Created By: MorningStar1337 on December 24, 2012 Last Edited By: MorningStar1337 on January 6, 2013
Troped

Constellations

Grouping of stars used to make a picture.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
The constellations and the stars within are seen every night. Astrologists tend to add significance to these constellations and asterisms. Therefore they can make an excellent Motif. And as such a writer may use them in fiction.

There are several variations but the most notable and widespread are the ones from Claudius Ptolemy and The IAU. Consisting of 88 modern ones, and 52 obsolete ones. These constellation tend to take their names from Greek Mythology, or have Greek names but there are some exceptions. the Western Zodiac is also from this format.

A different set of constellations are from China using the same stars but in different Asterisms The Four Gods are the equivalents of the zodiac there[[note]]Not that China doesn't have it's own Zodiac but that's more attuned to years rather than the elliptic.[[/note]]. The Hindus and Australians have their own variants as well.

Asterisms are a similar concept, but they are not seen as official constellations. They can be seen as sub-constellations. Common ones include The Big Dipper, Orion's belt and the Summer Triangle. Some of those Asterisms like the latter have stars from multiple constellations. The same is true for most obsolete constellations[[note]] The most notable of which are Ptolemy's Argo Navis which was split for being too big. It's parts still collectively represent the ship as the constellations Carina (the keel), Puppis (the stern), and Vela (the sails) as well as Pyxis (the mariner's compass, which used to be part of the mast)[[/note]]. Clusters like the Pleiades are also smaller groups of stars found within constellations but don't form any coherent image.

A common Artistic License - Astronomy in science fiction is to treat constellations as though they were clusters of stars that are actually physically near each other, with characters or cultures described as being "from the so-and-so constellation" despite the constellation only existing as a two-dimensional pattern seen from an arbitrary point thousands of light years away. On the other hand some sectors and galaxies like The Andromeda Galaxy and Orion's Arm are named for the constellation they are in.

See Western Zodiac, The Four Gods, Astrologer and all the tropes in Stellar Index.

[[! Examples]]

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Example of the Constellations as a motif, someone's soul, or the basis of something]]

Anime and Manga

Film
  • The original Clash of the Titans ends with Perseus, Andromeda, The Hydra and other characters becoming constellations. Fitting too as the movies are based on the myths of Perseus.
  • At the end of Hercules 1983 Hercules becomes a constellation.

Live-Action TV
  • The Centauri of Babylon 5 seem to have been named after the Centaurus constellation (whose genitive term is "Centauri", as in "Alpha Centauri"). The origin of this name is unclear, but most plausibly it might have been the name humans gave them upon first contact.
  • Farscape had the villain Scorpius, which is also the name of a zodiac constellation (in the sky of a planet nowhere near the region of space Farscape was set in), as well as a Name To Run Away From Really Fast.
  • Stargate used the constellations as seen from Earth as coordinates for the gate's destination, marked as the 38 symbols on the rim of the gate. The subsequent TV series recognized the flaw in this idea (the constellations are not static and would look completely different from every planet with a gate anyway) and retconned them in various ways to make up for it, eventually settling on them being the letters of one form of the Ancient alphabet. Presumably they formed some type of comprehensible coordinate system when the gates were first built, but as the dialing devices periodically update to compensate for stellar drift they no longer do so.

Video Games
  • Upon defeating Raphael the Raven in Yoshi's Island, he flies off into the sky and becomes a constellation.
  • The Celestrians in the localisation of Dragon Quest IX are named for constellations that are named for birds.

Western Animation
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Boast Busters" involved a giant bear made of stars incorrectly called an Ursa Major (it's actually an Ursa Minor as Twilight Sparkle pointed out in the end. There is an actual Ursa Major though but it is a little more monstrous than it's cub (the aforementioned Ursa Minor)

Real Life
  • Some flags which use imagery of constellations:
    • The flags of Australia and New Zealand both depict the prominent stars of the "Southern Cross" (the constellation Crux), an iconic feature of the Southern sky.
    • The state flag of Alaska depicts the seven stars of the Big Dipper, with Polaris (the North Star) depicted at a distance from the upper right of the bowl, just as these stars appear in the Northern sky. (Note that Polaris itself isn't in the Big Dipper or the Ursa Major constellation, but in Ursa Minor which is close by in the sky.) The use of the Ursa Major stars symbolize the "strength" of the Great Bear, while the North Star symbolizes Alaska as a northern frontier.
    • The flag of Brazil features prominent stars of the southern celestial hemisphere, laid out as they appear in multiple constellations. 27 stars were chosen, each representing a Brazilian state (or the Federal District).

