Circumpolar Constellations

21st June 2019

"I want to view my star all year around. Which constellation do I choose?"

This is one of the most common questions that our Customer Service team get asked. The answer is, any circumpolar constellation!

A Circumpolar Constellation is a constellation that is situated around or inhabits one of the earth's poles, the Northern Pole constellations are visible all year round from the Northern Hemisphere and the same for the constellations situated around the South Pole, they are visible all year round from the Southern Hemisphere.

The Northern Hemisphere's Circumpolar Constellations

Constellations are groups of stars that form an imaginary outline that typically represents animals, mythological people or creatures, gods, or inanimate objects. The earliest constellations named likely go back to prehistoric times. Stars move around and travel in their own separate orbits through the Milky Way. The stars move along with lightyear fast speeds, but they are so far away that it takes a while for their motion to be noticed by us. Because of earths rotation it looks as if they rotate around us in approximately 24 hours. Because of our trajectory around the sun, the constellations make 1 more rotation per year. Winter and summer have their day and night constellations swapped. The Earth rotates once in about 24 hours with respect to the sun and once every 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds with respect to the stars. This means that the constellations that you see in February may not be visible in November for example, except circumpolar constellations as they are always situated around the North or South Pole. There are 9 constellations that are circumpolar in the Northern Hemisphere, Auriga, Camelopardalis, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Lynx, Perseus, Ursa Major, and Ursa Minor.


Auriga was one of the 48 constellations that were originally listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy. Its name originates from the Latin term 'the Charioteer' as the main stars that form the pattern of the constellation are similar to the shape of a pointed charioteer helmet! Auriga is usually depicted as a charioteer, holding the reins of a chariot with his right hand and carrying a goat and its two young on his left arm. Even though the image of the charioteer appears in Johann Bode's Uranographia (1801). none of the stories Auriga is usually associated with have a goat in them.

In mythology, Auriga is most frequently identified with Erichthonius, king of Athens and son of the fire god Hephaestus. richthonius was raised by the goddess Athena, who taught him many skills he wouldn't have ordinarily learned. He was the first man to tame and harness four horses to a chariot, imitating the chariot of the Sun god. Zeus was impressed and later placed Erichthonius among the stars. Erichthonius is usually credited for the invention of the four-horse chariot, the quadriga.

In another myth, Auriga represents Hephaestus himself, the lame god, who built the chariot so that he could travel anywhere he wanted, without difficulty.

In another popular myth, the charioteer is Myrtilus, son of Hermes, who services King Oenomaus of Pisa. Oenomaus had a beautiful daughter, Hippodamia, and was determined not to give her hand away to any of her suitors. He would challenge each of them to a chariot race. If he caught up with them before they arrived in Corinth, he would kill them. With Myrtilus driving the king's chariot, none of Hippodamia's suitors survived the race until Pelops, son of Tantalus, came to ask the king for his daughter's hand. Hippodamia fell in love with Pelops at first sight and asked Myrtilus to let him win. The charioteer, who was himself in love with the king's daughter, obeyed and tampered with the chariot's wheels. During the race, the wheels fell off and King Oenomaus was thrown off the chariot and killed. Once Pelops had won the race, he cast his rival Myrtilus into the sea. Betrayed, Myrtilus cursed the house of Pelops before he drowned. It was Myrtilus' father, Hermes who placed his son's image among the stars.

The star Capella, Alpha Aurigae, is associated with Amalthea, the goat who was foster-mother to Zeus. The name Capella is Roman and means "she-goat". The star is located on the Charioteer's left shoulder.


This constellation is pretty faint, with no stars brighter than the fourth magnitude. The Greeks did not see any stars in Camelopardalis and thought this region of the sky, as well as what is now the constellation Lynx, was empty. There are no myths associated with the constellation as it was only found in the 17th century.

While the giraffe is not a reference to mythology, the constellation's name could be a reference to the book of Genesis in the Bible, but this remains doubtful. When Jacob Bartsch included Camelopardalis on his star map of 1684, he described the constellation as a camel on which Rebecca rode into Canaan, where she was to marry Isaac. Since Camelopardalis represents a giraffe and not a camel, this explanation does not seem likely.


