These pages had their origins in my skywatching guides for amateur astronomers. As I came to describe each constellation, I found myself wondering about its origin and the way in which ancient people had personified it in mythology. Astronomy books did not contain satisfactory answers. They either gave no mythology at all, or they recounted stories that, I later discovered, were not true to the Greek and Roman originals. I decided to write my own book on the mythology of the constellations. The result, Star Tales, appeared in 1988. In this revised and expanded web version it has grown into a comprehensive biography of the constellations from Ptolemaic times to the present: not just the 88 officially recognized figures but also two dozen others that fell by the wayside. One enhancement not found in the original book is notes on how Chinese astronomers visualized the stars, a subject still poorly understood in the west. Further updates and improvements are made from time to time.

Chapter One:  Stars and storytellers

Chapter Two:  Star maps

Chapter Three:  The celestial eighty-eight
Origins, mythology and illustrations of all 88 present-day constellations

Chapter Four:  Obsolete constellations
The true stories (and a tiny bit of scandal) behind two dozen now-defunct constellations

Additional reading (links):

The Golden Age of the Celestial Atlas  (Linda Hall Library, Missouri)

Historical Celestial Atlases on the web  (Robert Harry van Gent)

Stars and Constellations  (University of Oklahoma History of Science department)

Atlas Coelestis  (Felice Stoppa – in Italian)

Private lives of the stars  (article in New Scientist, 1988 December 24)

Book Ian’s constellation talks (click on image for synopsis):
Stories of the Stars: Constellations in myth, art and reality
Pictures in the sky: The origin and history of the constellations