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Every constellation name has two forms: the nominative, for use when you're talking about the constellation itself, and the genitive, or possessive, which is used in star names.For instance, Hamal, the brightest star in the constellation Aries (nominative form), is also called Alpha Arietis (genitive form), meaning literally "the Alpha of Aries." When space is at a premium, this is written α Ari, using the lower-case Greek letter alpha and the abbreviation for Aries.That's why all constellations invented since classical times have Latin names, as do all species of plants and animals.Most constellation names are simple common nouns with obvious English equivalents.Our pronunciations of constellation names are drawn from four sources: Pronouncing Astronomical Names was the report of a committee of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) charged with standardizing the pronunciation of constellations and stars. The AAS pronunciations were the S&T standard until 2004, when the desire to include pronunciation guides in Night Sky magazine forced us to reexamine the entire subject. It was inspired by the IAU's standardization of constellation definitions, but that was a very different situation.Sky & Telescope republished the constellation pronunciations several times, first in the June 1943 issue and most recently (with minor modifications) in the article Designated Authority by E. The IAU reforms were successful because they addressed an urgent need.And there's compelling evidence that many, including the zodiacal constellations, originated in Mesopotamia sometime before 1,000 BC.Somehow, the Mesopotamian constellations were imported into ancient Greece, but there's no record of how or why this occurred.
Later, in the telescopic era, astronomers invented additional constellations to fill the gaps between the traditional ones — areas that were uninteresting to Ptolemy and the early European navigators because they contain no bright stars.
Most of the well-known star constellation names date back to ancient Greece or earlier, but the precise list remained somewhat fuzzy until the early 20th century.
Then, in a series of resolutions from 1922 to 1930, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) divided the celestial sphere into 88 precisely defined constellations with official spellings and abbreviations.
Not surprisingly, there are plenty of intermediate cases.
Thus, Cetus means just a sea monster, whale, or large fish, but it's very likely that the constellation's inventor was thinking of the particular monster that tried to eat Andromeda.
And Gemini is the common Latin word for "twins" but also the special epithet of the mythological twins Castor and Pollux.