The current system of constellations is historical and has kind of arbitrary boundaries.

This has a number of obvious downsides:

  • Difficult to define boundaries need complex tables to express
  • Each constellation subtends a different solid angle (area of sky)
  • etc

Has anyone ever proposed, or does anyone use, a system of cutting the sky into regular chunks, that are either simple to define or similar in area? Do any of these systems (if they exist) attempt to preserve the most important/famous constellations (as least the part people normally see) ?

  • $\begingroup$ The constellation boundaries we use today are pretty much an attempt to do that. They are "fairly" regular in the J1950.0 grid, which is how they were originally defined: iau.org/public/themes/constellations $\endgroup$
    – user21
    May 19 '15 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ OK, they are made of boundaries that are all lines of longitude or latitude, but I'd hardly call them "regular". $\endgroup$ May 19 '15 at 17:17

Modern astronomers are not instructed on the constellations and pay little attention to them except as a naming convention for stars. Positional information is nearly always either equatorial (ra,dec), or galactic (gl,gb), or supergalactic (SGL, SGB). To improve the speed in which information on a region can be extracted from a database, a scheme called Hierarchical Triangular Mesh (HTM), is often used. The sky is divided into three sections (0,1,2) and each of those is divided into 3 sections (00,01,02,10,11...) and this iterated until the level of finest size is reached. One can address the finest region by using all of the digits or a larger region by dropping some of the final digits.


If you changed the constellation boundary lines you would have to change the name of a multitude of other objects inside their boundaries. For instance, binary stars and super novae are named for the constellation they were found in. What interest me more is that the Bayer magnitude designations are still in use in stars that are inaccurately named as the constellations alpha star. For instance, in Gemini const. Castor is known as Alpha Gem and Pollux is Beta Gem. This is incorrect and reversed. This is a common misnomer in many, many constellations. But....these labels continue to be used!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hello, Nancy. I like the first part of this answer, except that supernovae are not named by constellation, but by discovery date (eg SN 1987 A) and binary stars are only named by constellation when they have a Bayer or Flamsteed designation. There's nothing special about binary stars. The second part is irrelevant and I think wrong. Bayer ordered stars Alpha, Beta etc by his own criteria, not only brightness. It's not incorrect. But anyway, that has nothing to do with the question. . . I suggest fixing the errors in the first part, and deleting the second. See How to Ask for more details. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Dec 29 '21 at 14:37

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