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Examples of constellations as a gag]]

Western Animation
  • Shrek tells Donkey the names the ogres give to several constellations.
  • The Simpsons:In "Bart's Comet" Principal Skinner points out the constellation "The Three Wise Men" to Bart; it looks like The Three Stooges.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Examples of fictional constellations]]

{{AC:Literature]]
  • A brief scene in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has the Pevensies looking at the Narnian night sky and identifying constellations they'd seen on their previous trips. They're completely different from Earth's.

Video Games
  • The Animal Crossing games allow the player to create and name their own constellations. At nighttime they're visible in the sky.
  • One level of Pokémon Snap has a constellation of Mewtwo as a secret.

Western Animation
  • In an episode of The Simpsons Homer gets an orphan to be a "Bigger Brother" to, and the following exchange occurs.
    Pepe: Tell me more! I want to know all the constellations.
    Homer: Well, there's... Jerry the Cowboy. And that big dipper looking thing is Alan... the Cowboy.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Examples with claims that someone or something is claimed to come from a constellation]]

Live-Action TV
  • The Doctor claims that Gallefrey is (or was) in The constellation Kasterborous.

[[/folder]]

[[foldercontrol]]
Community Feedback Replies: 42
  • December 24, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    I was wondering if you can find examples of constellations in general as a motif (Like in Saint Seiya) or more information relating their use to culture and pop culture.
  • December 24, 2012
    Doryna
    Off the top of my head and extending the Greek Mythology example, the original Clash Of The Titans ended with the placement of Perseus, Andromeda, and other characters from the story into the sky as constellations.

    I know there's other examples out there, but I'm too full of eggnog at the moment to think of them.
  • December 24, 2012
    randomsurfer
    At the end of Hercules 1983 Hercules becomes a constellation.
  • December 24, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    Roy Batty's Final Speech in Blade Runner had an anthropomorphic reference to a place somewhere in the constellation of Orion:
    I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion....

    Which might be referencing either of two stars that make up the Orion figure's "shoulders": Betelgeuse or Bellatrix.
  • December 25, 2012
    robinjohnson
    A common Astronomy Goof in science fiction is to treat constellations as though they were clusters of stars that are actually physically near each other, with characters or cultures described as being "from the so-and-so constellation" despite the constellation only existing as a two-dimensional pattern seen from an arbitrary point thousands of light years away. This is particularly weird if they're using Earth-based constellation names in a space fantasy culture that has never heard of Earth. It's like an Australian thinking that London, Moscow and Beijing are in the same place because they happen to all lie in similar directions from New York. (The Blade Runner quote may be an example.)
  • December 25, 2012
    Xtifr
    A similar concept is the "asterism", which is also a picture in the stars, but not officially a constellation. One of the best-known asterisms is the "Big Dipper", which is actually part of the constellation of Ursa Major (the Great Bear). Some asterisms, like Orion's Belt are strongly associated with their constellation. Others, like the Summer Triangle involve stars from multiple constellations.

    (I know you mentioned asterisms, but I think it might be useful to expand that a little, especially since those three asterisms I mentioned come up in fiction a lot.)
  • December 25, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    Alright i'll expand on asterisms
  • December 25, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    Should I make this a supertrope to Western Zodiac and The Four Gods?
  • December 25, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    Shrek tells Donkey the names the ogres give to several constellations.
  • December 25, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    Well that at least 5 examples now. Though I'm not even sure if Useful Notes even have examples.
  • December 26, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    bump. Does anyone wnat me to make this a super trope to Western Zodiac and The Four Gods?
  • December 26, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    ^^^^^^^ (@robinjohnson) Excellent point about that--oftentimes authors forget that space is three-dimensional, and that stars that look close to each other in our line of sight can be very far apart and entirely unrelated in "real space".

    However, some uses of "Orion" may refer to the Orion OB1 Association, of which many of the blue supergiants of the constellation (Rigel, Saiph, and all three belt stars among them) belong. They are still a few hundred light years apart from each other (and all of them at least several hundred light years from Earth), but part of the same "association" of hot blue stars which originated in the same area--sort of like a gigantic supercluster itself hundreds of light years across. So a reference to "Orion" could mean that actual region of space in three dimensions--and note that Betelgeuse and Bellatrix, two very prominent stars in the constellation, are not members of this physical association of stars, and are considerably closer to us than they are.

