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Grouping of stars used to make a picture.

(permanent link) added: 2012-12-24 20:17:36 sponsor: MorningStar1337 (last reply: 2013-01-06 15:28:32)

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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]]


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

Anime And Manga

  • 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 Yoshis 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: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: Examples of fictional constellations]]

  • 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: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.


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