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Basic Astronomical Information and Resources

Contents

  1. Constellations
  2. Greek Alphabet
  3. Messier Objects
  4. Eclipses and Transits
  5. Sunrise/Sunset Times
  6. Calendars and Time
  7. Fundamental Constants
  8. Astronomical Quantities
  9. Planetary Data
  10. Numerical Prefixes
  11. Cosmic Elemental Abundances

Constellations

Here is a list of all the Constellations in the sky, their abbreviated names and what the names mean.

Andromeda - The Princess

Antlia - The Air Pump

Apus - Bird of Paradise

Aquarius - The Water Carrier

Aquila - The Eagle

Ara - The Altar

Aries - The Ram

Auriga - The Charioteer

Boötes - The Herdsman

Caelum - The Chisel

Camelopardalis - The Giraffe

Cancer - The Crab

Canes Venatici - Hunting Dogs

Canis Major - The Greater Dog

Canis Minor - The Lesser Dog

Capricornus - The Goat-Fish

Carina - The Keel

Cassiopeia - The Queen

Centaurus - The Centaur

Cepheus - The King

Cetus - The Whale

Chamaeleon - The Chameleon

Circinus - The Drafting Compass

Columba - The Dove

Coma Berenices - Berenice's Hair

Corona Australis - Southern Crown

Corona Borealis - Northern Crown

Corvus - The Crow

Crater - The Goblet

Crux - Southern Cross

Cygnus - The Swan

Delphinus - The Dolphin

Dorado - The Goldfish

Draco - The Dragon

Equuleus - The Little Horse

Eridanus - The River

Fornax - The Furnace

Gemini - The Twins

Grus - The Crane

Hercules - The Strong Man

Horologium - The Pendulum Clock

Hydra - The Water Serpent

Hydrus - The Lesser Water Snake

Indus - The Indian

And

Ant

Aps

Aqr

Aql

Ara

Ari

Aur

Boö

Cae

Cam

Cnc

CVn

CMa

CMi

Cap

Car

Cas

Cen

Cep

Cet

Cha

Cir

Col

Com

CrA

CrB

Crv

Crt

Cru

Cyg

Del

Dor

Dra

Equ

Eri

For

Gem

Gru

Her

Hor

Hya

Hyi

Ind

 

Lacerta - The Lizard

Leo - The Lion

Leo Minor - The Lesser Lion

Lepus - The Hare

Libra - The Scales

Lupus - The Wolf

Lynx - The Lynx

Lyra - The Lyre

Mensa - The Table Mountain

Microscopium - The Microscope

Monoceros - The Unicorn

Musca - The Fly

Norma - The Level

Octans - The Octant

Ophiuchus - Serpent Holder

Orion - The Hunter

Pavo - The Peacock

Pegasus - The Winged Horse

Perseus - The Hero

Phoenix - The Phoenix

Pictor - The Painter's Easel

Pisces - The Fish

Piscis Austrinus - The Southern Fish

Puppis - The Stern

Pyxis - The Compass

Reticulum - The Reticle

Sagitta - The Arrow

Sagittarius - The Archer

Scorpius - The Scorpion

Sculptor - The Sculptor

Scutum - The Shield

Serpens - The Serpent

Sextans - The Sextant

Taurus - The Bull

Telescopium - The Telescope

Triangulum - The Triangle

Triangulum Australe - Southern Triangle

Tucana - The Toucan

Ursa Major - The Great Bear

Ursa Minor - The Lesser Bear

Vela - The Sails

Virgo - The Virgin

Volans - The Flying Fish

Vulpecula - The Fox

Lac

Leo

LMi

Lep

Lib

Lup

Lyn

Lyr

Men

Mic

Mon

Mus

Nor

Oct

Oph

Ori

Pav

Peg

Per

Phe

Pic

Psc

PsA

Pup

Pyx

Ret

Sge

Sgr

Sco

Scl

Sct

Ser

Sex

Tau

Tel

Tri

TrA

Tuc

UMa

UMi

Vel

Vir

Vol

Vul

Go here for more constellation information.


Greek Alphabet

All the letters of the Greek Alphabet, upper- and lower-case.

symbol

Messier Objects

Go to this page at the SEDS website for a complete and very detailed guide to all the objects in the Messier catalogue - click on one of the links just below the arrows.

Eclipses and Transits

Fred Espenak's Eclipse Homepage is the premier resource on the web for information about eclipse and planetary transits of the sun, both past and future. It contains photos of numerous previous eclipses, and accurate times and locations for eclipses going far into the future. It also contains links to many other pages with eclipse information. See also next section on USNO.

Sunrise/Sunset Times

Go to this web page at the US Naval Observatory for a program that will calculate the sunrise and sunset times for anywhere in the world, by specifying your longitude and latitude. This USNO page contains calculations of other astronomical phenomena, including eclipse, transits etc. It is well worth a look.

Calendars and Time

Go here for the Calendar FAQ, which contains answers to many common questions about the various calendars in use around the world. This page contains a detailed discussion of calendars. Another page has more time-related questions and answers.

