Star Constellations

Star Constellations: An Illustrated Guide to the Stars

In this illustrated and comprehensive guide, we point our eyes skyward towards the celestial heavens to explore the star constellations in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Star constellations have served an important role throughout history and still do today. Join us as we examine everything there is to know about our constellations, the stars that form them, and plenty of other interesting facts.

A quick note about the images in this article. All images were captured using free open-source planetarium astronomy software known as StellariumAt the end of this article is a video from our YouTube Channel that will show you where you can get this free software, and how to get it installed on your own personal computer.

What Is A Star Constellation?

The formal definition of a constellation is a specific regions of the celestial sphere with official boundaries defined by the IAU (International Astronomical Union). It is important to differentiate between a constellation and an asterism since both terms are often used interchangeably.

An asterism is a group of stars that appears to form a pattern and is typically named after this pattern or picture: Leo (a lion), Cancer (a crab), Orion (a great hunter), and so on. While it is true that there are constellations that are based on these asterisms, not all constellations contain asterisms within them.

The Big Dipper, for example, is an asterism and Ursa Major is the constellation where the Big Dipper is located within. Constellations are actually much larger than the asterisms they contain, and since the ancient past, many people have used constellations as a location marker so they can orient themselves using the sky.

How Many Star Constellations Are There?

There are now 88 recognized constellations that are officially named by the IAU. 36 of them are located in the northern hemisphere, while the remaining 52 are located in the southern hemisphere.

Since our Earth is spinning on its axis, we can see different constellations as stars appear to move across the celestial sphere from east to west from our point of view. As the Earth makes its revolution around the sun, constellations move slowly over the course of a year. This is why as seasons change, we can see different constellations since we see different parts of the sky/celestial sphere every season.

The Northern-Southern Hemispheres

The celestial sphere is an imaginary sphere concentric with the Earth where the astronomical objects are considered to lie. All astronomical objects observed by a person (the observer) can be thought as projected upon the inside surface of the celestial sphere—just like the dome of a planetarium—.

The celestial sphere is divided into two by the line of the Earth’s equator: the northern and the southern hemispheres. The Earth’s poles are also extended into space (to where the celestial sphere is considered to be) to mark the south and north celestial poles.

The north celestial pole is marked by the famous star Polaris, which is actually a part of the Ursa Minor constellation. The south celestial pole, however, doesn’t have any star marking its exact location.

Why is understanding these two different hemispheres important? Because we can never see all 88 constellations from any single location. There are many constellations that belong to the southern hemisphere that can’t be observed from northern latitudes. On the other hand, the Ursa Minor constellation of the northern hemisphere cannot be observed from most locations south of the equator.

Due to the same reason, there are many constellations that are going to be visible at any time of the year: the northern and southern polar constellations. They are also called circumpolar constellations since they circle the respective pole—and so they never rise or set below the horizon—. In stargazing, we will often use these circumpolar constellations to find other constellations.

Northern Polar Constellations

Star Constellations - Northern Hemisphere

There are six polar constellations near the Polaris (the North Star):

  • Ursa Minor (the Little Bear)
  • Ursa Major (the Big Bear)
  • Cassiopeia (the Queen)
  • Draco (the Dragon)
  • Camelopard, or Camelopardalis (the Giraffe)
  • Cepheus (the King)

Out of these six, only Camelopardalis is not circumpolar. If you are stargazing in the northern hemisphere, you can always see the other five constellations any night of the year.

If you are stargazing from the North Pole, then these constellations would be spinning directly overhead in an anti-clockwise direction around the Polaris.

The closer you are to the North Pole, the higher they appeared to be positioned in the celestial sphere. The Polaris’s altitude above the horizon is actually always equal to the geographical latitude of your current location.

Southern Polar Constellations

Star Constellations - Southern Hemisphere

The southern hemisphere actually has many more circumpolar constellations than the northern counterpart, including:

  • Mensa
  • Musca
  • Norma
  • Octans
  • Pavo
  • Triangulum Australe
  • Tucana
  • Volans
  • Apus
  • Chamaeleon
  • Circinus
  • Dorado
  • Hydrus
  • Carina
  • Centaurus
  • Crux (the Southern Cross)

Crux, Carina, and Centaurus can be seen from most locations in the southern latitudes at any time of the year and are invisible in most locations in the northern hemisphere.