  • December 26, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    The Centauri of Babylon 5 seem to have been named after the Centaurus constellation (whose genitive term is "Centauri", as in "Alpha Centauri"). The origin of this name is unclear, but most plausibly it might have been the name humans gave them upon first contact, which would then be the name everybody hears when things are "universally translated" or whatever they are on the show (perhaps someone here knows what the Word Of God is on this?). If so, perhaps it had to do with what direction in space in relation to Earth they came from (i.e. the direction of the Centaurus constellation), but likely much further than Proxima/Alpha Centauri (since Earth had a colony in the Proxima system).
  • December 26, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    One interesting note about the "Big Dipper" asterism mentioned above by Xtifr: five of the seven stars that make up the Big Dipper are actually physically related, as core members of the "Ursa Major Moving Group" cluster of stars. All but the two stars at either end of the dipper (handle end, and opposite cup end)--Mizar, Alioth, Megrez, Phecda, and Mirak--are members of this cluster, all between 70 and 90 light years from Earth, and all moving in the same direction through space. So they are actually physically close to one another in three dimensions. The other two stars in the Dipper (Alkaid and Dubhe) are themselves not much further away either. As noted, asterisms simply refer to a grouping of stars that look close to each other in our line-of-sight from Earth, whose actual distances from us (and therefore each other) can vary greatly--but this asterism happens to embody stars that actually are close to each other in 3d space, as part of a real cluster. The Pleiades (or "Seven Sisters", in Taurus) would be another example of such an asterism as well. As would many of the stars that form the "V" of the head and horns of Taurus (these are part of the Hyades Cluster--with Aldebaran a non-member that is half the distance of the others from us).
  • December 26, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    ^^ Added the Babylon5 example, but I just used part of your comment as an example. ^ That's interesting but that may not be general knowledge on the subject. It would wind up a Genius Bonus though.
  • December 27, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    • The Simpsons:
      • In "Bart's Comet" Principal Skinner points out the constellation "The Three Wise Men" to Bart; it looks like The Three Stooges.
      • In another, Homer gets an orphan to be a "Bigger Brother" to, and the following exchange occurs.
        Pepe: Tell me more! I want to know all the constellations.
        Homer: Well, there's... Jerry the Cowboy. And that big dipper looking thing is Alan... the Cowboy.
  • December 27, 2012
    robinjohnson
    ^^^^ Pretty sure in Babylon Five the alien diplomats just learn English, and the Translation Convention is used when they're speaking their own language alone.
  • December 27, 2012
    Xtifr
    Asterisms are not necessarily smaller (my original wording was deliberate). The Summer Triangle, for example, is much larger than most constellations.

    And no, I don't think this should be a supertrope to anything, because I think the only way it works is as a Useful Note, which is not a trope at all. Useful notes can have examples, but not all of them do, and I think we should discuss whether this should have examples, and if so, what they should be. (Including every reference to any constellation in any work anywhere would be a bit much.)
  • December 27, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    ^I am considering limiting examples to those that are ether A) explicitly based on a constellation (like the The Ursa Major and Minor), B) use it or it's mythological roots as motifs (Like Saint Seiya's Meaningful Theme Naming, or C) examples with the "comes form constellation" Astrology Goof (that will be sorted separately. and D) involve someone becoming a constellation I'm not sure what else to include but just offhand reference like the Blade Runner quote or the Simpsons example in randomsurfer's reply should not count as examples.
  • December 27, 2012
    Doryna
    That sounds like a good plan; much as I love astronomy, this is a page for things as they refer to culture. The actual science and such should be left to The Other Wiki.

    Perhaps the page should be two sections, one for the serious stuff like MorningStar listed and another for more gag related stuff. I have a feeling if this gathers enough Wiki Magic, folks are going to try adding those kinds of things anyway, and they can at least be separate from the beginning. Worst comes to worst, it gets deleted; if there prove to be enough examples, it might actually be a trope unto itself (Stargaze Fail?)
  • December 27, 2012
    Dawnwing
    Here's an example if you're using those.

    • The Animal Crossing games allow the player to create and name their own constellations. At nighttime they're visible in the sky.
  • December 28, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    ^^ Glad to see you agree.

