Planet Earth
International Astronomical Union WGSN

IAU: Ara

Profile / Characteristics

English translationLatin declination and pronunciationsSize/ °²# stars
the AltarAra – AIR-uh, AR-uh
Arae – AIR-ee, AR-ee

Ancient Globes

Farnese Globe

Kugel Globe

Mainz Globe

Ancient Lore & Meaning


[402] Below the fiery sting of the dread monster, Scorpion, and near the South is hung the Altar [Ara]. Brief is the space thou wilt behold it above the horizon: for it rises over against Arcturus. High runs the path of Arcturus, but sooner passes the Altar to the western sea. But the Altar even beyond aught else hath ancient Night, weeping the woe of men, set to be a mighty sing of storm at sea. [710] When the latter [Ram] rises, the Altar is seen setting in the West, while in the East may be seen rising as much as the head and shoulders of Perseus.

English translation by Douglas Kidd (1997).
Aratus: Phaenomena, Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries, Series Number 34

Online available: translation by Mair (1921) 


French translation by:
Jordi Pàmias i Massana and Arnaud Zucker (2013). Ératosthènes de Cyrène – Catastérismes, Les Belles Lettres, Paris

English version in:
Robin Hard (2015): Eratosthenes and Hyginus Constellation Myths with Aratus’s Phaenomena, Oxford World’s Classics

Early Modern Interpretation


As one of their first tasks in the 1920s, the newly founded International Astronomical Union (IAU) established constellation standards. The Belgian astronomer Eugène Delporte was assigned to the task to define borders of constellations parallel to lines of declination and right ascension. They were accepted by the General Assembly in 1928. The standardized names and abbreviations had already been accepted in 1922 and 1925.  

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