Crux is the smallest constellation in our celestial sphere but is relatively easy to identify because it contains the Southern Cross asterism. The Southern Cross is familiar to many cultures in the southern hemisphere and is featured in the national flags of Brazil, Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, and Samoa.

The Southern Cross, formed by five stars, is commonly used in navigation to find the true south. Acrux and Gacrux (also known as Alpha and Gamma Crucis) are included in the Southern Cross and are often used to navigate toward the southern celestial pole.

Why Are Star Constellations Important

Star constellations are important because astronomers and observers can recognize the position of a certain star in the night sky.

Constellations, throughout history, have been used to map out the night sky so we can recognize specific stars in the sky for navigation purposes. We can easily spot the Polaris and figure out our latitude by measuring the height of the Polaris to the horizon. Using this knowledge alone has helped countless ships traveled across the oceans.

They are also used to develop a calendar system and to track time, so ancient civilizations knew when they should plant their crops and when to expect the harvest.

Today, arguably constellations are less important than they were in ancient history and are only observed by stargazers by astronomers. Still, they are still useful so we can properly recognize stars in the sky and determining the position of the celestial sphere by looking for patterns of the constellations.

Northern Hemisphere Star Constellations

Any constellations found north of the celestial equator, in the northern celestial hemisphere can be called “northern constellations”. As we have mentioned, the northern star constellations will be our major focus of discussion here:

Officially, there are 36 named northern constellations, which are based on the Greek constellation cataloged by the ancient astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century, and so many of them are based on Greek myths (some of them were originated in the earlier history of the Babylonian times and even the Late Bronze Age).

There are two constellation families (groups of constellations in the same area) that can be found in the northern hemisphere: the Ursa Major family and the Perseus family.

Ursa Major Family

Star Constellations: Ursa Major

There are 10 constellations in the Ursa Major family, all of them lie in the northern hemisphere of the celestial sphere. They are:

  1. Ursa Major (The Great Bear)
  2. Ursa Minor (The Little Bear)
  3. Bootes (the Herdsman)
  4. Camelopardalis (the Giraffe)
  5. Corona Borealis (Northern Crown)
  6. Coma Berenices (Berenices’ Hair)
  7. Draco (Dragon)
  8. Leo Minor (the Smaller Lion)
  9. Lynx
  10. Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs)

Perseus Family 

Star Constellations - Perseus Family

All the constellations in the Perseus constellation family, with the exception of Cetus (the Whale), are Northern constellations, they are:

  • Andromeda (the Chained Maiden)
  • Auriga (the Charioteer)
  • Cassiopeia (the Queen)
  • Cepheus (the King)
  • Lacerta (the Lizard)
  • Pegasus (the Winged Horse)
  • Perseus Triangulum (the Triangle)

The largest constellations in the Northern Hemisphere are (from the largest to smallest): Ursa Major (1279.66 square degrees), Hercules (1225.15), Pegasus (1120.79), Draco (1082.95), Leo (946.96), Boötes (906.83) and Pisces (889.42).

On the other hand, the smallest constellations are (from the smallest to largest): Equuleus (71.64 square degrees), Sagitta (79.93), Triangulum (131.85), Corona Borealis (178.71), and Canis Minor (183.37).

For stargazing purpose, we can divide the northern celestial hemisphere into four groups based on the best seasons to view them: Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring

Summer Constellations

Summer constellations, as the name suggests, are constellations that are best observed from late June to late September in the Northern Hemisphere. The same constellations are best seen from late December to late March in locations south of the equator due to the Earth’s revolution. However, we will mainly focus on the northern constellations.

The Earth makes its annual orbit around the sun (the yearly revolution), which allows us to observe different constellations in the night sky. The summer in the northern hemisphere allows us to see some of the most popular constellations that all stargazers will welcome.

The most famous of the summer northern constellations is arguably the Summer Triangle, which contains three bright stars: Antlia in Aquila, Deneb in Cygnus, and Vega in Lyra. In general, there are four major constellations to observe in this category.

Cygnus Constellation

Star Constellations: Cygnus

The name Cygnus translates into “swan” in Greek, which obviously originates from the asterism located in the constellation, which looks like a swan.

We can quite easily spot Cygnus since it features one of the most famous asterisms, the Northern Cross. The asterism is formed by five bright stars Deneb, Rukh, Sadr, Albireo, and Gienah. Observing the center of the Northern Cross is often the best way to judge whether the level of light pollution from your location is sufficient enough for stargazing.

