The constellations and the stars within are seen every night. Astrologists tend to add significance to these constellations and asterisms, and therefore they can make an excellent Motif and are commonly seen 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 constellations tend to take their names from Greek Mythology or have Greek names, as many were identified and named by Ancient Greek astronomers, but there are some exceptions. The signs of the Western Zodiac are also all Western constellations.
Chinese astronomy and astrology traditionally use a different set of constellations, using the same stars but in different Asterisms. The Four Gods are the equivalents of the zodiac therenote . India and the Australian Aborigines have their own systems of constellations as well.
Asterisms are a similar concept, but they are not seen as official constellations. They can be seen as sub-constellations, in a sense, as many are part of larger, officially recognized constellations. Common ones include the Big Dipper, which forms the tail and body of the Great Bear, and Orion's Belt, which is of course part of the Orion constellation. Other asterisms have stars from multiple constellations — the Summer Triangle, for instance, is formed by connecting the brightest stars in Aquila, Cygnus and Lyra. The same is true for most obsolete constellations, the most notable of which is Ptolemy's Argo Navis, which was split for being too big. Its 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). Clusters like the Pleiades are also smaller groups of stars found within constellations but don't form any coherent image.
A common astronomy error in science fiction is to treat constellations as though they were clusters of stars that are actually physically near each othernote , 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. The closest real life comes to this is the way constellation are used to divide the visible night sky into sectors, and some astronomical objects like the Andromeda Galaxy and Orion's Arm are named for the constellation they are in.
Uses of constellations in fiction:
- 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.
- The Fushigi Yuugi series has the spirit of each Chinese constellation born to flesh as each of The Four Gods' "Celestial Warriors;" with each warrior holding various super powers.
- The the opening for the anime adaptation of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War uses the Summer Triangle as a recurring motif, referencing Shirogane's love of the stars and the Fireworks arc (which took place in the middle of summer). Shirogane and Hayasaka also both have a star motif, but of very different types (though both allude to their own relationships with Kaguya due to the moon always being accompanied by stars). Hayasaka uses generic star fields on many of her personal belongings such as her nails, phone case, and Line ID due to her being based off of the celestial envoy from The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Shirogane, meanwhile, uses actual constellations as his motif (such as the Big Dipper as his Twitter Icon) since he desires to reach for the stars in both a metaphorical and literal manner.
- Metal Fight Beyblade: The beyblades in that series are based on constellations.
- Saint Seiya: The characters are all named for constellations and the names are usually Meaningful or refer to the myths behind them.
- 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.
- In Dragonheart, the constellation Draco is also known as the Dragon's Heaven. According to dragon religion, dragons that live honorable lives are allowed to become a star in the constellation when they die.
- At the end of Hercules 1983 Hercules becomes a constellation.
- In the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, some constellations are mentioned as having different names, e. g. Ursa major (the "Big Dipper") is the Sickle. The constellation Orion is called Menelmacar or Menelvagor, the Warrior of Heaven, originally created by the Valar as a symbol of defiance against the forces of evil led by Morgoth.
- In the Star Darlings franchise, each Star Darling has traits associated with a constellation, as well as their birthday's corresponding Zodiac sign.
- In Robin Jarvis' Deptford Mice trilogy, the Starwife is a celestial-themed monarch. There are decorations on the ceiling in her chamber that represent all the constellations, and she herself is also known as the Handmaiden of Orion (referring to the constellation Orion, the Hunter).
- 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.
- In Kamen Rider Fourze, the Monsters of the Fortnight are known as Zodiarts and draw their powers from the various constellations; despite the name, the signs of the Western Zodiac are reserved for high-level warriors and commanders.
- Uchu Sentai Kyuranger has its rangers based off of the various Constellations. Unlike Fourze above, the Western Zodiac doesn't get preferential treatment; while some of them are used as the Rangers' Transformation Trinkets, others just have support abilities.
- Xena: Warrior Princess: In "A Day in the Life", Xena and Gabrielle identify a water dipper and bear constellation in the night sky. In "Fins, Femmes and Gems", the Mystic Diamond is responsible for keeping the North Star from being extinguished, but Aphrodite steals the diamond and plans to add it to her own constellation.
- Greek Mythology: Several monsters and characters were transformed into constellations by the gods, such as Chiron (either Centaurus or Sagittarius), Orion, Castor and Pollux (Gemini)...
- In Contra: Hard Corps, Noiman Cascade's Virtual Zone forms include the constellations Taurus, Sagittarius and Gemini. Cuphead repeats the Virtual Zone forms of the same three constellations with Hilda Berg's first and second phases.
- The Celestrians in the localisation of Dragon Quest IX are named for constellations that are named for birds.
- In Ōkami, each of the 13 Brush Gods (who are all based on Eastern Zodiac plus a cat), hides themselves as constellations with missing stars in various locations. When you spot them, you need to fill in the missing stars to restore their powers and make them at your service.