Fundamental Constants

Constant Symbol Value
Speed of light (in a vacuum) c 2.99792458 symbol108 m/s
Permeability of a Vacuum symbol  4symbolsymbol10-7 N A-2
Permittivity of a Vacuum symbol  8.854187817 symbol10-12 F m-1
Newtonian Gravitational Constant G 6.67259 symbol10-11 N m2 kg-2
Elementary Charge (on an electron/proton) e 1.60 symbol10-19 C
Electron Mass me 9.11 symbol10-31 kg
Proton Mass mp 1.673 symbol10-27 kg
Neutron Mass mn 1.675 symbol10-27 kg
Planck Constant h 6.63 symbol10-34 J s
Boltzmann Constant k 1.38 symbol10-23 J K-1
Stefan-Boltzmann Constant  symbol 5.67 symbol10-8 W m-2 K-4
Electron Volt eV 1.60 symbol10-19 J
Thomson Scattering Cross-section symbol  6.65 symbol10-29 m2

Astronomical Quantities

Quantity Symbol Value
Mass of the Earth symbol  5.98 symbol1024 kg
Radius of the Earth symbol  6.38 symbol106 m
Mean Earth-Sun Distance (Astronomical Unit) a.u. 1.50 symbol1011 km
Solar Mass symbol  1.99 symbol1030 kg
Solar Radius symbol  6.96 symbol108 m
Solar Surface Temperature symbol  5780 K
Solar Luminosity symbol  3.86 symbol1026 W
Parsec pc 3.09 symbol1016 m
Light Year ly 9.46 symbol1015 m

Planetary Data

Name Mass (kg) Radius (m) Period (yr) Semi-Major Axis (AU) Eccentricity
Mercury 3.303 x 1023 2.439 x 106 0.24085 0.387096 0.205622
Venus 4.87 x 1024 6.05 x 106 0.61521 0.723342 0.006783
Earth 5.976 x 1024 6.378 x 106 1.00004 0.999987 0.016684
Mars 6.418 x 1023 3.397 x 106 1.88089 1.523705 0.093404
Jupiter 1.899 x 1027 7.14 x 107 11.8622 5.204529 0.047826
Saturn 5.686 x 1026 6 x 107 29.4577 9.575133 0.052754
Uranus 8.66 x 1025 2.615 x 107 84.0139 19.30375 0.050363
Neptune 1.03 x 1026 2.43 x 107 164.793 30.20652 0.004014
Pluto 1 x 1022 1.2 x 106 247.686 39.91136 0.256695

Numerical Prefixes

Factor Prefix Symbol   Factor Prefix Symbol
1018 exa E   10-1 deci d
1015 peta P   10-2 centi c
1012 tera T   10-3 milli m
109 giga G   10-6 micro symbol
106 mega M   10-9 nano n
103 kilo k   10-12 pico p
102 hecto h   10-15 femto f
101 deca da   10-18 atto a

Cosmic Elemental Abundances

Element Abundance Element Abundance Element Abundance
1 H

2 He

3 Li

4 Be

5 B

6 C

7 N

8 O

9 F

10 Ne

11 Na

12 Mg

13 Al

14 Si

15 P

16 S

17 Cl

18 Ar

19 K

20 Ca

21 Sc

22 Ti

23 V

24 Cr

25 Mn

26 Fe

27 Co

28 Ni

29 Cu

30 Zn

12.00

10.99

1.16

1.15

2.6

8.56

8.05

8.93

4.56

8.09

6.33

7.58

6.47

7.55

5.45

7.21

5.5

6.56

5.12

6.36

3.10

4.99

4.00

5.67

5.39

7.67

4.92

6.25

4.21

4.60

31 Ga

32 Ge

33 As

34 Se

35 Br

36 Kr

37 Rb

38 Sr

39 Y

40 Zr

41 Nb

42 Mo

44 Ru

45 Rh

46 Pd

47 Ag

48 Cd

49 In

50 Sn

51 Sb

52 Te

53 I

54 Xe

55 Cs

56 Ba

57 La

58 Ce

59 Pr

60 Nd

2.88

3.41

2.37

3.35

2.63

3.23

2.60

2.90

2.24

2.60

1.42

1.92

1.84

1.12

1.69

0.94

1.86

1.66

2.0

1.0

2.24

1.51

2.23

1.12

2.13

1.22

1.55

0.71

1.50

62 Sm

63 Eu

64 Gd

65 Tb

66 Dy

67 Ho

68 Er

69 Tm

70 Yb

71 Lu

72 Hf

73 Ta

74 W

75 Re

76 Os

77 Ir

78 Pt

79 Au

80 Hg

81 Tl

82 Pb

83 Bi

90 Th

92 U

1.00

0.51

1.12

-0.1

1.1

0.26

0.93

0.0

1.08

0.76

0.88

0.13

1.11

0.27

1.45

1.35

1.8

1.01

1.09

0.9

1.85

0.71

0.12

-0.47


This is a logarithmic scale (described in the Notes on Mathematics here), and the values are by number of molecules, not by mass.The logarithmic scale is used to make things easier to read, since Hydrogen comprises over 90% of the matter in the universe (by number), and the other elements have very small relative abundances. The scale is normalised so that log10 of the Hydrogen abundance is 12 - this is a standard way of normalising the data. You may notice that there are some negative values - this is OK, since it is a relative logarithmic scale, not an absolute scale, so this does not mean negative abundances of those elements (which would be impossible). The values in this table are mostly for measurements in the solar photosphere; some are of meteorites.