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.
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
(This file is no longer available. Which is just as well since it was causing problems with recent versions of Stellarium. No new version is known.)
- Constellation 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.
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. Chen Zhuo (Chinese:陈卓)(3rd Century30s~?), Scientist of East Wu Country, linked the Shi’s, Gan’s and Wuxian’s XingGuans into one XingGuan System. And there are 1464 stars/283 XingGuans in that system. That Xingguan system is the earliest completed system as we know. 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.
The Xingguans get together makes four Xiangs(in Chinese character is 象, pronounce: xiang \, mainly means: view, show, appeared…). You can think about Xiang is a large Xingguan. There are four Xiangs named Zhuque, Xuanwu, Qinglong and Baihu. They are all animals in the old storys, but none in the real world just like Chinese dragon or phoenix bird. Zhuque (in Chinese character is 朱雀), similar meaning is red bird, maybe like the phoenix, the power of fire, the south, the back, the summer. Xuanwu (in Chinese character is 玄武), an animal fixed with snake and turtle, the darkness messager, the power of water, the north, the front, the winter. Qinglong (in Chinese character is 青龙), similar meaning is blue dragon, the east, the right, the Spring. Baihu (in Chinese character is 白虎), similar meaning is white tiger, the west, the left, the autumn/fall.
Yao (in Chinese character is 曜)，it means the sun light at the first time, then it means the light of sun, moon and stars. There are so many different sayings about Yao in old times, such as five Yaos saying, seven Yaos saying, nine Yaos saying, ten Yaos saying, eleven Yaos saying and twenty-eight Zheng Yaos saying.And the Five Yaos saying can be date back to 400~500BC, and they are Chenxing, Taibai, Yinghuo, Suixing and Zhenxing.
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.
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?
As stated, Xingguans are not related with areas, hence they have no definite boundaries.
- 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)
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. (see discussion page)
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.
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. 
This is a partial archaic variant of Western Sky image conserved on its medieval level, including so far 117 names of different celestial objects. It was used up to recently (19th century) by Adriatic islanders in navigation and fisheries, for their orientation and determination of nocturnal hours. It was not officially standardised, being transferred chiefly by oral traditions in Chakavian tongue and by scarce notes in Glagolitic script.
Its main constellations are almost founded on ancient Mediterranean traditions of Greco-Roman origin, and their recent names are partly Chakavian translation calques of these ones. However, individual star names are mostly earlier pre-Roman, descending from proto-historic star names of Liburnian navigators in early Adriatic (1/3 ones), and also 1/4 star names of Oriental origin from early Mesopotamia. This Chakavian sky nomenclature was the richest and completed to 12th cent. A.D., and from 16th cent. it was gradually pauperised. It has rigid grammatical rules how to name constellations, and their main and minor stars.
This sky culture now covers 31 named constellations partly comparable with Western ones, but 1/3 of them are wider including two adjacent ones with one collective name, so covering about 50 official constellations of the sky visible from Adriatic. All constellation names there are in plural forms.
So far names of 59 major stars here are conserved and noted. The main star in each constellation (usually alpha) is always in augmentative and feminine form, and other minor ones are in diminutive and masculine forms.
For difference of other cultures, Chakavian nomenclature in Adriatic has 13 specific names for all visible nebulae plus some details of Via Lactea, because their visibility (or absence) is widely used here for weekly weather prognoses. Moreover, Chakavian folk naming of dozen visible details on Moon is among the most precise ones, because up to recently they observed them as a Selenoscope, i.e. determining of fate and future by Moon in 56 annual weeks (not by usual solar horoscope of Zoodiac).
Short naming survey
- 1. Bakodlãk (Taurus): Vlahÿnica (alpha), Mikùla (eta), Vlahÿtje (Pleiades), Malÿtje (Hyades).
- 2. Baršÿtje (Draco): named stars are Baršÿna (alpha) & Baršadÿn (beta).
- 3. Divÿce (Virgo): main star named is Dÿva (Spica).
- 4. Gâta (Cassiopeia): named stars Krolèvić (alpha) i Krolèvica (beta).
- 5. Goncÿne (Bootes): main star named is Ostàn (Arcturus).
- 6. Hayebâje (Aquarius + Capricornus): main star named is Buÿmer (Algiedi).
- 7. Kàške (Ophiuchus): Scemerÿna (Rasalgeti) & Kaškÿna (Rasalhague).
- 8. Kosÿre (Leo): Kosirÿć (Regul) & Kosirÿka (Kosirica, Denebola).
