The differences between asterisms and constellations

The differences between asterisms and constellations

Asterisms and constellations are both groups of stars in the sky recognized by astronomers and stargazers alike. However, there are a few key differences between the two that make them distinct from each other.

The differences between asterisms and constellations


An asterism refers to a grouping of stars that make up a recognizable pattern or shape. Examples of common asterisms include the Big Dipper, which is made up of seven stars in the constellation Ursa Major, and the Summer Triangle, which is formed by the stars Vega, Altair, and Deneb. Asterisms can be made up of stars from one or more constellations and may not necessarily be recognized by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).


A constellation, on the other hand, is an officially recognized grouping of stars that occupy a specific region of the sky. There are 88 constellations recognized by the IAU that cover the entire celestial sphere. Each constellation has a designated Latin name and is represented by a specific pattern of stars. Constellations are often named after mythological figures, animals, or objects, such as Orion the Hunter or Ursa Major the Great Bear.

Their Relationship:

While asterisms and constellations are different from each other, they are closely related. Many asterisms are made up of stars within a particular constellation, and some constellations contain multiple asterisms. For example, the Big Dipper is an asterism that is located within the Ursa Major constellation. So, while they may be distinct, they are not mutually exclusive.

In conclusion, asterisms and constellations are both important features of the night sky for astronomers and amateur stargazers alike. Asterisms are recognizable patterns of stars that can be made up of stars from one or more constellations, while constellations are officially recognized groupings of stars that occupy specific regions of the sky. Despite their differences, they are often closely related, and many asterisms are found within particular constellations.