Libra - Scales, also called: Scales of Justice, Star of Longevity, Celestial Balance, marks fall.
Pisces - Fish, also called: Two Fishes, Dark Warrior, Northern Emperor and Pig, marks the Vernal Equinox.
Sagittarius - Archer
Scorpius - Scorpion, also called: Heavenly Fish Hook, Lurking One, Sign of the Death God, Grave Digger of Caravans, and Fire Star.
Taurus - Bull
Ophiuchus - Serpent Holder, represents god of medicine, Aesculapius.
Virgo - Virgin, also called: Maiden, Ishtar, Isis, Ear of Wheat, and Abundance in Harvest. Represents the goddess Demeter.

Constellations Named by Johannes Hevelius

Canes Venatici - Hunting Dogs, Bootes hunts for the bear constellations with these dog stars.
Laceria - Lizard
Leo Minor - Small Lion
Lynx - Lynx
Sextans - Sextant, instrument used to observe stars.
Scutum - Sobieski's Shield, named to honor the famous Army commander Jan Sobieski.
Vulpecula - Little Fox

Names and History

Andromeda - Chained Maiden, daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, chained to her throne because of pride.

Antila - Air Pump, named for air pump inventor Robert Boyle. 

Apus - Bird of Paradise, Greek for "no feet" or "footless". Merchants chopped the ugly feet off these birds prior to their sale.

Aquila - Eagle, Zeus' bird.

Ara - Altar, symbol for the altar of Chiron the centaur, and Noah's altar after the flood.

Auriga - Charioteer, he used the chariot to transport his crippled father. One of the oldest known constellations dating to Babylonia.

Bootes - Bear Driver or Herdsman, whose job is to herd the beasts of the constellations.

Camelopardalis - Giraffe or camel-leopard, named by Petrus Plancius.

Cancer - Crab, battled Hercules but lost. 

Canis Major - Large Dog.

Canis Minor - Small Dog, the dog stars represent Orion's hunting dogs, named by the Romans.

Carina - Keel, originally part of a large constellation, Argo Navis, which was divided into four smaller constellations by the IAU.The other constellations are: Puppis, the stern or poop deck, Pyxis, the compass, and Vela, the sails.

Cassiopeia - Andromeda's mother.

Centauras - Centaur, Chiron the Centaur who tutored Jason, Achilles, Aesculapius, and Hercules.

Cepheus - Andromeda's father.

Cetus - Whale.

Chamaeleon - Chameleon.

Columba - Dove, named by Augustin Royer, represents the dove sent out of the Ark by Noah.

Coma Berenices - Berenices' Hair.

Corona Australis - Southern Crown, also known as: Southern Wreath, Golden Crown of Sagittarius, Little Crown, Southern Coil, Crown of Eternal Life, Tortoise, Woman's Tent, Ostrich's Nest, Dish, and Pee.

Corona Borealis - Northern Crown also called: Dish, Broken Platter, Cord, and Boomerang. In mythology this symbolizes the golden crown of Ariadne, wife of Bacchus.

Corvus - Crow or Raven, Apollo's pet.

Crater - Cup, Apollo's cup, sent to Earth to be filled.

Crux - Cross, also called the Southern Cross, believed to be the constellation the Magi followed to find the baby Jesus.

Cygnus - Swan, represents Cycnus, who died trying to save his friend Phaethon, son of Apollo.

Delphinus - Dolphin, also known as: Cross of Jesus, and Riding Camel, symbol of dolphin who rescued Arion.

Draco - Dragon, in mythology flung into the sky by Athena.

Equuleus - Little Horse, symbolism lost in history, named by Ptolemy or Hipparchus.

Eridanus - River, Phaethon drowned in this river.

Hercules, demi-god, son of Zeus.

Hydra - Sea Serpent or Many Headed Monster.

Lepus - Hare, represents the moon, prey of Orion.

Lyra - Lyre, Greek musical instrument, also called Vulture Star or Harp of King Arthur.

Monoceros - Unicorn, first mentioned in Jakob Bartsch's star chart.

Orion, son of Poseidon.

Pavo - Peacock also called Argus Panoptes which means all eyes.

Pegasus, Winged Horse, in mythology believed to have been created by Poseidon.

Perseus - rescued and married Andromeda.

Piscis Austrinus - Southern Fish, represents the god Dagon.

Sagitta - Arrow, no mythical history.

Triangulum - Triangle, represented the island Sicily.

Ursa Major - Great Bear, more commonly known as the Big Dipper.

Ursa Minor - Little Bear, the Little Dipper.

Published: 2010-01-20