The Best Time To Observe Cygnus

Those living in the northern hemisphere can observe Cygnus around June and July around 10 PM if you look to the northeastern sky. It is typically located directly overhead around 2 am and until dawn. You can still observe Cygnus in the winter, in December and January, but the constellation will only be visible for a short time from 6 PM and will gradually disappear even before 10 PM.

If you are located in mid-northern latitudes, Cygnus is located very high in the summer night sky, so it is very easy to spot since it should be much higher than any possible obstructions.

Main Stars in Cygnus Constellation

Deneb 

Deneb is the brightest star within Cygnus, and that’s why it got the name “Alpha Cygni” or literally Cygnus’s alpha. With the magnitude of 1.25, it is one of the brightest stars in the universe (the lower the magnitude, the brighter a star is with “1” being the brightest magnitude).

Deneb, a bluish-white supergiant is located around 2,500 light-years away from our Earth. To put things into context, Deneb is roughly 200 times larger than our sun and 200,000 times much brighter. Deneb is also one of the stars forming the Summer Triangle (more about it below).

Also worth noting, you can find the deep-space object Pelican Nebula (IC 5070) and North America Nebula (NGC 7000) just to the northeast of Deneb.

Rukh 

Also known as Delta Cygni, Rukh is actually a triple star system of yellow-white and orange main-sequence stars together with a bluish-white giant. Rukh, however, appears as a single star when observed from Earth. Located around 170 light-years away from Earth.

Sadr 

Or, Gamma Cygni. Sadr is the second brightest star within Cygnus with a magnitude of 2.23. It is located 1,500 to 2,000 light-years away from Earth. Sadr is around 150 times bigger than the sun, a very bright yellow-white supergiant.

You can find the Messier 29 (M29) – NGC 6913 deep space object roughly 1.7 degrees to the south and east of Sadr/Gamma Cygni, and the IC 1318 emission nebula right around the star, which includes the Butterfly Nebula.

Gienah 

Gienah or Epsilon Cygni is an orange giant star around 170 light-years away from Earth, around two times heavier than the sun and 11 times larger.

Albireo 

Known as Beta Cygni, Albireo is located around 430  light-years from Earth and is a binary star system. The larger of the two stars is an orange giant that is roughly 70 times bigger than the sun.

Sagittarius Constellation

Star Constellations: Sagittarius

Sagittarius is obviously famous because it is one of the constellations of the zodiac representing the centaur archer. Sagittarius is actually a southern constellation and in fact one of the largest southern constellations.

Sagittarius is famous due to the many bright Messier objects within it, and in the northern hemisphere especially signifies the return of summer.

The Best Time To Observe Sagittarius

The best time to observe Sagittarius is from June through August, and especially in August around 9 PM. By September, Sagittarius begins to set at around sunset, and the easiest way to locate it is to locate the Milky Way and then observe southward.

Since it’s a southern constellation, it sits rather low in the sky if you observe it from the northern latitudes, so it may be blocked by trees and other obstructions. You may need to move to a location with a low view of the southern horizon for more proper observation.

Main Stars in The Sagittarius Constellation

Arkab 

Also known as Arkab Prior or Beta Sagittarii, Arkab is a binary star system that is located around 378 light-years away from Earth.

Rukbat

Known as Alpha Sagittarii, a blue main-sequence star that is twice hotter than our sun. Located around 180 light-years away from Earth.

Ascella

Or, Zeta Sagittarii, a two-star (binary) star system, both are white giants orbiting around each other every 21 years. Around 90 light-years away from the Earth.

Nunki

Also called Sigma Sagittarii, it has a magnitude of 2.1 and is the second brightest star in the constellation. A whopping 3,300 times brighter than our sun, and is located 228 light-years away from the Earth.

Kaus Australis 

Or, Epsilon Sagittarii, the brightest star in this constellation with a 1.79 magnitude, so 375 times brighter than our sun, and is actually the 36th brightest sky in the sky. 143 light-years away from the Earth, and is the base of the centaur archer’s bow.

Kaus Media 

Also called Delta Sagittarii, the third brightest star within the constellation with a 2.72 magnitude. 306 light-years away from Earth.

Kaus Borealis

Kaus Borealis, or Lambda Sagittarii is an orange sub-giant around 80 light-years away from the Earth, around 11 times larger than the sun.

