Once in a while, we can’t help but divert our attention to the marvel that is the night sky. Whether you are an avid and passionate lover of astronomy or just someone who can appreciate the beauty of the universe, you definitely know about constellations. Unique patterns lining up in the sky, constellations are as old as the first discoveries about the universe and they carry a lot of myths and stories with them. Here are The 10 Most Famous Constellations In History.
#1 Andromeda (The Princess)
Andromeda was one of the initial 40 constellations established in the second century and remains today one of the 88 modern ones. The legend behind it has its origins in Greek mythology, like most constellations.
The story refers to how Cassiopeia, Andromeda’s mother and queen of Ethiopia, brought the wrath of the sea monster Cetus upon her people by offending the water nymphs. In an attempt to save Ethiopia, Andromeda was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to Cetus but was then rescued by Perseus. The two of them married and founded Mycenae. She was turned into a constellation after her death by Athena, as a way to honor her.
#2 Orion (The Hunter)
Orion has been mentioned by plenty of historical personalities, such as Homer and Virgil, and its name can be found even in the Bible. It’s no wonder that it brought so much attention upon itself given its impressive scale and overall notability.
In Greek mythology, Orion was a powerful hunter who would often join Artemis on her explorations. There are several variations that invoke the reason for his death. Some say he accidentally found himself at the other end of Artemis’ bow while others claim he was stung by the giant scorpion that would later become the constellation Scorpius.
#3 Sagittarius (The Archer)
The constellation was first identified by the Babylonians, who associated the starry pattern with the god Nergal. His appearance was abnormal and contorted, composed of the lower body of a horse, wings, two heads (one human and one a panther), and a scorpion’s stinger. This depiction, which is very centaur-like, is very reminiscent of the way we picture the Sagittarius in modern times.
#4 Cassiopeia (The Queen)
Since we’re already familiar with the tale of Ethiopia and Andromeda’s fate, let us familiarize ourselves with the whereabouts of Cassiopeia. Boasting with her beauty (or Andromeda’s, depending on the version of the story), the queen managed to bring great offense to the sea nymphs. In contrast to her daughter, who ascended to the night skies with honor, Cassiopeia was banished among the stars as punishment.
#5 Cancer (The Crab)
The myth of the Cancer constellation originates in the legend of the Twelve Labors of Heracles, in which the latter fought against the Lernaean Hydra. One of the additions to the Twelve was the crab Karkanos, who was sent by Hera to distract Heracles. The attempt failed, concluding with Heracles kicking the crab so hard it was projected into the sky. Hera honored Karkanos by giving him a place among the stars.
#6 Taurus (The Bull)
One of the oldest, as well as one of the most famous constellations known, Taurus hides several versions of the story that try to explain how it came to be. Some myths say that it’s one of the many mistresses of Zeus, transformed into a bull in an attempt to hide his infidelity. Others say that it was Zeus himself who disguised as the animal. Of course, there’s also the association with the Twelve Labors of Heracles, which have been made to mirror the twelve zodiac signs.
#7 Aquarius (The Water Bearer)
Aquarius is a famed constellation, though its faintness makes it difficult to spot in the sky. Aquarius is meant to represent Ganymede, a young man blessed with stunningly good looks. He caught the eye of Zeus, who invited him to Mount Olympus to serve as a cupbearer for the gods. As a reward, Ganymede was granted eternal youth and spot among the stars.
#8 Gemini (The Twins)
The Gemini constellation is tied in with the myth of the twins Castor and Pollux. Although they shared the same mother, Leda, their fathers were different – the mortal king of Sparta for Castor and Zeus for Pollux. When Castor died, Pollux pleaded to Zeus to grant Castor immortality. His wish came true when Zeus granted them an eternal place in the night sky.
#9 Scorpius (The Scorpion)
The other side of Orion’s legend, the Scorpius constellation references the scorpion that defeated the hunter in battle after the latter had boasted he could kill any animal on Earth. The scorpion was honored by Zeus for its strength and raised to the night sky.
#10 Leo (The Lion)
The lion honored by this constellation is the same one that was part of Heracles’ Twelve Labors. Knowing the beast’s fur was impenetrable, Heracles managed to kill it by sneaking up on it and strangling it, though he lost a finger in the process.