- In Mobile Phone Game Sword of Chaos, Star Souls light up points of the constellations on a Star Map. There is a sun and moon constellation, and constellations of other galaxies.
- Upon defeating Raphael the Raven in Yoshi's Island, he flies off into the sky and becomes a constellation.
- Poseidon: Master of Atlantis: If your city doesn't have enough food, the Astronomer ill express his wish to become a constellation so he wouldn't be so hungry.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! has several cards with this motif. The Constellar/Sacred archtype are based on the Western Zodiac, and although the Fire Fist archtype is based an a different group of stars. "Ultimate Fire Formation - Seito", one of their support cards, is based on the Big Dipper asterism, and implying that the stars within are the other support cards.
- There are several cardsnote with "Leo" in the name, examples include "Leotaur" "Number 88: Gimmick Puppet of Leo" and "Photon Leo".
- 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].)
- Aliens from Il était une fois...Space are said to come from constellations as Cassiopeia, Auriga, Centaur, or Scorpius among others -and judging for the distances to Earth mentioned in the show from their brightest stars-. The gaffe mentioned at the start of the article is present here when it's for example mentioned that Cassiopeia controls the constellations of Pegasus, Andromeda, Draco, and Cepheus.
- Some flags which use imagery of constellations:
- 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 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 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).
- The ten stars constellations on the logos of the ill-fated...Constellation Program represents the ten major NASA centers in the U.S. *
- The randomly assorted stars on the seal/flag and the "meatball" logo of National Aeronautics and Space Administration just represents spaces in general.
- The Southern Cross was part of the coat of arms of German East Africa until World War I. The Nazis revived this as a symbol of their demand for the return of all former German colonies and made this a badge worn by the uniformed police in some cities (e. g. Bremen, Hamburg, Kiel) to symbolize that these police forces continued the tradition of the Schutztruppe of the former German colonies.
- The flag of the Community of Madrid, in Spain, features seven stars that represent the seven brightest ones of Ursa Major.
- In "Sailor Moons Ford Fusion Dream", Usagi and Luna watch the constellations of Sagittarius, Libra, and the new Ford Fusion.
- A 1999 GEICO commercial has a constellation of a car getting its "windshield" broken by a flying comet.
"At GEICO, we get the ball rolling on your claim quickly. Even in the middle of the night."
- In chapter 31 of Yotsuba&!, the Koiwais, Jumbo, Fuuka, Ena, and Miura all go out to see the stars. This provides opportunities for a couple of gags:
- Even with a planisphere and a red flashlight, it's hard to tell which star is which, especially as, as Miura observes, "there's no lines like at the planetarium." Fuuka advises her to try using her heartstrings, then points, calling something "Virgo". Jumbo says Virgo's not over there.
- A few constellations are named, and Yotsuba asks what they are. When Miura answers that they're constellations, she kneels, because seiza can mean either "constellation" or "kneeling position", depending.
- Shrek tells Donkey the names the ogres give to several constellations.
Donkey: So, uh...are there any donkeys up there?Shrek: Well, there's, um...Gabby, the small, and annoying.Donkey: Okay, okay. I see it, I see it now, yeah. The big shiny one, right there. Right? That-That one there?Shrek: ...That's the moon.
- A 1950's era sci-fi short story dealt with the scientific community's collective mind being blown when the stars begin visibly moving across the sky...ultimately arranging themselves into an ad for soap. It proves to be the result of an Earth-based light-bending device, which cannot be duplicated after its creator dies of a stroke on realizing he misspelled his own name.
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys: In "The Gauntlet", Hercules rates Ipicles' stew "four stars", but Ipicles asks, "Why not a constellation?"
- The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Hercules" deconstructs the whole constellations-as-a-motif when Crow complains he doesn't see the figures of ancient legend in the night sky. Servo attempts to update the constellations to reflect "modern sensibilities", creating elaborate constructs such as "The Ham Sandwich", "The New Christy Minstrels" and, out of a mere eleven stars, "Picasso's Guernica." Frustrated, Crow comes back with a "modern" constellation of his own, consisting of two stars:
Crow: (sarcastic) It's a pencil. The eraser's almost gone.
- Kingdom of Loathing features an area called "The Hole in the Sky". All of the monsters within are constellations that are also Double Entendres for male or female genitalia, such as "The Burrowing Bishop," "The Trouser Snake," or "The Little Man in the Canoe". Except for "The Astronomer", because the astronomers of the Days of Old were fond of not only childish visual puns, but of Shameless Self-Promotion.
- The Simpsons
- In one episode, 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.
- In "Bart's Comet" Principal Skinner points out some constellation to Bart: First is "The Chariot Race", which consists of a single star. Then "The Three Wise Men", which looks like an improbably detailed constellation of The Three Stooges.
- In one episode, Homer gets an orphan to be a "Bigger Brother" to, and the following exchange occurs.
