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How many constellations are there?

I spent the first evening of the New Year watching a beautiful sunset with friends and the rest of the night staring at the stars. We saw an incredible blazing green falling star which lasted for a couple seconds (it seemed like minutes in the moment), and we pointed out the different constellations we knew and watched more stars appear and the world turned.


Imagine my surprise upon Googling the number of constellation to find there are only 88! I figured this would be one of those questions that talks about the number of stars in the sky and the ones we can and cannot see... but it wasn't! It was straight up astronomers officially recognize 88 constellations!


At the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) first meeting in 1922 they officially adopted the list of 88 constellations that we use today. In 1930 definitive boundaries between constellations, which extend out beyond the star figures, were set. Every star, nebula, or galaxy, no matter how faint, now lies within the limits of one constellation... well it's boundary. Which means constellations now refer to precisely defined areas of the sky, not so much a single pattern of stars.


Currently, 14 people, 9 birds, two insects, 19 land animals, 10 water creatures, two centaurs, one head of hair, a serpent, a dragon, a flying horse, a river and 29 inanimate objects are represented in the night sky (the total comes to more than 88 because some constellations include more than one creature.)


My favorite is probably an oldie but a goodie, Orion. What about you?







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