Sky cultures

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* [ Constellation] article at Wikipedia
* [ Constellation] article at Wikipedia
* [ Star Catalogue] article at Wikipedia
* [ Star Catalogue] article at Wikipedia
* [ Constellation image library] of the U.S. Naval Observatory and the Space Telescope Science Institute. Johannes Hevelius Engravings.  
* [ Constellation image library] of the U.S. Naval Observatory and the Space Telescope Science Institute. Johannes Hevelius Engravings.

Revision as of 20:41, 12 February 2008

Sky culture is a term used by Stellarium referring to the way a culture describing the sky and celestial objects. In the field of astronomy, the point of concern about a sky culture is how stars are named and related to each other within this culture.

As of version 0.8.1, Stellarium contains 4 different sets of sky cultures: Western, Chinese, Ancient Egyptian, and Polynesian.



Like other cultural categories as well, Western sky culture remains the dominant sky culture in modern-day astronomy.


The Western culture divides the celestial sphere into 88 areas of various sizes called constellations, each with precise boundary, issued by the International Astronomical Union. These constellations have become the standard way to describe the sky, replacing similar sets in other sky cultures exhaustively in daily usage.

Star names

Most of traditional western star names came from Arabic. In astronomy, Bayer/Flamsteed designations and other star catalogues are widely used instead of traditional names except few cases where the traditional names are more famous than the designations.

Alternative asterism files for Stellarium

Asterisms by H.A. Rey, from his book "The Stars: A New Way To See Them", by tleemans

Download this constellationship.fab file

External links


The Chinese culture keeps one of the most detailed observation data of the celestial before 18th century, when Western astronomy began having breakthrough discoveries with the help of scientific method.

Stellarium currently provides roughly one third of Chinese Xingguan (Chinese: 星官; pinyin: xīngguān) sets, and is without any Chinese star names. A project conducted by community member G.S.K.Lee is now underway to construct a complete Chinese sky culture set for Stellarium based on the information inside Yixiangkaocheng (Chinese: 儀象考成; pinyin: yíxiàngkǎochéng), an imperial record of astronomy finished in 1756, which is the major reference to the traditional Chinese Xingguans and star names used today.


The major difference between Xingguan and constellation is that while constellation refers to a definite area upon the celestial sphere, Xingguan only refers to a pattern of stars. Its closest term in Western culture might be asterism, though unlike asterisms, Xingguans have their official status. The number of Xingguan varies along different eras of Chinese history; new Xingguans were made when fainter stars were observed, and some old Xingguans were abolished when the pattern could no longer be observed (mainly due to proper motions). Xingguans near southern celestial pole were created following the introdution of Western constellations into China by Catholic missionaries.

Yixiangkaocheng has 300 Xingguans in total.

Edged out by Western constellations, Xingguans were no longer in active usage today by the Chinese.

Star names

Traditional Chinese star names were given with a systematical method, by combining the name of Xingguan this star is in with a number, usually reflecting the star's position within this Xingguan. When fainter stars where observed with better instruments in the era of Yixiangkaocheng, they were named by combining the name of Xingguan this star is nearest to with an augmentation number.

Yixiangkaocheng has 3083 Xingguans in total. A complete list which corresponding all 3083 stars into any modern star catalogues or designations is yet to exist.

Unlike Xingguans, traditional Chinese star names are still in common usage today, even more common than Bayer/Flamsteed designations.

Xingguan arts

Traditionally, Chinese do not have similar expressions like constellation arts in the Western cultures. If any, clouds were sometimes added to each Xingguan's background on the starcharts in astrology books, but seldom be seen inside astronomically oriented works.

  • Perhaps it would be a good idea to indicate the extent of the four symbols with Xingguan arts?

Xingguan boundaries

As stated, Xingguans are not related with areas, hence they have no definite boundaries.

Project Status

  • constellation_names.fab: Chinese: Completed; English translations: Incomplete.
  • star_names.fab: 228 out of 3083 stars have been entered into the conversion list.
  • constellationship.fab: (Major star names need to be completed first)
An under development screenshot.

External links

Ancient Egypt

Some developers need to come here and explain to us where they got those ambiguous constellation
names which beat the translators to the ground, doh.

