Dark sky tourism is on the rise. As light pollution obscures most of the world, it becomes more difficult to see the night sky in its truest form. People are traveling to the darkest corners of the world to catch a glimpse of the sky full of stars.
If you’re interested in stargazing, there are a handful of constellations you should keep an eye out for. While some of them are only visible during a certain time of the year, there are some constellations that you can see year-round. This guide will go over five of those constellations.
Go ahead, grab your binoculars, and let’s get started.
1. The Little Dipper / Ursa Minor
Okay, yes, technically, the Little Dipper (and the Big Dipper) aren’t constellations. They are parts of a constellation called asterisms. The Little Dipper is part of the Ursa Minor constellation, also known as the Little Bear.
When there is a pattern of stars that have similar luminance, they’re known as asterisms. These types of stars might be part of a bigger constellation. They could also be created from separate constellations.
Ursa Minor was created by the Greek philosopher and astronomer Thales of Miletus around 600 BC. He was believed to be descended from a Phoenician family, and Phoenicians used Ursa Minor frequently in navigation because the constellation was an excellent guide to true north.
If you want to find the Little Dipper, you’ll need to look for its older sibling. On June evenings, you can see the Big Dipper high in the north. You’ll notice the bowl and handle shape.
Look at the outer two stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper; those stars are sometimes called The Pointers because they point to the North Star. That star is also known as Polaris, and it is the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper.
2. The Big Dipper / Ursa Major
One of the most recognizable patterns to recognize is The Big Dipper. Look out on a clear night in the Northern Hemisphere and look for a kitchen ladle, that’s the Big Dipper.
From the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere, both the Big and Little Dippers are in the sky continuously.
This is also a bit of a cheat because, just like the Little Dipper, the Big Dipper isn’t a constellation on its own. It’s part of Ursa Major. However, since it is so identifiable, it is an excellent starting point for any beginner stargazer.
You can easily find it during the summer months in the northernmost part of the sky.
The Big Dipper can be found in myths, folklore, and depictions all over the globe.
One of the easiest constellations to find in the winter and spring sky is Orion, also known as the great hunter. He is visible in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. He might seem to be standing on his head if you’re looking at him from ‘down under’.
To find Orion, you’ll need to go outside in the evening and look in the southwest sky if you’re in the northern hemisphere or the northwestern sky if you’re in the southern hemisphere. If you live near the equator, you’ll see Orion in the western sky.
Look for three bright stars close together in a straight line. These stars are Orion’s belt. The two bright stars to the north are his shoulders, and the two to the south are his feet.
Orion has been known since ancient times. This constellation is associated with Greek mythology and represents the mythical hunter Orion who is often depicted in the star maps as facing the bull or chasing the hare.
Once you’ve got yourself oriented with the location of Orion, it’ll be a lot easier to find the following constellation: Taurus. Use the three famous Belt stars to find Taurus’ most prominent signposts: the V-shaped Hyades star cluster with the bright star Aldebaran in its midst and the Pleiades star cluster.
That may sound confusing, but essentially you’ll see that Orion’s Belt points to Aldebaran and the Pleiades.
People tend to see the constellation Gemini as two bright stars, Castor and Pollux. These two stars, however, aren’t really twins. Pollux is brighter and more golden, while Castor is fainter and white.
Regardless, both of these stars are bright, and they’re easy to spot because they are close together.
Although visible year-round, you can observe these stars best from January to March. This is when Gemini is well up in the East at nightfall.
While seeing any of these beautiful constellations is a treat on its own, you can step it up a notch by purchasing the right refracting telescope, reflecting telescope, or binoculars. This is particularly important if you’re looking to get serious about your stargazing.
Constellations You Can See Year Round
Wanting to know more about what exists beyond our planet is natural. There are plenty of resources for you to check out if you’re interested in exploring astronomy.
If you ever looked at the night sky, you’ve probably seen some constellations. While many of them are only visible at certain times of the year, some are visible year-round. Grab some friends, your favorite telescope, and enjoy gazing at the stars.
Looking for the best telescope for beginners? You’ll find plenty of astronomy tips and gear recommendations on our website!