Planet Earth
International Astronomical Union WGSN

IAU: Centaurus

Profile / Characteristics

English translationLatin declination and pronunciationsSize/ °²# stars
the CentaurCentaurus – sen-TOR-us
Centauri – sen-TOR-eye

Ancient Globes

Farnese Globe

Kugel Globe

Mainz Globe

Ancient Lore & Meaning


[400] This cluster as a whole men call The Water. But others low beneath the forefeet of the Archer (Centaur) [Centaurus], a tuned in a circled ring, go wheeling round the sky. [436] The constellation of Centaur [Centaurus] thou wilt find beneath two others. For part in human form lies beneath Scorpio, but the rest, a horse’s trunk and tail, are beneath the Claws. He ever seems to stretch his right hand towards the round Altar, but though his hand is drawn and firmly grasped another sign – the Beast [Fera], for so men of old have named it. [660?] So she is borne towards the West, but other signs in the East the vault of heaven brings from below, the remaining half of the Crown and the tail of the Hydra, and uplifts the body and head of the Centaur and the Beast that the Centaur holds in his right hand. But the fore-feet of the Centaur-Knight await the rising of the Bow. [694] But opposite the Horse starry Night draws the Centaur, tail-first, beneath the horizon, but cannot yet engulf his head and his broad shoulders, breast and all.

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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