Late Egyption astronomy/astrology follows that of Greco/Roman culture. The belief that the stars could influence human destiny does not appear to have reached Egypt until the Ptolemaic period. The temple of Hathor at Denderah dates from Ptolemaic times, probably the first century BCE, and has a wonderful illustration of the sky that illustrates this point.[1]

However there were differences in names. For example, Cancer the Crab is represented by the Scarab Beetle. The figure of the Lion near the Scales (which is not the zodiacal Lion) is the constellation Centaurus. [2]

Earlier constellations are more problematic, but some indications exist that some modern zodiac signs are very ancient indeed[3], although the constellations did change significantly over time[4]


The Polynesian people used to utilize some constellations which helped them navigating through the Pacific Ocean. The mythology behind these constellations are majorly linked with the sea as well.

External links


Stellarium v.0.8.2 includes the korean constellations.


The Chinese, Korean, and Japanese constellations have the same origin, for they look very similar in shape, the positions and their names are the same in the chinese alphabet. The name of these constellations first appear in the Records of the Grand Historian(史記) in Han dynasty describing Xia dynasty in about B.C.2000.

  • China has the first starmap of the whole sky still remained, the DunHuang starmap in 8th century.
  • According to the research on the stars and the documents carved on the korean whole sky constellation, Cheon-Sang-Yeol-Cha-Bun-Ya-Ji-Do in Chosun Dynasky, the map contains the sky of B.C.1C ~ A.D.1C.
  • Japan has the famous Kitora skymap painted in A.D.7C ~ 8C.


The Korean constellations consists of 3won(三垣; 3 borders) and 28su(二十八宿; 28 constellation group).

  • 3won

3won has 3 villages (or cities) which contain each group of constellations.

  1. TaeMiWon(太微垣; Big low-border) ... 19 constellatons, 78 stars.
  2. ZaMiWon(紫微垣; Violet low-border) ... 37 constellations, 165 stars.
  3. CheonShiWon(天市垣; Sky market-border) ... 19 constellations, 91 stars.
  • 28su

28su have diveded into 4 groups called CheongRyong, BaekHo, ZuZak, HyeonMu. They are deities of the cardinal points and each has 7 constellation groups.

  1. CheongRyong(靑龍; blue-dragon, deity of east) ... 48 constellations, 186 stars.
    1. Gaak(角) ... 11 constellations.
    2. Haang(亢) ... 7 constellations.
    3. Zeo(氐) ... 11 constellations.
    4. Baang(方) ... 8 constellations.
    5. Shim(心) ... 2 constellations.
    6. Mi(尾) ... 6 constellations.
    7. Ki(箕) ... 3 constellatoins.
  2. BaekHo(白虎; white-tiger, deity of west) ... 56 constellations, 301 stars.
    1. Gyu(奎) ... 9 constellations.
    2. Ru(婁) ... 6 constellations.
    3. Wii(胃) ... 7 constellations.
    4. Myo(昴) ... 9 constellations.
    5. Pil(畢) ... 15 constellations.
    6. Zaa(觜) ... 3 constellations.
    7. Saam(參) ... 7 constellations.
  3. ZuZak(朱雀; red-pheonix, deity of south) ... 46 constellations, 240 stars.
    1. Zeong(井) ... 21 constellations.
    2. Kui(鬼) ... 7 constellations.
    3. Ryu(柳) ... 2 constellations.
    4. Seong(星) ... 5 constellations.
    5. Zaang(張) ... 2 constellations.
    6. Ik(翼) ... 2 constellations.
    7. Jin(軫) ... 8 constellations.
  4. HyeonMu(玄武; black-turtle, deity of north) ... 66 constellations, 405 stars.
    1. Duu(斗) ... 10 constellations.
    2. Wuu(牛) ... 11 constellations.
    3. Yeo(女) ... 8 constellations.
    4. Heo(虛) ... 10 constellations.
    5. Wii(危) ... 11 constellations.
    6. Shil(室) ... 11 constellations.
    7. Byeok(壁) ... 5 constellations.

Total 291 constellatinos and 1466 stars.

External link

Cheonsang Yeolcha Bunyajido

Inuit constellations

Read Inuit Sky Culture

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