Modern astronomers break the sky into 88 designated star groups known as constellations. Here’s a quick breakdown of the five largest.
Constellations are typically measured in square degrees of the night sky; for comparison, a full moon covers about 0.2 square degrees.
Measuring at 1,303 square degrees, Hydra is the largest of the modern constellations. It’s visible in the Northern Hemisphere from January to May, but it’s best seen in the .Hydra
It’s a string of nearly 20 main stars, and its brightest star, Alphard (also known as Alpha Hydrae), is about 177 light-years away from our sun. In artistic depictions, Hydra is typically represented as a serpent.
Virgo covers 1,294 square degrees. Its brightest star, Spica, is about 260 light-years from Earth, and it’s roughly 2,300 times brighter than our sun.Virgo
Virgo is visible from around the world. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s most visible in the fall and winter, and in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s most visible in spring and summer.
Ursa Major means “great bear" or “larger she-bear” in Latin. It occupies 1,280 square degrees and includes the Big Dipper. The Big Dipper is an seven-star asterism, which is a pattern of stars with no officially recognized boundaries; Ursa Major, the constellation it’s part of, is comprised of about 20 stars.Ursa Major
The Big Dipper is one of the most well-known asterisms in the night sky. In the United States, it’s represented as a ladle, but in other cultures, its shape represents other items such as a plow, bull’s thigh, or a wagon.
The brightest star in Ursa Major is Alioth (the middle star of the dipper’s handle), which is about 82 light-years from Earth. The constellation’s second-brightest star, Dubhe, is about 2 percent less luminous than Alioth.
Sometimes called “the Whale,” Cetus stretches over 1,231 square degrees. The brightest of these is Beta Ceti, which is 96.3 light-years from Earth. As a whole, Cetus is a fairly dim constellation, and it’s most visible in the Northern Hemisphere in November.Cetus
Cetus gets its name from a misshapen sea monster in Greek mythology, which was sent by Poseidon to consume Andromeda. It’s also depicted as a whale-like creature with various heads attached to its body.
Hercules occupies 1,225 square degrees. It’s often represented as a human body—the body of Hercules, or Heracles, of Greco-Roman mythology.Hercules
Four bright stars make up the “torso" of this body: Pi, Eta, Zeta, and Epsilon Herculis. Hercules is visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s most visible from April through November.
The brightest star in the constellation is Kornephoros (also called Beta Herculis). It is about 139 light-years from Earth.
Hercules is a constellation named after Hercules, the Roman mythological hero adapted from the Greek hero Heracles. Hercules was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolem, and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations today. It is the fifth largest of the modern constellations.
Astronomical visibility from the South Pole is some of the best on earth. The view is through the largest part of the galaxy toward the Southern Hemisphere of stars. From there, depending on the season, you can see such constellations as:Southern Circumpolar ConstellationsCarina CentaurusSouthern CrossSouthern Spring ConstellationAndromedaAquariusCapricornusPegasusPiscesSouthern Summer ConstellationsCanis MajorCetusEridanusGeminiOrionPerseusTaurusThis list is according to a Google search for Southern Hemisphere Constellations.
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