Asterisms
by Charlie Williams

Distinctive groupings of stars forming part of the recognized constellation outlines or lying within their boundaries, are known as "Asterisms". Ranging in apparent size from sprawling naked-eye figures to minute stellar settings requiring the telescope to be seen, they are found in every quarter of the sky and at all seasons of the year.

The larger asterisms, ones like the big dipper in Ursa Major and the great square of Pegasus, are often better known than their host constellations, their mythological associations and geometrical form making identification of the latter both easy and fascinating.

With asterisms, it seems the smaller they are the more stunning their visual impact upon the observer. This is especially true of those encountered while sweeping the sky with large-aperture binoculars and wide-field telescopes, many of which have surprising (and in some cases down-right unbelievable) shapes. Among these are chains, loops, and arcs of stars, triangles, circles, squares and arrows and even some that look like letters, numbers and other familiar terrestrial objects.

Despite their endless charm and variety, these small asterisms are totally overlooked by nearly all observing guidebooks and are little known to most observers...Bill

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This web page was last updated 08/20/14