Nash 

Gamma Sagittarii, an orange giant located around 100 light-years away from te Earth and 12 times larger than the sun.

The Summer Triangle

Star Constellations: Summer Triangle

The summer triangle is technically not a constellation but is still an interesting object to observe during the summer. It is one of the most familiar patterns during the summer in the northern hemisphere and consists of the three bright stars: Vega, Deneb, and Altair. The three stars are the brightest stars in the constellations Lyra, Cygnus, and Aquila.

The Best Time To Observe The Summer Triangle

The best time to observe The Summer Triangle in the northern hemisphere is around June, just as the night sets in. You can observe the eastern sky, and you’ll likely notice Vega, the brightest star in the triangle. The Summer Triangle is very noticeable in the summer sky.

In late fall and winter, you can still find these three bright stars high into the western sky, and you can observe Altair (the southernmost star) setting by about 10:00 PM.

Main Stars in The Summer Triangle

Vega

Vega is the brightest star in the Lyra constellation, located around 25 light-years away from Earth. It has a visual magnitude of 0.03, making it the second brightest star in the northern hemisphere.

Deneb 

We have discussed Deneb when we discussed the Cygnus constellation above, so refer back to the Cygnus section for more information.

Deneb is the brightest star in the Cygnus constellation with 1.25 visual magnitude.

Altair 

Altair is the brightest star in the Aquila constellation and is the southernmost star in the triangle. 0.77 visual magnitude and is located around 1,500 light-years away from Earth.

Fall/Autumn Star Constellations

Fall constellations are constellations that are best observed from late September to late December in the northern hemisphere and from late March to late June if you are located in the southern latitudes.

The autumn sky is mainly dominated by the square of Pegasus and its smaller neighbor Andromeda.

Pegasus Constellation

Star Constellations: Pegasus

Pegasus is a northern constellation, and is one of the largest constellations in the sky. Only Ursa Major and Hercules are larger than Pegasus in the northern hemisphere.

The constellation is known for the asterism Great Square of Pegasus, and a number of bright stars and deep space objects including the Einstein Cross.

The Best Time To Observe Pegasus

Pegasus is best observed in October at around 9 PM. It is typically visible between 90 and -60 degrees latitudes. Try a right ascension of roughly 22 hours with 20 degrees declination.

Main Stars in The Pegasus Constellation

Pegasus, as mentioned, is mainly noticeable by the four stars that create a large square shape, the Great Square of Pegasus, consisting of Alpheratz (actually a part of Andromeda) in the northwest corner of the square, Scheat in the northeast, Markab in the southeast, and Algenib in the southwest.

Alpheratz

Alpheratz is actually a part of the Andromeda constellation, but it also formed the Great Square of Pegasus asterism, so it’s often considered as a connecting star. It is the brightest star in Andromeda (and also actually the brightest in Pegasus). We will again discuss Alpheratz in the Andromeda section further below. 

Scheat

 Scheat, or Beta Pegasi is the second brightest star in Pegasus, an orange supergiant that is 196light-years away from the Earth with a 2.42 magnitude. Around twice as heavy as the sun.

As mentioned, you can find Stephan’s Quintet just north-west of the Great Square of Pegasus. Stephan’s Quintet is the deep-space object that is located around 270 million light-years away from earth and is a group of five galaxies: NGC7317, 7318A, 7318B, 7319 and 7320.

Matar 

Also known as Eta Pegasi, a two-star system located roughly around 170 light-years from earth and is around 250 times more luminous than the sun.

Algenib 

Near the Great Sky of Pegasus is the deep space object M15 globular cluster. Choose the brightest and southwesternmost star (the alpha), and then you can try to find the small kite shape of the Delphinus constellation. You can find the Epsilon Peg (Enif) right halfway between the two, slightly south.

Markab 

Or, Alpha Pegasi, a blue giant that is the third brightest star in the constellation with a 2.48 magnitude, nearly five times larger than the sun and is 205 times brighter.

Homam 

Also known as Zeta Pegasi, a blue main-sequence star located around 200 light-years from Earth. 

Enif 

Enif or Epsilon Pegasi is the brightest star in Pegasus, an orange-bright supergiant with a visual magnitude of 2.399. 12 times heavier than our sun and 185 times larger.

Andromeda Constellation

Star Constellations: Andromeda

Andromeda is located just between the Great Square of Pegasus (discussed above) and the W asterism of Cassiopeia constellation. Andromeda contains the famous deep-space object Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) and Le Gentil (Messier 32), the dwarf elliptical galaxies among many other interesting objects.

