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This article is about the star grouping. For other uses, see Constellation (disambiguation). | | | | * Top: Baroque drawing of the constellation Orionfrom Johannes Hevelius' celestial catalogue * Bottom: Contemporary map of Orion from the IAUand photography of the night sky |
In everyday usage, a constellation is a traditional or recognizable group of stars in the night sky, or the region of the sky containing them. In technical usage these meanings have been separated, with groupings of stars being called asterisms, and the word constellation being reserved for a specific area of the celestial sphere with boundaries
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A more modern astronomical sense of the term is as a recognisable pattern of stars whose appearance is identified with mythological characters or creatures, or associated earthbound animals or objects.[citation needed]
Colloquial usage does not draw a sharp distinction between "constellation" in the sense of an asterism (pattern of stars) and "constellation" in the sense of an area surrounding an asterism.[citation needed] The modern system of constellations used in astronomy employs the latter concept. For example, the northern asterism known as the Big Dippercomprises the seven brightest stars in the IAU constellation (area) Ursa Major while the southern False Cross includes portions of the constellations Carina and Vela.
The term circumpolar constellation is used for any constellation that, from a particular latitude on Earth, never sets below the horizon. From the North Pole or South Pole, all constellations north or south of the celestial equator are circumpolar constellations. In the equatorial or temperate latitudes, the informal term equatorial constellation has sometimes been used for constellations that lie to the
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