I have very fond memories as a kid lying on my back with my arms behind my head gazing up at the heavens to see how many constellations I could pick out in the night sky or how many I could make up all by myself.
Stars have fascinated people since the dawn of time and our minds have this peculiar ability to connect the dots, which we do with the stars; connecting them into various different shapes and objects. Rich in history, constellations have been created by ancient and modern cultures alike based on the stories and legends of their people.
Depending on your location and the season, different constellations can be seen in different locations throughout the world. During the summer months in the northern hemisphere you can find a few of my favorite constellations, such as:
Ursa Major a.k.a. “The Big Dipper”
Contrary to popular belief, the Big Dipper is not actually a constellation itself, but is part of Ursa Major, which is based on the Greek myth of Hera, Zeus’s wife, and her jealousy over his affections for the young nymph Callisto. Hera turned her into a bear; the Latin meaning for this constellation is “larger bear.” The Big Dipper is the most universally recognized star pattern and is always visible in the northern hemisphere.
Best viewed in: April
Ursa Minor a.k.a. “The Little Dipper”
Ursa Minor is famous for containing Polaris, the North Star. This constellation also has its roots in Greek mythology as a continuation of the myth based on Ursa Major. The story goes that after Hera turned Callisto into a bear, Callisto came across her son, Arcas. Being a hunter, Arcas was inclined to shoot the bear, but Zeus wouldn’t allow it, so he turned Arcas into a bear as well. His story is represented in Ursa Minor, known in the Latin tongue as “smaller bear.”
Best viewed in: June
Aquarius is one of the biggest, most famous, and oldest constellations in the sky, but is faint and often difficult to find. In Greek mythology, Aquarius represents Ganymede, a very handsome young man that caught the eye of Zeus. Zeus invited Ganymede to Mt. Olympus to be the cupbearer of the gods and, in exchange, was granted eternal youth and a place in the night sky.
Best viewed in: October
Latin for “scorpion,” this constellation is based on a variety of myths, most of which involve Orion the hunter. Orion boasted that he could kill all the animals on the earth, and one fateful day came upon a scorpion. After a long and fierce battle, Orion was defeated, but the battle was so great that it caught the eye of Zeus and he raised the scorpion to the night sky for all eternity.
Best viewed in: July
Take some time to stare into the heavens at night and see if you can find some of these constellations and many others. Maybe you could even create your own constellation – it’s all about connecting the dots.