- South Park: In "Roger Ebert Should Lay Off the Fatty Foods", the constellations in Dr. Adams' planetarium include "The Big Dipper", "Taurus, the Bull", "Roger Ebert", and "The Crusades", each composed of less stars than the last, but with more and more complex drawings superimposed over them. "The Crusades" is only two stars.
- The Balanced Sword is set on the world Zarathan, which has its own constellations; the Balanced Sword, symbol of the god Myrionar, has a constellation named after it, which gets mentioned several times.
- Discworld has its own constellations, some of which change noticeably as the Turtle goes past them. They're usually used for the Fictional Zodiac, but in The Last Continent they're used as a sign the wizards have travelled back in time, and to estimate how far.
Chair of Indefinite Studies: We've counted three thousand, one hundred and ninety-one constellations that could be called the Triangle, for example, but the Dean says some of them don't count because they use the same stars
- 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.
- In the Dragonlance setting, the gods each have their own constellation in the night sky - Paladine's is a platinum dragon, Reorx's is a hammer, and Takhisis's is a multiheaded dragon, for example. When a god is active on Krynn, their constellation vanishes from the sky.
- In the bad future where Raistin defeated the gods to take a place among them, his new constellation (an hourglass) was dominant in the sky, pushing the constellations of the remaining gods aside.
- Canines in Survivors have their own constellations: the Rabbit, the Wolf and her cub, the Great Tree, and the Running Squirrel.
- Frank Zappa's album One Size Fits All has a parody of the constellations on the backside of the album cover. All the constellations are puns, intellectual references, references to the London subway system and inside jokes about Zappa's music and/or entourage.
- The Star Gazer playfield is decorated with simplified constellations of the Western Zodiac, as well as various fictional signs such as a beaver, a swan, and a pegasus.
- Exalted: The Sidereal Exalted are organized along the lines of the planets and stars. Their domains, one for of each of the Five Maidens, are composed of five constellations each, for a total of twenty-five different constellations in the Exalted night sky.
- Animal Crossing: Wild World allows the player to create and name their own constellations. At nighttime they're visible in the sky.
- In The Elder Scrolls, the thirteen Fictional Zodiac signs are based on constellations in their Alien Sky.
- Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward introduced a healing Job that taps into The Power of the Sun, Lunacy and most importantly Star Power, for their magic. They gain their power by attuning their aether to that of 6 constellations: The Balence, The Bole, The Spire, The Ewer, The Arrow and the Spear, using Cards of Power (which references Tarot cards and their own use of zodiacal iconography).
- In order to summon each of the Celestial Brush Gods, Amaterasu must use her powers to complete the constellation associated with each brush god. There are fourteen in all, plus an enemy who is also summoned in a similar fashion.
- The sequel, Ōkamiden, adds another five constellations; in this case, the stars are already there, but they must be connected correctly to unlock the Brush God and their associated skill.
- There are various examples from the Pokémon franchise, all of them of the titular creatures.
- One level of Pokémon Snap has a constellation of Mewtwo as a secret.
- Other constellations seen in the Rainbow Cloud level include Kingler, Pinsir, Koffing, Cubone, and Dugtrio.
- Pokémon Channel has a camp the player can stargaze from, with multiple Pokemon constellations viewable. These constellations also showed up in the credits of Pokémon: Jirachi: Wish Maker.
- Pokémon Black and White introduced constellations based on the western zodiac; a couple of these appeared in the anime as well.
- In Touhou, it's explained that youkai have their own constellations, distinct from those known by humans. Of particular note is that they consider the Big Dipper to be a dragon. Not just a pattern of stars that resembles a dragon, or is based on some mythological dragon, but an actual living dragon made up of stars that lives in the sky and seeks to swallow the North Star.
- In the backstory of Nexus War games, the four-pointed symbol of the Nexal death god Hashaa is said to be one of the few constellations visible in the plane of Purgatorio. It's fitting since Hashaa's symbol represents the application of entropy and decay to all things, while Purgatorio is a cosmic-scale junkyard filled with faded, crumbling mementos of past worlds.
- Il était une fois...Space: the "constellation" of the Triton is actually a multiple star system formed by a red supergiant star orbited by a white dwarf and a red dwarf.
- In The Fifth Element, the cruise ship is orbiting the planet Phloston in the "Angel" constellation.
- Stargate refers to Earth's constellations as "points" in space, using them as coordinates for the gate system. The constellations are marked as the 38 symbols on the rim of the gate, and the gate on the other side has different symbols based on the constellations that are seen from there. Perhaps recognizing that constellations do not constitute a "point" in space and/or not wanting to churn out 38 new gate symbols every episode, the subsequent TV series gradually retconned this away, eventually settling on the gate symbols being the letters of an Ancient alphabet instead.
- Doctor Who: The Doctor claims that Gallifrey is (or was) in the constellation of Kasterborous.
- On 3rd Rock from the Sun, the aliens' homeworld is located in "the Cepheus-Draco border territory."