Having an ever-growing number of classifications, assignments, and online magazine lists, perhaps its time to right back up for an instant. Maybe it is best to remember: What exactly are the astrology signs? Or, more importantly, where can they be found in the night sky? Pull out the telescopes and search the stars to locate the specific constellations of the zodiac.
12. Aries (March 21 – April 19)
Aries, the ram, is seen in the first quadrant of the northern hemisphere between latitudes +90° and -60° and is best viewed during November. The constellation’s main shape consists of three prominent stars, Mesarthim, Sheratan, and the brightest, Hamel. To locate Aries, look for a crooked type of three bright stars – Hamel (left), Sheratan (middle), Mesarthim (right). For a bit of deep space exploration, within the constellation lies companion galaxies NGC 772 and NGC 770. Aries also plays host to several notable meteor showers over summer and winter.
11. Taurus (April 20 – May 20)
Taurus, the bull, can most readily useful be seen in the northern hemisphere from late October to early November. The constellation is located within the first quadrant between latitudes +90° and -65°. To find it, roughly follow the belt created by Taurus’ celestial neighbor, Orion. By doing so, stargazers can identify the brightest point within Taurus, alpha Tauri, a. k. a. Aldebaran. The distinctive “horns” of the constellation make it one of the most recognizable patterns in the night time sky. And for a bit of extra searching, Messier 1, a supernova remnant, can be found within Taurus.
10. Gemini (May 21 – June 20)
Gemini, the twins, rests within the second quadrant of the northern hemisphere between latitudes +90° and -60°. The constellation is at its best viewing period during the winter and is within the vicinity of Orion and Taurus. The brightest stars of the pattern are celestial neighbors Pollux (lower) and Castor (upper), and they make up the respective heads of the two twins. Some interesting notes about Pollux and Castor: The former has at least one planet orbiting it, and the latter is actually an assortment of six stars. For a bit more fun, amateur astronomers can also take to searching for star cluster M35 near the foot of Castor.
9. Cancer (June 21 – July 22)
Cancer, the crab, is one of the most challenging zodiacs to locate because it is the faintest. The constellation sits within the second quadrant of the northern hemisphere between latitudes +90° and -60°. At the center of the pattern is the star Asellus Australis (Delta Cancri), and from there, Cancer splits off into three distinct branches – one up and two down. What the constellation lacks in brightness, though, it more than makes up for with deep space objects such as the famed Beehive Cluster, that is visible to the naked eye.
8. Leo (July 23 – August 22)
Leo, the lion, is really a spring constellation that rests within the next quadrant of the northern hemisphere between latitudes +90° and -65°. Although it is among the most recognizable shapes in the sky, to better locate it, look for the Big Dipper. The stars that comprise the bowl of the dipper point towards Leo. The brightest point within the constellation is Alpha Leonis, a. k. a., Regulus, and it marks the front paw of the great lion. Many galaxies reside inside Leo, as well as the Leo Ring, a massive cloud of hydrogen and helium.
7. Virgo (August 23 – September 22)
Virgo, the virgin, may be the second-largest constellation in the sky and is best viewed between March and July. Its location is in the third quadrant of the southern hemisphere between +80° and -80°. The brightest star within the pattern is Alpha Virginis, also called Spica (the 15th brightest star in the sky). While looking at Virgo, astronomers can also view a variety of deep space objects. Among such phenomenon is the massive Virgo Cluster, which might contain around 2000 different galaxies. As an extra note, the Virgo Cluster is at the biggest market of the much larger Virgo Supercluster, the home of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
6. Libra (September 23 – October 22)
Libra, the scales, can be seen in the northern hemisphere between April and July. It rests in the third quadrant of the southern hemisphere between the latitudes +65° and -90°. It’s the only zodiac that’s represented by an object rather than a being or creature. A reasonably dim constellation, Libra may be a bit difficult to locate, and its brightest point is Zubeneschamali. Libra is also home to the oldest known star in the universe, Methuselah.
5. Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)
Scorpio, the scorpion, is located close to the center of the Milky Way within the southern hemisphere between latitudes +40° and -90°. Even though mostly a southern hemisphere constellation, it could be seen in the northern hemisphere from July to August. The Scorpio pattern includes Antares (Alpha Scorpii), which is one of the brightest stars in the sky. The constellation is home to numerous deep space objects, so there is plenty to find for the backyard astronomer.
4. Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)
Sagittarius, the centaur, are available in the fourth quadrant of the southern hemisphere between latitudes +55° and -90°. The ideal time to view the constellation in the northern hemisphere is from August to October, also it sits low coming. It rests nearby the heart of the Milky Way Galaxy. Sagittarius is made up of seven bright stars with the brightest being Kaus Australis (Epsilon Sagittarii). The constellation is home to a few impressive deep space objects, including the closest known supermassive black hole to our solar system. Such wonders make Sagittarius a complete gold mine for all those hoping for an illuminating stargazing session.
3. Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)
Capricorn, the goat, resides within the fourth quadrant of the southern hemisphere between latitudes +60° and -90°. To best view it in the northern hemisphere, stargazers have a big window from July to November. A bright triangle forms the head of the goat and is probably the patterns most telltale features. Capricorn is amongst the faintest of the zodiac constellations, so that it might be a bit difficult to find.
2. Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)
Aquarius, the water-bearer, is just a southern hemisphere constellation sitting between latitudes +65° and -90° within the fourth quadrant. It can be viewed in the northern hemisphere during the fall. The brightest star of the pattern is Sadalsuud (Beta Aquarii). As a side note, many of the other stars in Aquarius have known exoplanets orbiting them.
1 . Pisces (February 19 – March 20)
Pisces, the fish (plural), is visible in the northern hemisphere’s first quadrant between latitudes +90° and -65° from August to January. Although it is a large constellation, it is quite dim, so it is viewable only in places with little to no light pollution. The pattern forms a large V-shape. Observers should look for the distinct Circlet of Pisces, which makes up the head of the Western Fish. You can find only a few deep space objects within Pisces.