History of the Constellations

Stars and Constellations


| Prev: Cen | Index of Constellations | Next: Cerberus Ramus |

Contents of this page: | Description | Skylore | Modern Culture | Origin and History | Special Stars | Nebulae | Submit new info... |

Images (at bottom of page): | Cepheus Chart: (Figure 1) | Hyginus, 1482, page D4r: (Figure 2) | Hyginus, 1517, page E4r: (Figure 3) | Bayer, 1661, page D: (Figure 4) | Bayer, 1697, page C2v: (Figure 5) | Bayer, 1697, page C3r: (Figure 6) | Bode, 1801, page r: (Figure 7) | Aspin, 1825, page Cepheus: (Figure 8) | Images digitized by Hannah Magruder.

Constellation Data


Another circumpolar constellation is the Ethiopian king, Cepheus (SEE-fee-us). He sits atop the Milky Way on a throne near his queen Cassiopeia. The legs and seat of his throne make a rough square. On the Ursa Major side of Cassiopeia, looks like a house (or throne) sitting on the Milky Way. Look for mu-Cephei, the "garnet star," with a deep reddish tint. The back of the seat comes to a point at the top above his head.

Skylore and Literature

See Andromeda and Cassiopeia.

Modern Culture

Origin and History

Cepheus is included in the ancient star catalogs of Eudoxos of Knidos, Aratos of Soli, and Ptolemy.

Special Stars

D-Cephei, pulsating giant star.

The Garnet Star is one of the reddest stars known. A huge red giant, much like Betelguese in Orion, its size is uncertain, but if its center were where our sun is, we would be inside it.

The brightest star in Cepheus is Alderamin. In 5000 years it will become the pole star, as it was in 18,000 B.C. (see discussion of precession under Lyra).


There is a star moving extremely rapidly, leaving a wake behind in the shape of a guitar known as the Guitar Nebula.

Submit new info...

Many excellent websites provide a variety of information about constellations for amateur astronomers and telescope users (see sidebar links for a few of these). These constellation pages are not intended to duplicate those efforts, but are devoted to two aims: First, they are intended to assist the beginning skywatcher, including students in history of science survey courses, in becoming familiar with Basic Celestial Phenomena (BCP). Second, these pages are devoted to the history of the constellations and the history of astronomy. They are intended to serve as a repository for collaborative use and reference. Do you have additional historical information about the stars or constellation described on this page? Please submit additional information to kmagruder@ou.edu. Submissions will be attributed. Editors for historical information are Kerry Magruder, JoAnn Palmeri, Peter Barker, and Laura Gibbs.

Oklahoma History of Science exhibits: http://hos.ou.edu/exhibits/. Page revised 4/15/04

Bad links, misplaced images, or questions? Contact Kerry Magruder. Thank you.

"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown. But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile." R. W. Emerson, Nature


Figure 1 Figure 1 - Return to Text

Cep Chart
Figure 2 Figure 2 - Return to Text

Hyginus, 1482

Zoom - 5 in | 10 in
Download TIFF (large file)
Figure 3 Figure 3 - Return to Text

Hyginus, 1517

Zoom - 5 in | 10 in
Download TIFF (large file)
Figure 4 Figure 4 - Return to Text

Bayer, 1661

Zoom - 5 in | 10 in
Download TIFF (large file)
Figure 5 Figure 5 - Return to Text

Bayer, 1697

Zoom - 5 in | 10 in
Download TIFF (large file)
Figure 6 Figure 6 - Return to Text

Bayer, 1697

Zoom - 5 in | 10 in
Download TIFF (large file)
Figure 7 Figure 7 - Return to Text

Bode, 1801

Zoom - 5 in | 10 in
Download TIFF (large file)
Figure 8 Figure 8 - Return to Text

Aspin, 1825

Zoom - 5 in | 10 in
Download TIFF (large file)

Exhibit credit: Kerry Magruder.

Exhibit Links
Web Links

These teaching resources provided by the History of Science Department at the University of Oklahoma.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries. Image Terms of Use.

OU LogoOU College of Arts and Sciences Online Logo

OU Disclaimer | Contacts: Content - Kerry Magruder, Website - Eric Bruning