- 9. Kozlÿtje (Auriga): named Kozlàrica (Capella) & Kozlâk (Elnath).
- 10. Križevâli (Cygnus): main star named is Križnÿca (Deneb).
- 11. Mântre (Hydra): main star named is Mantràtja (Alphard).
- 12. Mićakrÿš (Perseus): main star named is Križàc (Algol).
- 13. Navi-Matâne (Argo Navis): Marjakÿr (zeta) & Navakÿr (omicron).
- 14. Orkulÿtje (Cetus): named Orkulÿna (Mira) & Sionorkûl (Menkar).
- 15. Pašoglàvi (Canis Maior+Minor): Sionpàš (Sirius), Mićapàš (Procyon), Pašÿca (Adhara).
- 16. Rybôj (Piscis Austrinus): main star named is Nylòva (Fomalhaut).
- 17. Scâpi (Orion): Scapÿna (Betelgeuse) & Šparnàć (nebula Orioni).
- 18. Šedân Brodih (Ursa Maior): Sionãv (alpha) i Švêra (beta), Mićanãv (gamma), Maryãn (delta), Noavÿna (epsilon), Dvôydi (zeta), Dragãr (eta).
- 19. Škraplûne (Scorpius): Tjarmãl (Antares) & Jarÿna (Shaula).
- 20. Šûndre (Sagittarius): named Šundrakÿr (Khaus) & Šundrôn (Ascella).
- 21. Tohôrje (Ursa Minor): Tohôrnica (Polaris) & Mićekòlo (beta).
- 22. Tovorÿtje (Cancer): included stars group Plenÿce (Praesepe, epsilon).
- 23. Troydi (Triangulus): no major named stars.
- 24. Vârdice (Gemini): named stars Vârda (Castor) & Vardÿna (Pollux).
- 25. Veletÿći (Aquila): main star named is Laštrÿb (Altair).
- 26. Volÿtje ( Lyra ): main star named is Volàrica ( Vega ).
- 27. Yânce ( Aries ): main star named is Bravàrica (Hamal).
- 28. Yzdène (Centaurus): main star named is Yezdakÿr (Menkert).
- 29. Zarje-Harvâtje (Andromeda + Pegasus): Zminivêr (Alferaz), Belòva (Algenib), Kunjelàbor (Markab), Zarnÿk (Sheat), Mićamàtja (nebula M31).
- 30. Zmûli (Crater ): no major stars named.
- 31. Žmÿni (Libra): Žminÿna (Zubenelgenubi), Sionžmÿn (Zubenelshemali).
- - - Štomorÿna Kruna (Via Lactea): Garmÿna (lacuna), Siongêt (sinus), Artÿna (promontorium).
- - - Švitlÿce (planets & comets): Zvicerna (Venus), Rumanica (Mars), Plaušÿca (Jupiter), Želenÿca (Saturn), Šalamuna (Halleys comet), ...etc.
Chakavian folk astrognosy in Adriatic was studied in detail 1923-1976, and reported in big monograph of late M. Yoshamya: Gan-Veyan, 1224 p. Zagreb 2005 (Croatian with English & French digests). Related minor wiki-insights occur also in Wikinfo and Wikislavia.
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.
- Polynesian Constellations at Honolulu Community College
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 has 3 villages (or cities) which contain each group of constellations.
- TaeMiWon(太微垣; Big low-border) ... 19 constellatons, 78 stars.
- ZaMiWon(紫微垣; Violet low-border) ... 37 constellations, 165 stars.
- CheonShiWon(天市垣; Sky market-border) ... 19 constellations, 91 stars.
28su have diveded into 4 groups called CheongRyong, BaekHo, ZuZak, HyeonMu. They are deities of the cardinal points and each has 7 constellation groups.
- CheongRyong(靑龍; blue-dragon, deity of east) ... 48 constellations, 186 stars.
- Gaak(角) ... 11 constellations.
- Haang(亢) ... 7 constellations.
- Zeo(氐) ... 11 constellations.
- Baang(方) ... 8 constellations.
- Shim(心) ... 2 constellations.
- Mi(尾) ... 6 constellations.
- Ki(箕) ... 3 constellatoins.
- BaekHo(白虎; white-tiger, deity of west) ... 56 constellations, 301 stars.
- Gyu(奎) ... 9 constellations.
- Ru(婁) ... 6 constellations.
- Wii(胃) ... 7 constellations.
- Myo(昴) ... 9 constellations.
- Pil(畢) ... 15 constellations.
- Zaa(觜) ... 3 constellations.
- Saam(參) ... 7 constellations.