    ^ I'm not sure if the Animal Crossing examples counts yet maybe i'll make a section for custom variants (only then will i add that example and the Simpsons one)
  • December 28, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    Okay I made 3 folders. One for the stuff described in my earlier comment. One for the gags. and ones for the constellations people made up. BTW I know that Lilo And Stich has an example for the latter but I don't know if it's form the movie or the tv show or the context of said example.
  • December 28, 2012
    Antigone3
    The Doctor has said several times that Gallifrey is (or was) in the constellation of Kasterborous.
  • December 28, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    ^ Ah yes I remember seeing that too it was that Christmas special with the starship Titanic right?
  • December 28, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    bump.
  • December 28, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    Farscape had the villain Scorpius, which is also the name of a zodiac constellation (in the sky of a planet nowhere near the region of space Farscape was set in), as well as a Name To Run Away From Really Fast.
  • December 29, 2012
    MorningStar1337
    bump.
  • December 29, 2012
    TrueShadow1
    In Fairy Tail, Celestial Spirit mages can summon Celestial Spirits, which are based on constellations, through various magical keys. The Golden Keys summon the twelve zodiac signs while the Silver Keys summon other constellations.
  • January 3, 2013
    StarSword
    Constellations as basis of something: Film:
    • Stargate used the constellations as seen from Earth as coordinates for the gate's destination, marked as the 38 symbols on the rim of the gate. The subsequent TV series recognized the flaw in this idea (the constellations are not static and would look completely different from every planet with a gate anyway) and retconned them in various ways to make up for it, eventually settling on them being the letters of one form of the Ancient alphabet. Presumably they formed some type of comprehensible coordinate system when the gates were first built, but as the dialing devices periodically update to compensate for stellar drift they no longer do so.

    New category: Fictional constellations: Literature:
    • A brief scene in The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader has the Pevensies looking at the Narnian night sky and identifying constellations they'd seen on their previous trips. They're completely different from Earth's.
  • January 3, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In the Simpsons example of Jerry the Cowboy and Alan the Cowboy are just Homer making them up (since he doesn't know the constellations) rather than them being actual constellations in the Springfieldverse. Espeically since he explicitly identifies the Big Dipper as Alan the Cowboy.
  • January 4, 2013
    StarSword
    I'm thinking this needs to be split into two pages: a useful notes on real-life constellations, and a trope for media examples (something like Constellation As Device).
  • January 4, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    ^^ first off that folder is for when someone (usually the author) creates fictional constellations, regardless of reason, motive or intent.

    ^ Well i don't think it has enough examples to be split yet.
  • January 4, 2013
    JonnyB
    Did the Shrek example not count?
  • January 4, 2013
    NESBoy
    Here's an example for the first folder:

    • Upon defeating Raphael the Raven in Yoshis Island, he flies off into the sky and becomes a constellation.
  • January 4, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    ^ that'd fit more in the "fictional Constellations" folder. The first one is for when actual constellations are used as a motif. also see Stars Are Souls.
  • January 5, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Speaking of which...

    Video Games:
    • One level of Pokemon Snap has a constellation of Mewtwo as a secret.
  • January 5, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    @ NES Boy It appears that the Yoshi's Island example did belong in the first folder after all. sorry for putting it in the wrong folder.
  • January 6, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Real Life

    Some flags which use imagery of constellations:

    • The flags of Australia and New Zealand both depict the prominent stars of the "Southern Cross" (the constellation Crux), an iconic feature of the Southern sky.

    • The state flag of Alaska depicts the seven stars of the Big Dipper, with Polaris (the North Star) depicted at a distance from the upper right of the bowl, just as these stars appear in the Northern sky. (Note that Polaris itself isn't in the Big Dipper or the Ursa Major constellation, but in Ursa Minor which is close by in the sky.) The use of the Ursa Major stars symbolize the "strength" of the Great Bear, while the North Star symbolizes Alaska as a northern frontier.

    • The flag of Brazil features prominent stars of the southern celestial hemisphere, laid out as they appear in multiple constellations. 27 stars were chosen, each representing a Brazilian state (or the Federal District).
  • January 6, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    Well i've 5 hats and i'm ready to launch. any objections? speak now or forever hold your breath cause i'll launch this one tonight.

    PS If you think that this should be a useful notes pages let me know.
  • January 6, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    We do not need an Useful Notes page on everything. Just keep this a trope.
  • January 6, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    Okay. then let's launch this bad boy.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=vunr74ljwiswdwdtwfr3acpn