When you look to the stars, it's impossible not to be blown away by their splendor or think about our place in the great, big universe. From the Northern Hemisphere, there are 30 visible constellations; five can be seen all year, while the others appear seasonally. Named after characters in Greek mythology, each constellation contains star patterns that abstractly resemble its namesake. Here are lists of what to look for each season.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor can be seen all year long.
In the winter, look for Canis Major, Cetus Eridanus, Gemini, Orion, Perseus and Taurus.
In the spring, keep an eye out for Bootes, Cancer, Crater, Hydra, Leo and Virgo.
In the summer, Aquila, Cygnus, Hercules, Lyra, Ophiuchus, Sagittarius and Scorpius light up the sky.
In the fall, you can see Andromeda, Aquarius, Capricornus, Pegasus and Pisces.
Each appearing to rotate around the North Pole star, these are constellations that can be seen all year from the Northern Hemisphere:
- Ursa Major
- Ursa Minor
Braving the cold to stargaze in winter is worth it. Here are seven constellations you can observe in the Northern Hemisphere during this season:
- Canis Major
Orion, known as the Hunter, is thought to be the most famous of the winter constellations because it's the brightest and easiest to recognize.
Canis Major, known as the Great Dog, is named after one of Orion's hunting dogs and contains Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Only the moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter appear brighter than Sirius, which is 8.7 light-years away from Earth.
Six constellations visible from the Northern Hemisphere during spring include the following:
Bootes, known as the Herdsman, contains the supergiant red star Arcturus, which is 37 light-years from Earth and is 20 times larger than our sun.
Hydra is the longest and, in terms of area, the largest constellation in the sky. In Greek mythology, Hydra was a multiheaded serpent that grew its heads back immediately after being cut off. As one of his 12 labors, Hercules slayed Hydra.
Virgo, known as the Maiden, contains Spica as one of its stars. Spica is 260 light-years away from Earth and is 100 times brighter than the sun. Scientists believe Spica actually consists of two stars orbiting each other very closely.
Summer is another great time for stargazing. Here are seven constellations that make up the Northern Hemisphere's lineup in this season:
In Greek mythology, Sagittarius is a centaur, with a man's head and torso on a horse's body. This constellation features several celestial objects, including globular clusters.
Lyra, known as the Lyre, contains the star Vega, which is 26 light-years away from Earth and is more than twice the size of the sun. The annual Lyrid meteor shower features meteors that appear to shoot out from Lyra.
Fall is the Northern Hemisphere's season with the fewest constellations. Look out for these:
Aquarius is home to several globular clusters and the planetary nebula called the Saturn Nebula.
Pegasus is symbolic of the winged white horse of Greek mythology and contains several galaxies and a bright globular cluster.