- ZuZak(朱雀; red-pheonix, deity of south) ... 46 constellations, 240 stars.
- Zeong(井) ... 21 constellations.
- Kui(鬼) ... 7 constellations.
- Ryu(柳) ... 2 constellations.
- Seong(星) ... 5 constellations.
- Zaang(張) ... 2 constellations.
- Ik(翼) ... 2 constellations.
- Jin(軫) ... 8 constellations.
- HyeonMu(玄武; black-turtle, deity of north) ... 66 constellations, 405 stars.
- Duu(斗) ... 10 constellations.
- Wuu(牛) ... 11 constellations.
- Yeo(女) ... 8 constellations.
- Heo(虛) ... 10 constellations.
- Wii(危) ... 11 constellations.
- Shil(室) ... 11 constellations.
- Byeok(壁) ... 5 constellations.
Total 291 constellatinos and 1466 stars.
Read Inuit Sky Culture
Maori (New Zealand)
The Maori (New Zealand) night sky is similar to the Polynesian night sky. But it differs enough to warrant it's own sky culture. Maritime themes are central to the Maori sky culture and were used extensively in nautical navigation. Along with most other cultures, the rising and setting of prominent stars were used to signal planting and harvesting seasons.
External Links: A very good website on Maori sky culture is maintained by 'The Phoenix Astronomical Society': Wairarapa , New Zealand. http://www.astronomynz.org.nz/maori-astronomy/taatai-arorangi-maori-astronomy-2.html
Taatai-arorangi-maori: There are tribal ('iwi') variations in the naming of the stars and constellations. The names referenced below are the more well known names.
- Mercury ...Takero
- Venus (morning star) ...Tawera
- Venus (evening star) ...Meremere
- Mars ...Rangiwhenua
- Jupiter* ...Perearau
- Saturn* ...Perearau (Both Jupiter and Saturn have the same name)
- Altair ...Poutu-te-Rangi
- Antares ...Rehua
- S_Sco ...Pekehawani
- T_Sco ...Whakaonge-kai
- Canopus ...Autahi
- Procyon ...Puanga Hori
- Rigel ...Puanga
- Sirius ...Takarua
- Vega ...Whanui
- Spica ...Whiti-Kapeka or Mariao
- Arcturus ...Ruawahia
- Castor ...Whakaahu
- Pollux ...Whakaahu (Both Castor and Pollux have the same name)
- Aldebaran ...Taumatakuku
- Achernar ...Turu
- Orion (whole belt) ...Hao - o- rua
- Orion (the belt) ...Tau toro
- Orion (a part) ...Te Kakau
- Scorpio ...Ruhi
- Scorpio (the tail) ...Te Waka-o-Tama-Rereti
- Pleiades ...Matariki
- Stars in the Pleiades (unspecified): ...Tupua-nuku, Tupua-rangi, Ururangi, Wai-puna-a-rangi, Waiti, Waita
- Pointers ...Te Taura Ra o Tainui
- Hyades ...Te Kokota
- Southern Cross ...Mahutonga
- Coal sack ...Te Patiki
- Milky Way ...Te ika o te rangi
- Large Magellanic cloud ...Te Waka Ruru
- Small Magellanic cloud ...Tuputuputu
- Double stars ...Pipiri
- Comets ...Auihi Turoa
- Ecliptic ...Pito - o - Watea
- Moon ...Te Marama
- Sun ...Te Ra
- Te-Ra-o-Tainui ...A maori constellation without a European counterpart. It is a sea voyaging catamaran. The belt of orion is the keel, the hyades is a claw sail and the Pleiades is the bow.
Best,E 1955 'The astronomical knowledge of the Maori',Dominion Museum Monograph no.3 Wellington:Government Printer
Best,E 1959 'The Maori division of time',Dominion Museum Monograph no4. Wellington: Government Printer
Evans,J 1998 'The discovery of Aotearoa', Reed
Kingsley-Smith, C 1967 'Astronomers in puipuis. Maori Star lore', Southern Stars 22,5-10
Leather,K and Hall,Richard 2004 'Tatai Arorangi: Maori Astronomy, Work of the gods',Viking sevenseas nz ltd, Paraparaumu, NZ, ISBN:085467105 6
Lewis,D 1994 'We, the navigators. The ancient art of landfinding in the Pacific',University of Hawaii press
Orbell,M 1996 'The natural world of the Maori',David Bateman ltd
Orchiston, W 'Australian Aboriginal, Polynesian and Maori Astronomy', Chapter in: 1996 'Astronomy before the telescope' 318-328. Editor Chris Walker. BCA