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Constellation Yearbook  @psychohistorian.org

Constellation Yearbook

posted: 3451 days ago, on Friday, 2009 Jan 09 at 09:18
tags: astronomy, outreach, downloads.

The starry sky is divided into 88 constellations. Of these, five are never visible from mid-southern latitudes. The purpose of this Constellation Yearbook is to introduce the novice star gazer to all the constellations visible from the southern hemisphere.


There are many constellations in the night sky (83 are visible from mid-southern latitudes) and there are many ways in which you can learn to recognize them. This Constellation Yearbook is one approach.

The year is divided into two-week periods, called Focus Weeks, and in each period, three or four constellations are highlighted. The constellations are chosen so that they will be conveniently placed for viewing early evening.

To identify all the constellations for a given Focus Week should take less than an hour's of observing, often a lot less. Once you've identified a constellation you can tick it off your list until, after a year, you're familiar with the entire night sky.

Of course, you may decide that you want to learn more than just the few Focus Constellations indicated for a given observing session. The Yearbook therefore lists all the constellations visible during a Focus Week, so you can easily work ahead.

Some constellations consist mainly of faint stars, so to properly identify those groupings you may want to seek out darker skies, say during a week-end getaway or during the holidays. This would also be a great time to work ahead on your list.

It may also be a good idea to try and spot the fainter constellations when the Moon isn't in the sky, so I've listed the dates for New Moon for the next few years.

It's always a good idea to review the constellations you've learnt in a previous observing session, because the changing orientation of the constellations (throughout the night, and from night to night or month to month) can be a little confusing at first.

An excellent idea would be to cruise through the stars of a constellation with binoculars (or a small telescope), matching what you see with what the star charts show. If you spot anything interesting in the sky, mark it on the star chart and, in your notebook, describe what you saw.

Another great idea would be to use a planisphere in conjunction with the Yearbook. A planisphere neatly shows how the constellations change their orientation, and how they relate to each other. The Southern Star Wheel would be a good choice ('cos it's free, and super-sized for easy use).

You can also supplement your constellation viewing by using the Discover! workbook, too. Once you're familiar with the basic constellations, you could also check out the Deep Sky Explorer's Atlas, which covers the southern skies (from declination +45° southward) in just 30 handy charts.

A few words about observing

Our eyes are really good at working in daylight. At night, we have to take special measures to ensure our night vision works at it best.

Find the darkest spot you can, and observe from there. (Or if you're adventurous, find a really dark sky somewhere in the country.)

Avoid all lights as far as possible. Turn them off, cover them up, or build yourself a simple observing shelter so that you can be in as much darkness as possible.

Give your eyes about 20 minutes to dark adapt. An incredibly light-sensitive chemical, rhodopsin, builds up in your eye in the dark and allows you to see much better. Even a brief flash of bright light will temporarily cancel out your dark adaption, and you'll have to start over.

Use the dimmest torch imaginable to illuminate your star charts; I wrap lots and lots of layers of red cellophane over the front of my torch to keep is ultra-dim while observing. Remove the cellophane when you're done and check around you in case you dropped something.

If you're planning a longer session, do take a chair or camp stool along; there's no reason to be uncomfortable. And of course, if it's cold outside, dress warmly.

And remember to avoid all bright light and give your eyes about 20 minutes to dark adapt. You'll be amazed at how much better you will see!

Happy stargazing!

Southern constellations

The table below lists all the constellations visible from the southern hemisphere. Note that Ursa Minor, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis & Draco are too far north to be visible from the southern hemisphere.

