Does the Sun belong to a constellation?

  • Each new star we find is generally considered to be part of the constellation it is nearest to.

    Our Sun is obviously a star, just much closer. Is our Sun part of any constellation? If so, which constellation is it a part of?

    nearby contellations

    The constellations are how we see the stars from earth. The Earth revolves around the sun which is in the Milky Way Galaxy.

    From what conceivable distance would you have to be from our star in order to see what constellation our star is in, in relation to neighboring stars?

  • Jon Ericson

    Jon Ericson Correct answer

    9 years ago

    Constellations are human constructs to make sense of the night sky. When you are trying to find your way around, it helps to "chunk" stars into patterns and assign those groupings names. When I want to point out a particular object in the sky (say Polaris, the North Star), I start by pointing out a familiar constellation (say Ursa Major, the Big Dipper). From there, I can tell my friend to follow this or that line to get them to look where I'm looking:

    Finding the North Star

    With the advent of computerized telescopes and large data sets, constellations are less important for professional astronomers. However, many stellar databases use Flamsteed or Bayer designations, which assign stars to constellations. In order to include all stars, the sky is divided into irregular regions that encompass the familiar constellations.

    So, which constellations is the Sun assigned to? Well, from the perspective of someone on the Earth, the Sun moves through the constellations throughout the course of the year. Or rather, Sol moves through the region of the sky where some of the constellations would be seen if its light did not drown out distant stars. Our moon and the rest of the planets move through those same constellations. (The Greek phrase which gives us the word "planet" means "wandering star".)

    The current position of the sun against the background of distant stars changes over the course of the year. (This is important for astrology.) It's a little easier to make sense of with a diagram:

    How the sun is aligned with a particular constellation.

    So perhaps a better question is:

    What constellation does the Sun belong to today?

    Presumably an observer on an exoplanet would assign Sol to some constellation that is convenient from her perspective. But from our perspective within the Solar system our sun, moon, and planets are not part of any constellation.

    Why do you say Sun sometimes, and Sol other times? Sol is the portuguese word for Sun...

    @Rodrigo: Yes. It's also the Latin word for the Sun. I hoped to convey that observers outside of our stellar system wouldn't have any particular attachment to our star. If it were close enough, they might have named it. (And while they wouldn't have named it "Sol", that's a pretty good placeholder.) My answer is trying to shift your perspective from thinking about the Sun as special (which, of course it is _to us_) to thinking of it as one of billions of stars.

    @JonEricson Just noting, the Big Dipper is an asterism, which lies in Ursa Major. They're not the same thing.

    @Rodrigo Sol is also Swedish for (the) sun. In any case, every known star has a name. And while not official, as soon as we start to move outside our own little neighborhood and look at our star on a map in a wider context, "Sol" typically is what is is called because "Sun" does not as much feel like a name as a noun. And "The Sun" does not make it much prettier on the map. So "Sol" is quite simply prettier and the de facto name used when referring to our little star. For example: Sol in Elite: Dangerous.

License under CC-BY-SA with attribution

Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM