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Milky Way Learning the Constellations of the night through the

The second secret in learning the constellations is to become familiar with the three starry pathways in the sky: the Milky Way, the circle of the Zodiac and the ring of the circumpolar stars. Most people don’t realize these three rings of constellations cross each other in certain portions of the sky and contain the majority of the constellations (save for a few heroes like Hercules and monsters like Hydra that seem to be caught off the beaten path.) For example, it is best to learn the constellations of the Milky Way in the late summer and fall when an arch appears high overhead starting with Scorpius in the south, then Sagittarius the Archer, Aquilla the Eagle, Cygnus the Swan, Cepheus, Cassiopeia and to Perseus and Auriga rising in the northeast. The month of May on the other hand is not a good time since the Milky Way is not overhead but skirts the horizon in all directions.

The constellations of the Zodiac are learned season by season as they appear. For summer these would include Sagittarius, Scorpio, Libra and Virgo. Note that Sagittarius and Scorpio are also members of the Milky Way. They are located where the circle of the zodiac (the ecliptic) crosses the circle of the Milky Way. The same is true of the constellations of Taurus and Gemini, which are located where the circle of the Zodiac again crosses the Milky Way. For the Fall season, early evening viewing would reveal Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. For winter: Aries, Taurus and Gemini. For spring you would see the constellations of Cancer, Leo and Virgo. It is helpful to note that the signs of the Zodiac repeat as Air, Water, Fire and Earth signs. For example Aquarius (air), Pisces (water), Aries (fire), Taurus (earth), Gemini (air) etc.

The circumpolar constellations are fewer in number that the constellations in the other rings. Included are the constellations Perseus, Cepheus, Cassiopeia (these three are also in the Milky Way group), then Draco the Dragon, Ursa Major and Camelpardus. It you look at Pegasus it appears to be galloping upside down along the Milky Way with Andromeda holding on to its tail. Heroes like Hercules, Orion and Ophiuchus seem to be caught between Heaven (Milky Way) and Earth (Zodiac), saving mankind from Hydras, Dragons, Serpents and raging bulls.

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