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This is a picture of what ancient people thought the constellation Leo looked like.
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Image: (c)1995 Visual Language, All Rights Reserved

Constellations

Constellations are formed of bright stars which appear close to each other on the sky, but are really far apart in space. The shapes you see all depend on your point of view. Many societies saw patterns among the stars with gods and goddesses or stories from their culture.

Most of the constellations with which we are familiar come from ancient Greece. But other civilizations created their own patterns in the sky based on stories and people that were important to them.

Many peoples noticed that the planets, the moon, and comets moved through the sky in a different way than the stars.

Because of the rotation of the Earth and its orbit around the Sun, we divide the constellations into two groups. Some constellations never rise nor set, and they are called circumpolar. All the rest are divided into seasonal constellations. Which constellations will be circumpolar and which seasonal depends on your latitude.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF