Drawing Stars

If not for the writings of a single Greek astronomer, many of the modern-day constellations might not exist. But about 1900 years ago, Ptolemy compiled a famous text known as the Almagest. Its pages included details on more than a thousand stars. And the stars were all listed by their constellation — 48 constellations in total, all created long before the time of Ptolemy himself.

The list includes the 12 constellations of the zodiac, as well as most of the other well-known constellations of today. Most of them were first drawn thousands of years earlier, although their exact origins are unknown.

The signs of the zodiac probably were codified in ancient Mesopotamia, as far back as 5,000 years ago. Some of the other well-known star patterns may have come from sea-faring cultures of the Mediterranean.

All of these constellations were adopted by the Greeks. They tweaked some of the pictures, and wrote down the myths associated with each one. Some of the myths came from the original cultures, but others were created by the Greeks themselves. And the Greeks may even have drawn some original constellations.

That list includes Andromeda, the princess, which is in the east and northeast at nightfall. It’s pretty faint, so you need dark skies to see it.

Andromeda is associated with several other constellations that share a common story — a tale of tragedy, heroism, and betrayal that’s told in the stars. More about Andromeda tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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