In mythology, Cassiopeia was the wife of King Cepheus (represented by the neighboring constellation Cepheus in the sky) of Ethiopia. Once, she boasted that she was more beautiful than the Nereids. The Nereids were the 50 sea nymphs fathered by the Titan Nereus. They were enraf=ged by Cassiopeia's comments and appealed to Poseidon to punish Cassiopeia for her boastfulness. Poseidon was married to one of the nymphs, Amphitrite. The sea god obliged and sent Cetus, a sea monster represented by the constellation Cetus (the Whale), located in the same region of the sky, to ravage the coast of Cepheus' kingdom. Cepheus turned to an oracle for help and the oracle told him that, in order to appease Poseidon, he and Cassiopeia had to sacrifice their daughter Andromeda to the sea monster. Reluctantly, they did so, leaving Andromeda chained to a rock for the monster to find. However, she was saved last minute by the Greek Hero, Perseus, who happened to be passing by, saw Andromeda and rescued her from the monster.

Perseus and Andromeda were later married. At the wedding, one of her former suitors, named Phineus, appeared and claimed that he was the only one who had the right to marry Andromeda. There was a fight and Perseus, desperately outnumbered, used the head of Medusa, the monster he had recently slain, to defeat his opponents. One look at Medusa's head turned them all to stone. In the process however, the king and queen were also killed because they did not look away from the monster's head in time.

It was Poseidon who placed Cassiopeia and Cepheus in the sky. Cassiopeia, the myth goes, was condemned to circle the celestial pole forever, and she spends half the year upside down in the sky as punishment for her vanity. She is usually depicted on her throne, still combing her hair.


The constellation represents Cepheus, the king of Ethiopia and Cassiopeia's husband in Greek mythology. Zeus placed him in the sky after his tragic death (as mentioned above in Cassiopeia's explanation) because he was descended from one of Zeus' loves, the nymph Io. Cepheus ruled not the modern day Ethiopia, but the stretch of land between the south-eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea. the area that contains parts of modern-day Egypt, Israel, and Jordan.


The constellation Draco is associated with several myths, most frequently with the one about the 12 labors of Hercules, represented by the neighboring constellation Hercules. In the myth, Draco represents Ladon, the dragon that guarded the golden apples in the gardens of the Hesperides. The Golden apple tree was a wedding present to Hera when she married Zeus. She planted the tree in her harden on Mount Atlas and tasked Atlas' daughters, the Hesperides, with guarding it. She also placed the dragon Ladon around the tree so that the Hesperides would not pick any apples from it.

In some versions of the myth, Ladon had a hundred heads and was the child of the monster Typhon and Echidna, who was half woman and serpent. In others, he was the offspring of two sea deities, Ceto and Phorcys, and there is no mention of the number of heads he had. As part of his 12 labors, Hercules was asked to steal some golden apples from the tree. He killed Ladon with his poisoned arrows and took the apples. Saddened by the dragon's death, Hera placed its image in the sky among the constellations. Draco is usually depicted coiled around the North Pole, with one foot of Hercules on its head.

In Roman mythology, Draco was one of the giant Titans who warred with the Olympian gods for ten years. He was killed in battle by the goddess Minerva and thrown into the sky, where it froze around the North Pole.


Hevelius named the constellation after the Lynx because it is a relatively faint one. He wrote in his Prodromus astronomiae that only those who have the sight of a lynx can see it. The book is an unfinished book published by Hevelius' wife around 1690, a few years after his death. In the accompanying star catalog, Hevelius called the constellation "Lynx, sive Tigris" - Lynx or Tiger. While it is not known if Hevelius had any myths in mind when he named the constellation, there is a figure in mythology that might be linked to the constellation's name. Lynceus, who sailed with Jason and the Argonauts, was said to have the keenest eyesight of all men and could even see things underground. He and his twin brother Idas were part of the expedition for the Golden Fleece.

Some of the stars in Lynx were documented by the Greek Astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century, but only as "unformed" stars near Ursa Major, and not as part of any constellation


The constellation Perseus represents the Greek hero Perseus in the sky and is one of the six constellations associated with the myth of Perseus. Perseus was the son of Danae, daughter of King Acrisius. Acrisius ruled Argos and after an oracle foretold him that he would die at the hand of his own Grandson, he had locked away Danae in a dungeon. Zeus fell in love with her and took the form of golden rain to visit her. When the rain fell into her lap, Danae got pregnant. Acrisius found out about the pregnancy and, once Perseus was born, the king locked both his daughter and grandson into a wooden chest and cast them out to sea.