Andromeda is the 19th largest constellation in the sky.

The Best Time To Observe Andromeda

The most interesting object in the Andromeda constellation is undoubtedly the M31 Andromeda Galaxy, and the best time to observe both Andromeda constellation and Andromeda Galaxy is between September and November.

We can see the constellation (and galaxy) rising in the east around mid-evening from the northern hemisphere. In early October, we can observe Andromeda high over the southern horizon around midnight.

You can try to identify the Big Dipper first before attempting to locate Andromeda. Try observing toward the north-west around 8 or 9 pm in September or earlier just before dawn in the north-east in October and November. We can then use the Dipper stars to locate Polaris, and in turn, we can locate Cassiopeia next to Andromeda.

Main Stars of Andromeda Constellation

Almach

Gamma Andromedae, a triple star system located around 350 light-years away from Earth. The main star is an orange giant roughly 80 times larger than our sun.

Mirach 

Beta Andromedae, a red giant roughly 200 light-years away from earth, 4 times greater than our sun and 100 times larger in size. Mirach can be the brightest star in Andromeda, but its variable so is not officially considered as the brightest star in the constellation.

We can use Mirach to find two bright galaxies, the famous M31 Andromeda Galaxy and the Triangulum Galaxy (Messier 33). The Andromeda Galaxy is 8 degrees northwest of Mirach, and the Triangulum can be found around 7 degrees southwest of Mirach.

Also, a dwarf lenticular galaxy NGC 404—-Mirach’s Ghost— can be found in the same field of view as the star. It is only 7 arcminutes away from Mirach, however, and so is very difficult to observe since it’s often engulfed by the star’s light.

Alpheratz

We have briefly discussed Alpheratz in the Pegasus section above. Alpheratz is officially called Alpha Andromedae, and is officially the brightest star in Andromeda with 2.07 visual magnitude. A two-star system and the main star is a blue star 3 times greater than our sun. As mentioned, often considered as a part of Pegasus.

The M31 Andromeda Galaxy

Not technically a star, but it deserved a special mention since it is undoubtedly the most interesting object in the constellation. Brighter than most stars in the night sky despite being 2.5 million light-years from earth

Winter Constellations

Winter constellations refer to constellations that are best observed in the night sky from around late December to Late March in the northern hemisphere and from late June to late September if you are located in the southern latitudes.

There are seven major constellations that are often associated with the winter months: Orion, Canis Major, Taurus, Perseus, Eridanus, Gemini, and Cetus, and we will mainly focus on Orion and Gemini.

Orion Constellation

Star Constellations: Orion

Orion is undoubtedly the most prominent constellation associated with the winter night sky. Orion—the Great Hunter—-, is the most recognizable constellation during the winter with its three bright stars: Alnitak, Mintaka, and Alnilam, the three forming a belt-like pattern known as the Orion’s Belt.

Orion is also famous because it contains two of the ten brightest stars in the celestial sphere: Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis) and Rigel (Beta Orionis) and also a number of famous nebulae especially the Orion Nebulae (Messier 42).

The Best Time to Observe Orion

Orion is best observed during January at around 9 PM, but you can almost always observe Orion between October and March in the Northern Hemisphere. Orion is located in the southwestern skies if you are in the northern hemisphere.

Orion is best seen between latitudes -75 and 85 degrees with a right ascension of 5 hours and 5 degrees declination. When Orion reaches its highest point for the night, it should appear upside down.

Main Stars in the Orion Constellation

Rigel

 Or, Beta Orionis. Rigel is the brightest star in Orion with apparent magnitude of 0.13, around 40,000 times brighter than the sun. A blue supergiant roughly 75-times larger than the sun. Rigel is the sixth brightest star in the sky.

Rigel is associated with several nearby deep-space objects, the most notable one is IC 2118, the Witch Head Nebula, located around 2.5 degrees to the northwest of Rigel in the Eridanus constellation.

Betelgeuse

 Betelgeuse, Alpha Orionis, is the second brightest star in Orion and the eighth brightest star in the whole sky. A red supergiant that is located around 643 light-years away from Earth.

Betelgeuse is located near several notable deep sky objects: the Rosette Nebula can be found between Betelgeuse and Procyon in Canis Minor. You can also find the Cone Nebula and Dreyer’s Nebula in the same area.

