constellatory /keuhn stel"euh tawr'ee, -tohr'ee/, adj.
/kon'steuh lay"sheuhn/, n.
1. Astron.
a. any of various groups of stars to which definite names have been given, as Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Boötes, Cancer, Orion.
b. the section of the heavens occupied by such a group.
2. Astrol.
a. the grouping or relative position of the stars as supposed to influence events, esp. at a person's birth.
b. Obs. character as presumed to be determined by the stars.
3. a group or configuration of ideas, feelings, characteristics, objects, etc., that are related in some way: a constellation of qualities that made her particularly suited to the job.
4. any brilliant, outstanding group or assemblage: a constellation of great scientists.
[1275-1325; ME constellacioun ( < AF) < LL constellation- (s. of constellatio). See CONSTELLATE, -ION]
Syn. 4. gathering, company, circle.

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Any of certain groupings of stars that were imagined by those who named them to form images of objects, mythological figures, or creatures in the sky.

They are useful in helping sky gazers and navigators locate certain stars. A constellation's stars are often designated by its name and letters of the Greek alphabet in order of brightness. Of 88 named constellations in Western astronomy, about half retain the names Ptolemy gave the 48 he identified in his Almagest. See also zodiac.

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  in astronomy, any of certain groupings of stars (star) that were imagined—at least by those who named them—to form conspicuous configurations of objects or creatures in the sky. Constellations are useful in tracking artificial satellites (satellite) and in assisting astronomers and navigators to locate certain stars.

      From the earliest times the star groups known as constellations, the smaller groups (parts of constellations) known as asterisms, and also individual stars have received names connoting some meteorological phenomena or symbolizing religious or mythological beliefs. At one time it was held that the constellation names and myths were of Greek origin; this view has now been disproved, and an examination of the Hellenic myths associated with the stars and star groups in the light of the records revealed by the deciphering of Euphratean cuneiforms (cuneiform) leads to the conclusion that in many, if not all, cases the Greek myth has a Euphratean parallel.

      The earliest Greek work that purported to treat the constellations as constellations, of which there is certain knowledge, is the Phainomena of Eudoxus of Cnidus (c. 395–337 BCE). The original is lost, but a versification by Aratus (c. 315–245 BCE), a poet at the court of Antigonus II Gonatas, king of Macedonia, is extant, as is a commentary by Hipparchus (mid-2nd century BCE).

      Three hundred years after Hipparchus, the Alexandrian astronomer Ptolemy (100–170 CE) adopted a very similar scheme in his Uranometria, which appears in the seventh and eighth books of his Almagest, the catalog being styled the “accepted version.” The names and orientation of the 48 constellations therein adopted are, with but few exceptions, identical with those used at the present time.

      The majority of the remaining 40 constellations that are now accepted were added by European astronomers in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 20th century the delineation of precise boundaries for all the 88 constellations was undertaken by a committee of the International Astronomical Union. By 1930 it was possible to assign any star to a constellation.

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Universalium. 2010.

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