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Star Tales was a book that grew out of 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 was published in 1988. My interest did not stop there, though. I continued to research constellation history, so that this revised and expanded web version has become a true biography of the constellations from Ptolemaic times to the present: not just the 88 officially recognized figures which are described in Chapter Three, but also two dozen others that fell by the wayside, featured in Chapter Four. 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 to these pages are made from time to time.
Contents


Chapter One:  Stars and storytellers

Chapter Two:  Star maps

Chapter Three:  The celestial eighty-eight (plus two)
Origins, mythology and illustrations of all 88 present-day constellations, plus the Milky Way and the aurora

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):
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Stories of the Stars: Constellations in myth, art and reality
Pictures in the sky: The origin and history of the constellations
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