Constellations visible from the southern hemisphere

ConstellationSouthern visibilityFocus weeks
Andromeda [an-DROH-me-duh], the Chained WomanOctober – DecemberDecember 01-14
Antlia [ANT-lee-uh], the Air PumpNovember – MayApril 01-14
Apus [AY-pus], the Bird of ParadiseJanuary – DecemberJune 01-14
Aquarius [ah-KWAIR-ee-us], the Water BearerAugust – NovemberOctober 01-14
Aquila [uh-KWI-luh], the EagleAugust – OctoberAugust 15-31
Ara [AR-uh], the AltarMarch – SeptemberJuly 15-31
Aries [AIR-eez], the RamOctober – DecemberDecember 01-14
Auriga [oh-RYE-gah], the CharioteerDecember – JanuaryJanuary 15-31
Boφtes [boh-OH-teez], the HerdsmanMay – JulyJune 15-30
Caelum [SEE-lum], the ChiselOctober – AprilJanuary 01-14
Cancer [CAN-ser], the CrabJanuary – AprilMarch 01-14
Canes Venatici [KAH-niss vena-TEE-kee], the Hunting DogsMay – JuneMay 15-31
Canis Major [KAH-niss MAY-jer], the Big DogNovember – AprilFebruary 15-28
Canis Minor [KAH-niss MY-ner], the Little DogJanuary – AprilFebruary 15-28
Capricornus [kap-reh-KOR-nuss], the Sea-GoatAugust – NovemberSeptember 15-30
Carina [ka-RYE-nah], the KeelNovember – MayMarch 15-31
Centaurus [sen-TOR-us], the CentaurFebruary – SeptemberJune 01-14
Cetus [SEE-tus], the WhaleOctober – FebruaryNovember 15-30
Chamaeleon [ka-MEE-lee-un]January – DecemberMay 01-14
Circinus [SUR-seh-nus], the CompassesFebruary – SeptemberJune 01-14
Columba [koh-LUM-bah], the DoveNovember – AprilFebruary 01-14
Coma Berenices [KOH-mah bear-eh-NEE-seez], Berenice's HairMarch – JuneMay 15-31
Corona Australis [kor-OH-nah os-TRAH-lis], the Southern CrownMay – OctoberAugust 15-31
Corona Borealis [kor-OH-nah bor-ee-AL-is], the Northern CrownMay – JulyJune 15-30
Corvus [KOR-vus], the CrowFebruary – JulyApril 01-14
Crater [KRAY-ter], the CupFebruary – JulyApril 01-14
Crux [KRUKS], the Southern CrossJanuary – DecemberMay 01-14
Cygnus [SIG-nus], the SwanAugust – OctoberSeptember 01-14
Delphinus [del-FIE-nus], the DolphinAugust – OctoberSeptember 15-30
Dorado [doh-RAH-doh], the SwordfishJanuary – DecemberFebruary 01-14
Equuleus [eh-KWOO-lee-us], the Little HorseAugust – OctoberSeptember 15-30
Eridanus [eh-RID-an-us], the River EridanusNovember – MarchJanuary 01-14
Fornax [FOR-nax], the Chemical FurnaceOctober – FebruaryNovember 15-30
Gemini [JEM-eh-nye], the TwinsJanuary – AprilFebruary 15-28
Grus [GROOS], the CraneJuly – JanuaryOctober 01-14
Hercules [HER-kyu-leez]July – SeptemberJuly 15-31
Horologium [hor-oh-LOH-jee-um], the Pendulum ClockOctober – AprilDecember 15-31
Hydra [HY-dra], the Water Monster (eastern part)February – JulyApril 01-14
Hydra [HY-dra], the Water Monster (western part)February – JulyMarch 15-31
Hydrus [HY-drus], the Small Water-SnakeJanuary – DecemberDecember 15-31
Indus [IN-dus], the IndianJuly – JanuarySeptember 15-30
Lacerta [la-SER-ta], the LizardOctober – NovemberOctober 15-31
Leo [LEE-oh], the LionMarch – JuneApril 15-30
Leo Minor [LEE-oh MY-ner], the Little LionMarch – JuneApril 15-30
Lepus [LEE-pus], the HareNovember – AprilJanuary 15-31
Libra [LEE-bra], the ScalesMay – OctoberJune 15-30
Lupus [LOO-pus], the WolfMarch – SeptemberJuly 01-14
Lynx [LINKS]January – AprilMarch 15-31
Lyra [LYE-rah], the LyreAugust – OctoberAugust 01-14
Mensa [MEN-sah], Table MountainJanuary – DecemberDecember 15-31
Microscopium [my-kro-SKO-pee-um], the MicroscopeJuly – JanuarySeptember 15-30
Monoceros [moh-NO-ser-us], the UnicornJanuary – AprilFebruary 15-28
Musca [MUSS-kah], the FlyJanuary – DecemberMay 01-14
Norma [NOR-muh], the Level and SquareMarch – SeptemberJuly 01-14
Octans [OCK-tanz], the OctantJanuary – DecemberSeptember 01-14
Ophiuchus [oh-fee-U-cuss], Ophiuchus the Serpent-HolderJuly – SeptemberJuly 15-31
Orion [oh-RYE-un], the HunterNovember – AprilJanuary 15-31
Pavo [PAH-voh], the PeacockJanuary – DecemberSeptember 01-14
Pegasus [PEG-a-sus], the Winged HorseOctober – DecemberOctober 15-31
Perseus [PURR-see-us], the ChampionDecember – JanuaryDecember 15-31
Phoenix [FEE-nicks], the PhoenixJuly – JanuaryNovember 15-30
Pictor [PIK-tor], the Painter's EaselNovember – MayFebruary 01-14
Pisces [PIE-seez], the FishOctober – DecemberNovember 01-14
Piscis Austrinus [PIE-sis OSS-trih-nuss], the Southern FishAugust – NovemberOctober 01-14
Puppis [PUP-iss], the SternNovember – MayMarch 01-14
Pyxis [PIK-sis], the Mariner's CompassNovember – MayMarch 01-14
Reticulum [reh-TIK-u-lum], the Reticule or Rhomboidal NetJanuary – DecemberDecember 15-31
Sagitta [sa-JIT-ah], the ArrowAugust – OctoberSeptember 01-14
Sagittarius [sadge-ih-TAIR-ee-us], the ArcherMay – OctoberAugust 01-14
Scorpius [SKOR-pee-us], the ScorpionMay – OctoberJuly 15-31
Sculptor [SKULP-tor], the Sculptor's WorkshopOctober – FebruaryNovember 01-14
Scutum [SKU-tum], the ShieldAugust – OctoberAugust 15-31
Serpens [SIR-penz], the Serpent (Cauda [COW-da], the tail) (eastern part)July – SeptemberAugust 01-14
Serpens [SIR-penz], the Serpent (Caput [KAY-put], the head) (western part)July – SeptemberJuly 01-14
Sextans [SEX-tanz], the SextantFebruary – MayApril 15-30
Taurus [TORR-us], the BullNovember – FebruaryJanuary 01-14
Telescopium [tel-eh-SKO-pee-um], the TelescopeMay – OctoberAugust 15-31
Triangulum [tri-ANG-gyu-lum] the TriangleOctober – DecemberDecember 01-14
Triangulum Australe [tri-ANG-gyu-lum os-TRAH-lee], the Southern TriangleJanuary – DecemberJune 01-14
Tucana [too-KAN-ah], the ToucanJanuary – DecemberOctober 15-31
Ursa Major [UR-sa MAY-jer], the Great BearMarch – MayMay 01-14
Vela [VEE-lah], the SailsNovember – MayMarch 01-14
Virgo [VER-go], the VirginApril – JulyMay 15-31
Volans [VOH-lanz], the Flying FishNovember – MayMarch 15-31
Vulpecula [vul-PECK-you-lah], the FoxAugust – OctoberSeptember 01-14

nothing more to see. please move along.

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