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About names of constellations

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posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 06:50 PM
It is admittedly an idle question, but still, while I am here I might as well mention a minor enigma that has been puzzling me ever since I was a child:

Why is it that the ancient peoples (supposedly) saw shapes in constellations - and we can't?

(By "we" I mean every single person I've ever asked about this. And I've asked a lot of people.)

Honestly... when you look at, say, the constellation f Virgo, do you really see a sitting maiden?

When you see the constellation of Leo, do you really see a lion?

As a matter of fact, do you really "see" them even AFTER having been shown the outlines according to the perception of the Ancients?

I know I don't.
And nobody I've asked so far does either.

I don't think it's due to the probable fact that there were many more stars visible (because of the lack of environmental pollution) - which would offer many more reference points - because when I look at the stars in sky maps I still don't see any such shapes.

And it cannot be simply because they had "more imagination", unless the surplus of "imagination" were somehow lost from the DNA of posterior generations... A child small (but bright and/or imaginative) enough would still see the same things today that children - and adults - saw many centuries ago. Seeing shapes in clouds is a very obvious everyday example. We can see them with almost no effort (and not just in clouds) - and yet we don't "see" the formations that the ancient peoples saw in the starry skies.

Anyone else finds that puzzling?

P.S. I see this post landed in the "conspiracy" forum.
So, just for the record, I'd like to declare that I am NOT hinting at any "conspiracies".

[edit on 20-4-2008 by Vanitas]

posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 07:30 PM
It's less that we can't, and more that we don't. At the time, they really vbelieved that the Gods sent heroes and villains into the heavens to be forever remembered, and it was also handy for navigation, keeping track of the months and seasons, and astrology.
For that matter, some people still do make constellations, one fellow came up with some, like an X-wing and some others.
Where the ancients used stars to to navigate, we have compasses, GPS, maps, roadsigns, ect. We don't really need constellations, so there havn't been anymore.

posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 07:30 PM
Move along, nothing to see here.

[edit on 20-4-2008 by RuneSpider]

posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 07:39 PM

It's less that we can't, and more that we don't.

But that's just it: we don't because we can't.

Do YOU see a lion in Leo?
A maiden in Virgo?
(Good for you if you do; but nobody else I've ever asked about this does.)

And it cannot be simply a question of functionality because we surely don't "need" the clouds as orientation points - and yet people, from children to adults, DO see shapes in clouds, with no effort at all.
(Not only that: it is not unusual that there is some "consensus" about the shape perceived. In other words, a shape that is visible to one person is very often visible as such to other people, too. Not so with stars. As I said, even after being shown the outlines of, say, the "maiden" of Virgo, people do NOT see the maiden even if their life depended on it...)

[edit on 20-4-2008 by Vanitas]

posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 07:51 PM
reply to post by Vanitas

Actually, yes I do. I grew up with constellations, used to get the books and read the stories. My favorite's always been sagiteriius.(SP)
But I grew up with the stuff, and with connect the dots and dozens of other things. I've used the constellations to navigate at night and generally just need to flesh them out when looking at them. Like I said, the constellations were important to the people who used them. they aren't anymore, and we simply don't think the same way anymore when it comes to the heavens.

posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 08:26 PM
reply to post by RuneSpider

OK, I guess I should have rephrased my initial question...
Here's the thing: connecting the (preexisting) dots, so to speak, is one thing - but how did they discern that "maiden", that "lion" in the first place?

Was it just one guy with a luxuriant imagination who decided "oh look: there's a sitting maiden with something in her hand!" and the others just humoured him, even though they saw no such thing?

I am asking because the conventional wisdom (= schools) is that "they" somehow collectively saw what we don't (present company excepted :-)

(It may sound as if we're going in circles here, but we aren't, not really.

[edit on 20-4-2008 by Vanitas]

posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 10:08 PM
reply to post by Vanitas

Can't say for sure, no one actually wrote down the idea. But most likely, it started as stories. People knew the stars they needed to guide themselves by. Generations of people used the same ones, heck, several stars have been used in different countries with different stories and constellations built around them.
Once the stories started, people played connect the dots, and drew lines from the brightest stars, and added in their imagination. It got passed around and the popular ones stayed. Keep in mind, the thousands of years since they were orginaly named the stars have moved a bit, and it's true that the pollution has made it harder to see, though standing on a beach away from civilization at night, you can see the milky way itself.
Try finding Orion some time, it's pretty easy to spot the belt, and the rest of the stars fall in pace around it.

posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 10:40 PM
reply to post by RuneSpider

Oh, Orion's belt is my pet "constellation"...

(I also like the Spanish name for it: "the three Marys".)
But the "belt" I can see - it's the rest of the "hunter" that escapes me...

Yes, I suppose you're right: it all started with stories. Which actually means that, in all likelihood, there was a guy - or two - with florid imagination who started it all... Which would also explain why different cultures do NOT see the same creatures.

OT: Personally, I am actually quite good at identifying stars - and I am especially proud of being able to find my way by them (not that I am trailblazer or anything - my environment is quite urban...

And there's a wonderful PC application - I am sure you know it, but many may not - called Stellarium that's great for learning.
(I talked about it a few months ago, no use repeating it.)

posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 10:56 PM
Hmmm...Orion has always been easy for me. Scorpio too. I guess the more dramatic and bright, the easier it is to pick out. I must say Aries was the one that always baffled me. Looks like a triangle.

That said, as mentioned above, the point here is they had to rely on stars unequivocally for navigation. The only way to separate the stars into navigable groups is to organize and categorize them in a recognizable way - thus Greek constellations came into existence. As far as who drew what outline, and who decided on the final versions, who can say? But I'm sure organized religion of the time played a role

Meanwhile, Asian cultures, African cultures, and Native American / South American cultures all came up with their own constellations and navigable groupings. Some more than others. The Greek set is just the most commonly accepted (or distributed).

re: star charts/maps - because you're witnessing about 4x (or more, depending on detail) the level of detail the 'ancients' did, it would appear more confusing and harder to discern. There's a great book - aimed at kids/young adults - floating around. It's from the 50's or 60's, and I can't remember the name, but it re-draws traditional constellations, using the same stars, but in shapes and ways that make more sense to the modern person.

** Ah - here we go: The Stars: A New Way to see them

Hope this helps

posted on Apr, 20 2008 @ 11:36 PM
I understand what you are saying Vanitas and have wondered the same about some of them.
There are some obvious ones though, Oirion and Scorpio as already mentioned as well as Taurus. Some others are just way too ambiguous for mine.
Maybe the number of stars that can be seen in and the cities has declined like you suggested. That could account for some of them. I know when I go camping I can make out a lot more than at home.

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