Earth and the Moon

Mapping the Night Sky

What is the astronomical significance of constellations?

Scientifically, a constellation does not have any significance. Stars, nebulae, or galaxies in the same constellation may or may not have anything in common, aside from the fact that they are nearby in the sky as viewed from Earth. They may even be separated by a greater distance than objects in two different constellations.

That said, astronomers very often refer to objects being “in” or “toward” a certain constellation. That means—and only means—that those objects can be found by looking toward that particular constellation, as viewed from Earth. To say that a particular object is located “in” a constellation does not take into account at all the actual distance of that object from Earth, or from any other object in that constellation.


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