Around two-thirds of the way from Betelgeuse to Meissa, you can find the planetary nebula NGC 2022.

Bellatrix 

Orion’s third brightest star, also known as Gamma Orionis. 250 light-years away from earth, 6 times larger than our sun and 8 times heavier.

Saiph

Saiph is a blue supergiant that is 16 times heavier than our Sun and 22 times larger in diameter, located around 650 light-years from Earth.

Located just under the Orion’s Belt, you can find Orion Nebula and De Mairan’s Nebula nearby. They appear as the middle star of Orion’s Sword, forming a triangle with Saiph and Rigel. Looping around the Belt stars in the direction of Saiph is the Barnard’s Loop (Sharpless 276 emission nebula).

Meissa

 A two-star system with two blue giant stars, one of them is 5 times hotter than our sun, and the other is similar in size and mass to our sun.

Alnitak 

A triple star system, 736 light-years from Earth, also known as Zeta Orionis.

Mintaka 

A pair of blue giant stars, also known as Delta Orionis. Both of its stars are 100,000 times more luminous than our sun.

Gemini Constellation

Star Constellations: Gemini

Gemini, as we know, is a zodiac constellation. It is found just to the northwest of Orion with Taurus located to its northeast.

Although Gemini is positioned in the northern hemisphere, the zodiac constellation lies along the ecliptic so observers in much of the southern hemisphere can also observe it just as well.

The Best Time to Observe Gemini

Gemini is the most northern of all zodiac constellations and is easily seen overhead during the winter months in the northern hemisphere. It is best seen during the month of February between 90 and -60 degrees, with the right ascension of 7 hours and declination of 20 degrees.

Gemini is fairly easy to spot in the sky just to the northeast of Orion, between Taurus and Cancer. By April and May, you can see Gemini soon after sunset in the west.

Main Stars in the Gemini Constellation

Pollux

 Or, Beta Geminorum. Gemini’s brightest start with apparent magnitude of 1.14. 10 times bigger than our sun, twice heavier, located around 34 light-years away.

Castor

 The second brightest star in Gemini also named Alpha Geminorum. A multiple star system around 51 light-years away with combined apparent magnitude of 1.58.

Propus 

A three-star system 350 light-years away from Earth, also known as Eta Geminorum

Between Propus and the Tejat Posterior, we can find the Jellyfish Nebula (IC 443, Sharpless 248), a supernova remnant.

Mekbuda

 A supergiant star that is as hot as the sun, around 65 times larger than the sun and eight times heavier, also known as Zeta Geminorum.

Wasat 

Or, Delta Geminorum, a three-star system around 60 light-years from earth. Near Wasat we can find the deep-space object Eskimo Nebula, halfway between Kappa and Lambda Geminorum.

Spring Constellations

Spring constellations are the most noticeable constellations from late March to late June in the northern hemisphere.

There are six major constellations that are associated with springtime:  Leo, Cancer, Virgo, Boötes, Ursa Major, and Hydra. We will mainly discuss Leo, Virgo, and Bootes.

Leo Constellation

Star Constellations: Leo

Leo is one of the Zodiac constellations, located just between Cancer on its west and Virgo to the east in the sky.

Leo is the home of Regulus and Denebola, two bright stars and a number of famous deep-sky objects including Messier 65, Messier 66, Messier 95, Messier 96, and NGC 3628.

The Best Time To Observe Leo

Leo is best seen in April, around 9 PM with the right ascension of 11 hours and declination of 15 degrees. A highly recognizable constellation because the Dipper stars of the Big Dipper point to Leo.

You can quite easily identify Leo between March and May by following the pointer stars of the Big Dipper and look between Cancer to the west and Virgo to the east.

Main stars of the Leo Constellation

Regulus 

Also known as Alpha Leonis, Regulus is the brightest star in Leo with an apparent magnitude of 1.4. A four-star system around 80 light-years away from earth, Regulus A is the brightest of four, along with three dimmer stars. Regulus A is around 4 times larger and heavier than the sun.

We can use Regulus to find several deep-space objects. Between Regulus and Denebola (Beta Leonis), we can find Messier 96, Messier 95, and Messier 105 (known as Messier 96 Group or Leo 1). We can also find the Leo Triplet, consisting of Messier 65, Messier 66 and NGC 3628.

Denebola 

Beta Leonis, a bright white main sequence star around 36 light-years away from earth.

