The science behind how constellations are named

The science behind how constellations are named

The Science Behind How Constellations Are Named


The night sky has fascinated humans for centuries, sparking curiosity and imagination. One of the most iconic features of the night sky is the arrangement of stars known as constellations. These groups of stars have been named and identified by ancient civilizations and continue to fascinate astronomers today. In this article, we will explore the history and science behind how constellations are named.

Ancient Naming Systems

The naming of constellations can be traced back to ancient civilizations, such as the Greeks and the Babylonians. These civilizations identified groups of stars and gave them names based on familiar objects or mythological figures. For example, the constellation Orion is named after the Greek mythological hunter of the same name. Another familiar example is Ursa Major, which means "Big Bear" in Latin.

International Astronomical Union

As astronomy evolved and became more scientifically rigorous, astronomers sought to standardize the naming of constellations. In 1922, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) was established as the official organization responsible for naming celestial objects. The IAU has created a modern system for official constellation names, which includes 88 recognized constellations.

The Naming Process

When new constellations are discovered, they must be officially named by the IAU. The process begins with proposals from astronomers or members of the public, which are then vetted by an expert committee. The proposed name must meet certain criteria, such as being unique and not offensive.


Naming constellations is an important part of our human connection to the night sky. From ancient mythologies to modern scientific standards, the process of naming these groups of stars has evolved over time. Through the work of organizations like the International Astronomical Union, we continue to expand our knowledge and understanding of the vastness of the universe.