How were the constellations named and who named them?
The stars have been studied since the beginning of man. "The earliest known efforts to catalog the stars dates back to cuneiform texts and artifacts from 6000 years ago." Most of our current constellations we can attribute to Roman, Greek, and Babylonian mythology. Around the 7th century B.C., in the time of Homer, the stars were thought to replicate animals. By the 5th century B.C. most of the constellations began to be associated with myths. Mythology, of course, influenced the naming of many objects in the night sky, not just the constellations. Planets and moons bear names from mythology.
No one really knows for sure when the constellations were first recognized but the Greeks are who came up with the modern constellation system. Astronomers can theorize about who first came up with the ideas of constellations due a phenomenon called precession. Precession has to do with the Earth's axis and the positioning of the celestial poles. Because of this information it seems that the constellations may have been originated by the Sumerians and Babylonians. This is of course just a theory.
Many of the constellations were given Greek names. They were replaced later in Latin.
Constellation refers to a group of stars forming a fixed pattern visible within a particular region of the night sky. The word constellation also refers to the region in which a specific group of stars appears. Astronomers have divided the sky into 88 areas, or constellations.
One popularly known group of constellations consist of the twelve signs of the zodiac. Each of these sign is named after a constellation.
These constellation have been identified and named over a period of thousands of year. For most of these constellations we do know when these were identified and who named them.
People of various early civilizations observed groups of stars in the northern two-thirds of the sky, and named these groups of stars after animals and mythological characters. For example, the constellation Leo was named after a lion, Pisces after two fish, and Taurus after a bull. The constellations Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Orion, and Perseus are named after characters in Greek mythology.
Between the fifteenth and eighteenth century, navigators explored the Southern Hemisphere and observed many other constellations which were not identified till then. These constellations were named after scientific instruments and other things as well as after animals. For example, the constellation Telescopium was named after the telescope, and Musca was named after the fly.
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