Chort 

Theta Leonis, a white main-sequence star, 165 light-years away from Earth.

Algieba

Or, Gamma Leonis, Algieba is a two-star system around 130 light-years from Earth, a two-star system with two giant binary stars.

Adhafera

Also known as Zeta Leonis, Adhafera is a white-yellow giant star around 270 light-years from Earth.

Virgo Constellation

Star Constellations: Virgo

Virgo is another zodiac constellation, contains the point at which the ecliptic crosses the celestial equator, known as the point of the Autumnal Equinox, which is close to the star Beta Virginis. This is one of the two points in the sky (the other being in the constellation Pisces) where the celestial equator intersects with the ecliptic.

Virgo is the second-largest constellation in the sky, only second to Hydra.

The Best Time to Observe Virgo

Virgo is best-seen during May at 9 PM. Virgo’s brightest star, Spica, is fairly easy to locate. You can use the Big Dipper as a guide. Follow the curve to the southeast until you can point Arcturus of the Boötes, and continue the arc to find the next bright star, which is Spica.

Right ascension is 13 hours with 0 degrees of declination.

Main Star of Virgo

Spica 

Spica, or Alpha Virginis is the brightest star in Virgo with an apparent magnitude of 0.97. A two-star system around 260 light-years of earth. The primary star is 10 times heavier than the sun.

The Sombrero Galaxy is located in Virgo, and we can find it 11.5 degrees to the west of Spica, 5.5 degrees northeast of Eta Corvi in Corvus constellation, just near the border between Virgo and Corvus.

Zavijah

Or,  Beta Virginis. Zavijah is a yellow-white main sequence star around 35 light-years from Earth, almost 70% larger in radius than the sun.

Zaniah

Also known as Eta Virginis, Zaniah is a three-star system around 265 light-years away from Earth.

Auva

Also known as Delta Virginis, Auva is a red giant around 200 light-years from Earth. 50 times larger than the sun in diameter.

Just above the line between Auva to Zavijava is Messier 61, which can be seen 8 degrees to the northwest of Porrima, Gamma Virginis.

Porrima

Also known as Gamma Virginis.Located 38 light-years away, has an apparent magnitude of 2.74. Virgo’s second brightest star.

Vindemiatrix

Or, Epsilon Virginis, is Virgo’s third brightest star, 102 light-years away from our solar system with a visual magnitude of 2.826.

Boötes Constellation

Star Constellations: Bootes

Boötes is a popular constellation in pop culture and astronomy due to its Kite asterism, which is one of the most well-known shapes in the sky.

Boötes also contains Arcturus, the third brightest star in the entire celestial sphere, and also home to five stars with confirmed planets.

The Best Time To Observe Boötes

Boötes is best observed during June around 9 PM, between 90 and -50 degrees latitudes.

Since Boötes contains many very bright stars and binary stars, Boötes is fairly easy to spot by following the handle of the Big Dipper just to the south.

Main Star in the Boötes Constellation

Arcturus 

Also known as Alpha Boötis, located about 37 light-years away, and the third brightest star of the entire sky with the apparent magnitude of -0.04. 25 times bigger than the Sun, 1.5 times heavier, and at least 110 times brighter.

Izar

Or, Epsilon Boötis, the second brightest star in the constellation, 300 light-years away from our solar system and a visual magnitude of 2.37.

Muphriid

Eta Boötis, the third brightest star in the constellation with a visual magnitude of 2.68, 27 light-years away from the sun.

Nekkar

Beta Boötis, located about 220 light-years away from Earth. 21 times bigger than the sun, around 170-195 times as luminous.

Seginus

Gamma Boötis,  classified as a Delta Scuti variable star with an A7III classification, located about 85 light-years away. Near Seginus are two spiral galaxies, NGC 5698 and PGC 51713.

Getting Started with Stellarium Video

As promised, below is our getting started with Stellarium video.

Star Constellations: Some Parting Words…

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the star constellations. Unlocking the mysterious of the cosmos is an amazing past-time and hobby.

Of course, if you’re looking to view the celestial bodies discussed in the article as close-up and as detailed as possible, then equipping yourself with a good set of astronomy binoculars, or a small backyard telescope, is the best way to go.

We’ve done some comprehensive reviews on the site that will, not only educate you on astro-gear, but also recommend some top performers in various price categories.

Feel free to check out these articles below: