Discovering new constellations in SDSS images

Most of the stars and galaxies in SkyServer have never been studied by anyone. So they give you the perfect chance to find your own constellations! Like the ancient Greeks or Japanese, you can find new patterns of stars that make new constellations.

Step 1: Your teacher will give you a sheet of graph paper. Draw a very simple shape on the paper. Draw whatever you like – maybe an animal, a person, or an everyday object like a pencil. Think about how to make your drawing out of stars, like the Greeks made Orion. Draw about 6-10 stars on your graph paper, to form an outline of your constellation.

Now, go to SkyServer’s Navigation Tool.¬†You’ll see a screen like this:



The boxes “ra” and “dec” in the top left of the tool give the location in the sky. They are coordinates, like x and y in math or longitude and latitude in geography. “Get Image” loads a new image. You can zoom in or out in the image with the zoom bar below Get Image. Click the plus sign to zoom in or the minus sign to zoom out. You can also move around in the sky by clicking the NWSE buttons around the image.

Pick some area of the sky, then look for your constellation! Find stars or galaxies that match the outline you made on graph paper. They don’t have to match exactly. It might help to zoom out, so you can see a larger area of sky at once.

When you find your constellation, start clicking on its stars and galaxies. When you click on an object, a green square will come up around it, and a close-up will appear in the top right. Click “Add to Notes” to add the star or galaxy to your online notebook

Add each star in your constellation to your notebook. When you are finished, click “Show Notes” to see your notebook, then click “Export” to save it to your computer. You now have a record of your constellation!

Here is an example to get you started. The picture below shows the “Rudolph Constellation,” near ra = 219.75, dec = 0.3. You can find this area by opening the Navigation Tool, entering the coordinates, and clicking Get Image. Look for the red star – that’s Rudolph’s nose!


The Rudolph Constellation

The Rudolph constellation is made up of 6 stars. To learn more about a star, click on it and look at its data in the right-hand frame. The numbers “u, g, r, i, z” are five kinds of magnitudes. What can you learn about these stars from studying SkyServer data?

Does the Rudolph constellation look like a red-nosed reindeer to you? What would you call it?

Now it’s your turn. Use the Navigation tool to find your constellations. Then, think about what the constellation looks like to you – use your imagination! You can make up a story about why the constellation is there, like the Greeks did.

The constellations below were made by students like you! Each one has the constellation’s stars (from the SkyServer notebook). Click on “Navigate” to see the star in the Navigation tool. Each constellation also has a picture (from SkyServer) and a story about how it became a constellation.

3rd Grade
North Lake Park Community School
Orlando, FL

Amanda S.
The Butterfly

type ra dec link
STAR 164.281254 5.557861 Navigate
STAR 164.327223 5.543967 Navigate
STAR 164.308357 5.455307 Navigate
STAR 164.290874 5.490188 Navigate
STAR 164.331752 5.454843 Navigate
STAR 164.348096 5.460092 Navigate

ButterflyThe butterfly can live almost any where like the Amazon River and jungle. The butterfly has different color wing patterns. Also butterflies are really beautiful. Some butterflies are poisonous. Some butterflies are really cool because they can blend in. That is how the butterfly became a constellation.









Joshua W..
The Snake

type ra dec link
STAR 201.10093 2.659161 Navigate
STAR 201.11953 2.653539 Navigate
STAR 201.137679 2.664345 Navigate
STAR 201.165447 2.65139 Navigate
STAR 201.17258 2.662156 Navigate


I like water snakes because they swim a lot in the water. Also I like water snakes because they fight with other water snakes and you don’t know who is going to win. And I like water snakes because they catch their pray in the water. This snake became a Constellation because it helped other snakes and became the greatest snake in the world.

Austin L.
The Twin Towers

type ra dec link
STAR 165.097324 2.32354 Navigate
STAR 165.152196 2.278816 Navigate
STAR 165.035864 2.429818 Navigate
STAR 165.094218 2.559898 Navigate
STAR 165.102408 2.402187 Navigate
STAR 165.160251 2.536863 Navigate
STAR 165.205802 2.474013 Navigate
STAR 165.251717 2.43386 Navigate
twin towers

The Twin Towers are in the sky because Osama Ben Laden ordered two men to run their air planes into the Twin Towers. The over 2000 people died but at least those people are in heaven. In the sky we now see the Twin Towers because it was a great tower.

Manuel C.
The Person

type ra dec link
STAR 194.409924 2.447361 Navigate
STAR 194.472191 2.453311 Navigate
STAR 194.420192 2.498072 Navigate
STAR 194.462923 2.506206 Navigate


A person lives in a city, town and state. They are bad and sometime nice. They are different colors. They are different sizes. That’s how a person became a constellation.










Other students

Chelsea N.
The Badger with a Spot

type ra dec link
GALAXY 13.747435 -0.85153 Navigate
STAR 13.747435 -0.85153 Navigate
GALAXY 13.727756 -0.844902 Navigate
GALAXY 13.815962 -0.875769 Navigate
GALAXY 13.795251 -0.865148 Navigate
GALAXY 13.8466 -0.873949 Navigate
GALAXY 13.908296 -0.849001 Navigate
GALAXY 13.713646 -0.810756 Navigate
STAR 13.740827 -0.810515 Navigate
GALAXY 13.84811 -0.765184 Navigate
GALAXY 13.797268 -0.76999 Navigate
STAR 13.862577 -0.744276 Navigate
GALAXY 13.888653 -0.737044 Navigate
STAR 13.948546 -0.796609 Navigate
STAR 13.947152 -0.76977 Navigate
GALAXY 13.945741 -0.739032 Navigate
STAR 13.91554 -0.730435 Navigate
STAR 13.926328 -0.813818 Navigate
twin towers

One day badger got a spot, he was so ashamed of it that he went to space and never came back down!

Manuel C.
The Person

objId type Explore link Navigate link
587731511532454031 GALAXY Explore</A Navigate
587731511532454810 GALAXY Explore</A Navigate
587731511532519463 GALAXY Explore</A Navigate
587731511532585442 GALAXY Explore</A Navigate
588015507667419740 GALAXY Explore</A Navigate
588015507667484808 STAR Explore Navigate
588015507667485484 GALAXY Explore Navigate
588015507667550611 GALAXY Explore Navigate
588015508204290745 GALAXY Explore Navigate
588015508204355855 STAR Explore</A Navigate
588015508204355921 GALAXY Explore</A Navigate
588015508204421443 STAR Explore</A Navigate
twin towers

In Jesus’s time flora was a fish that lived in the pond and Jesus became good friends with flora and one day he met a blind child who had always wanted a pet fish. So Jesus asked flora if she wanted to be a pet and she said yes and went to live with billy. Billy took good care of her and when the time came for show and tell at billy’s school he took flora in her tank. It was a very windy day so billy covered the tank up with a cloth. When billy got to school he took the cover off and flora had disappeared!!!!!! Billy was very upset so that night he lay on his bed and looked out of his window at the stars and there he saw a constellation of a fish it looked just like flora so he named it after her. That’s why Christians have a fish symbol to represent Jesus. But we know that it should be in memory of flora as well.