Constellations

According to the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), constellation is a term that can also be written as constellation, although this second form is used infrequently. Coming from the Latin word constellatio, it is the group of stars that, through imaginary lines, give shape to a drawing that refers to a certain figure.

Constellations, therefore, are sets created by convention. The practice of grouping stars according to imaginary lines dates back to ancient times, when different peoples began to register virtual figures in the sky. The position of the constellations in the night sky is apparently invariable.

Given that we are facing very ancient discoveries and that there are no historical records on which to base their study, it is not easy to pin down exactly the origin of the first constellations drawn in the West. According to some research, Taurus, Scorpio and Leo (the bull, the scorpion and the lion, respectively) were “discovered” approximately four millennia before the Christian era, although they did not have the same names.

Despite what the observation of the constellations may mean today, it is estimated that the first human beings who were interested in the arrangement of the stars had more practical reasons, that is, they sought to rely on this plane of nature to better organize their tasks, their journeys and their rituals. Thanks to the creation of different constellations, for example, the people of ancient peoples could measure the passage of time and the arrival of the seasons more precisely.

The constellations also allowed ancient civilizations to orient themselves much better throughout their travels, both by sea and by land, since the figures that they warned when relating the stars to each other were added to the series of signs and landmarks that used to trace their routes.

The International Astronomical Union, the group that makes decisions related to the naming of planets and the establishment of astronomy standards, among other issues, recognizes 88 constellations, of which practically half were imagined by ancient Greek astronomers.

Chinese culture is the source of one of the largest and oldest constellation groups in the world. As with many of its elements, starting from the language itself, its constellations do not resemble those we learn to recognize in the West; In large part, the reason for this difference is due to the fact that these people developed their version of astronomy at the same time as the Greeks, in a totally independent and parallel way. Broadly speaking, we can say that the Chinese constellations are divided into 3 enclosures and 28 mansions.

It is important to note that the constellations are arbitrary : the stars do not have an association with each other and can even be located hundreds of light years away. It is a human construction and even the same star can belong to different constellations according to each culture.

One of the best known constellations is Orion, which has the asterism known as Orion Belt or The Three Marys. This set consists of three bright stars (Mintaka, Alnilam and Alnitak) that are easily visible.

The zodiacal signs proposed by astrology, on the other hand, are linked to constellations such as Aries, Pisces, Taurus and Leo. Astrologers maintain that these signs determine certain characteristics of the personality and govern in some way the destiny of people.

In colloquial language, a constellation is called a meeting or a group of prominent or famous figures. For example: “The mayor’s wedding was a constellation of celebrities”, “The constellation of stars of Real Madrid never worked as a team.

Constellations