Is there a technical term for the "lines" in a constellation or asterism? Alternatively, is there an astronomy related coloquialism or any informal term that refers specifically to these lines, and not to the constellation itself?

To illustrate:

In the two examples below, what is the (most?) correct way to describe all of the green lines in the two images.

  1. Argo Navis, an asterism and former constellation. Argo Navis Source: Wikipedia

  2. The constellation of Draco. Draco Source: Wikipedia

Further Background/Details:

I was doing some astronomy related browsing and noticed the some of the representations of the same constellation had differences between different sources. The majority were very similar, others had more significant differences.

  1. Version 1

    Version A

  2. Version 2

    Version 2

  3. Version 3

    Version 3

  • Version 1 has significantly more lines included in it than Versions 2 and 3.
  • Version 1 has the line between η Cygni and β Cygni, appears to go via φ Cygni.
  • Version 3 has the line between η Cygni and β Cygni, goes via a star to the upper right of χ Cygni on the charts.

I want to search for more examples of the different ways the lines in the constellations have been drawn, and all my google fu has failed to produce any useful search terms. Consequently I'm hoping to find there is a term that describes the lines themselves which should be more helpful at finding material focused on the ways these lines have been drawn.

  • $\begingroup$ As far as I know the iau.org defines constellations as areas of space, and the lines are unofficial. You can visit iau.org for more info. Download stellarium.org and look at "sky cultures" to see how different cultures saw pictures in the stars. Re your image w/ the blue lines: Curious George author H.A. Rey decided the normally-used constellation lines were too confusing and re-drew them to look more like the constellation names. Some feel he did a good job, others do not. $\endgroup$
    – user21
    Apr 23, 2018 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ @barrycarter Stellarium was something I already checked out while researching after noticing this. Toggling between the different western sky cultures was quite illustrative. Also... while the blue lined image looks a lot like the H.A. Rey version, if you look more closely, it has the “feet” drawn “wrong”, so it is yet another variation. I deliberately tried to avoid including a mention of H.A. Rey to prevent biasing answers towards the simplistic this one guy made up the “other” versions which is the most common answer i found while researching before asking this question. $\endgroup$
    – Techdragon
    Apr 23, 2018 at 23:10

1 Answer 1


My understanding is that the stick-figure lines (in terms of applying them to every constellation) are a fairly modern invention - before that the individual stars were not (generally speaking) linked together directly but were instead highlighting important areas of each constellation figure. The constellation figures were fully 2D and potentially quite detailed, and there was not always a one to one correspondence between stars and details. In this sense one is free to modify the existing stick figure patterns to suit one's needs. Many of the stars visible to the naked eye have individual names (sometimes more than one name in fact) and these names usually mean/meant something about the constellation figure they are/were in. It's not always possible to follow these names when redrawing the figures (the constellations we use today are not all ancient and star names remain from figures we no longer use), but usually you can accommodate most of them. This is one of my main problems with H.A.Rey's versions - they often pay no attention at all to what the star names mean and you end up with a star named for a tail now marking the figure's mouth. :)


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