Danae prayed to Zeus and the god heard her. The chest washed ashore within a few days, and Perseus and his mother found themselves on the island of Seriphos. A fisherman called Dictys found them and took them home with him. He raised Perseus as his own son. However, their troubles did not end there. Dictys had a brother, King Polydectes, who wanted Danae for himself. Perseus defended her from the king's advances and Polydectes came up with a plan that would put Perseus out of the picture. He made up a story about being engaged to another woman, Hippodameia, who was the daughter of King Oenomaus of Elis. He asked everyone to give him and his bride horses as a wedding present. Since Perseus did not have any horses and could not afford to buy one, the king sent the youngster to bring the head of the Gorgon Medusa. Medusa was one of the three hideous sisters, who had tusks, a head of brass, golden wings, and faces covered with dragon scales. They were daughters of the sea god Phorcys and his sister Ceto. Their gaze could turn anyone who looked at them to stone. Medusa was the only mortal sister. She had been condemned to a life of ugliness by the goddess Athena after Poseidon had ravished Medusa in the goddess' temple. Before the curse, she was known for her beauty, especially of her hair. Once cursed, she had snakes for hair, which made her distinguishable from the other two Gorgons. Polydectes expected Perseus to die in the attempt to kill the Gorgon, but he underestimated Perseus' allies on Olympus. Athena gave the hero a bronze shield and Hephaestus made him a sword of diamond. Hades gave him a helmet that made him invisible, and Hermes gifted him with winged sandals. Helped by Athena, Perseus found the Gorgon sisters on Mount Atlas. The Gorgons' sisters, called the Graeae, were standing guard. The three of them has one only eye and shared it among themselves. Perseus took the eye and threw it away. Following the trail of people turned to stone by Medusa and her sisters, Perseus found the Gorgons. He was wearing his helmet which made him invisible and he was able to sneak up on the sisters. Once they had fallen asleep, Perseus decapitated Medusa using his shield to see her reflection, as he could not look at her directly without turning to stone. The myth goes, when Medusa died the winged horse Pegasus and the warrior Chrysaor, fully armed, sprang fully grown from her body. They were the offspring of the Gorgon and the sea god Poseidon. On the way home, Perseus stopped to rest in Atlas' kingdom. Atlas refused him hospitality and Perseus used Medusa's head to turn him into stone, or into the mountain range that bears his name. Later, Perseus came across the princess Andromeda, chained to a rock and left to die by her parents, King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia, to appease the sea monster Cetus. Perseus rescued Andromeda and took her home with him.

Once home in Seriphos, Perseus found his mother and foster father Dictys hiding from Poldecetes in a temple. Perseus went to see the king and, greeted with hostility, he used the Gorgon's head to turn Polydectes and his followers to stone. He appointed Dictys king of Seriphos. The old prophecy about King Acrisius being killed by his grandson came true eventually, but the king's death came as an accident. At an athletics contest, Persues threw a discus that accidentally hit Acrisius and killed him. Andromeda and Perseus were married and had many children, among them Perseus, who was said to be an ancestor of the kings of Persia. Perseus and Andromeda lie next to each other in the sky, with her parents, Cepheus and Cassiopeia nearby. Cetus, the sea monster, also lies in the vicinity, as does Pegasus, the winged horse. Perseus is usually depicted holding the head of Medusa in one hand and the jeweled sword in the other. The Gorgon's head is represented by the famous variable star Algol, Beta Persei.

Ursa Major

Ursa Major is a well known, significant constellation in many cultures. It is one of the oldest constellations in the sky, with a history dating back to ancient times. The constellation is a reference in Homer and the Bible. A great number of tales and legends across the globe associate Ursa Major with a bear.

Ancient Greeks associated the constellation with the myth of Castillo, the beautiful nymph who had sworn a vow of chastity to the goddess Artemis. Zeus saw the nymph one day and fell in love. The two had a son and named him Arcas. Artemis had already banished Castillo when she had learned about the nymph's pregnancy and a broken vow. However, it was Zeus' jealous wife Hera, who was not amused by her husband philandering, who would do even more damage. Angered by Zeus' betrayal, she turned Castillo into a bear. Castillo lived as a bear for the next 15 years, roaming the forest and always running and hiding from hunters. One day, her son Arcas quickly drew his spear, scared. Seeing the scene from Olympus, Zeus intervened to prevent disaster. He sends a whirlwind that carried both Castillo and Arcas into the heavens, where he turned Arcas into the constellation Boots, the herdsman, and Castillo into Ursa Major. (In another version, Arcas becomes the constellation, Ursa Minor). This only further infuriated Hera and she persuaded her foster parents Oceanus and Tethys never to let the bear bathe in the Northern Waters. This, according to the legend, is why Ursa Major never sets below the horizon in mid-northern latitudes.

In a different version of the tale, it is not Hera but Artemis who transforms Castillo into a bear. Artemis does this to punish the nymph for breaking her vow of chastity to the goddess. Many years later, both Castillo and Arcas get captured in the forest and taken to King Lycaon as a gift. The mother and son take refuge in the temple of Zeus, where trespassing is punishable by death, but the god intervenes and saves them, placing them both in the sky.

There is an entirely different Greek myth associated with Ursa Major, the one about Asrasteia. Adrasteia was one of the nymphs who took care of Zeus when he was very young. Zeus' father Cronus was told by an oracle that one of his children would eentually overthrow him and fearful of the prophecy, Cronus swallowed all his children until Zeus was born. Rhea, Zeus' mother, smuggled their youngest child to the island of Crete, where the nymphs Adrasteia and Ida nursed young Zeus for a year. In this version of the myth, Ida is associated with the constellation Ursa Minor. Amaltheia, the goat that nursed Zeus, was placed in the sky as the bright star Capella in the constellation Auriga. The prophecy eventually came true; Zeus overthrew Cronus and freed his brothers Hades and Poseidon and sisters Demeter, Hera and Hestia. The Romans called the constellation Septentrio, or "seven plough oxen", even though only two of the seven stars represented oxen, while the others formed a wagon.

Ursa Major is associated with many different forms in the sky in different cultures, from the camel, shark, and skunk to the sickle, bushel, and canoe. The Chinese know the seven brightest stars, or Tseih Sing, and the Government, or Pih Tow, the Northern Measure. In Hindu legend, the brightest stars of Ursa Major represent the Seven Sages and the constellation is known as Saptarshi. The sages in question are Bhrigu, Atri, Angirasa, Vasishta, Pulastya, Pulalaha and Kratu. In some Native American tales, the bowl of the big dipper represents a large bear and the stars that mark the handle are the warriors chasing it. Since the constellation is pretty low in the sky in Autumn, the legend says that it is the blood of the wounded bear that causes the leaves to turn red. In more recent American history, the Big Dipper played a role in the Underground Railroad, as its position in the sky helped slaves find their way North. There were numerous songs that spread am

Ursa Minor

Ursa Minor is usually associated with two different myths. In one, the constellation represents Ida, the nymph who took care of Zeus on the island of Crete when he was small, along with Adrasteia, the nymph represents by the larger constellation, Ursa Major. Zeus' mother Rhea, hid Zeus on the island when he was very young to protect him from this father Cronus. Cronus, fearful of an old prophecy that said that one of his children would overthrow him, swallowed five of his children after they were born. When Zeus was born, Rhea tricked Cronus into swallowing a stone instead, and Zeus eventually fulfilled the prophecy. He freed his brothers Poseidon and Hades and sisters Hera, Hestia, and Demeter, and became the supreme god of the Olympians.

In a different myth, the constellation represents Arcas, son of Zeus and the nymph Castillo. Castillo had sworn a vow of chastity to Artemis, but was later unable to resist Zeus' advances and the two had a child, Arcas. When Zeus' wife Hera found out about the betrayal and the child, she turned the nymph into a bear. Castillo spent the next 15 years in the woods avoiding hunters. One day, she came face to face with her son. Scared, Arcas drew a spear, ready to kill the bear. Luckily, Zeus saw the scene and intervened before it was too late. He sent a whirlwind that scooped the mother and son up to the heavens, where Castillo became Ursa Major and Arcas became Ursa Minor. Arcas however, is more frequently associated with the constellation Bootes, the herdsman. In a slightly different version of the myth, it is the goddess Artemis who turns Castillo into a bear for breaking her chastity vow.

In an older myth, the seven stars that form the Little Dipper were said to represent the Hesperides, seven daughters of Atlas, who tended to Hera's orchard (Garden of the Hesperides) where a tree of golden, immortality-giving apples grew.