Planet Earth
International Astronomical Union WGSN

Birth – Death – Professions: Meanings of Constellations

The Sky as Display of Love, Thankfulness and Admiration

Often, the IAU gets requests by individuals to name stars after particular people. The reasons for these suggestions are for instance:

  • (i) that dead souls are considered to ascend to the stars and people want to honour their ancestors
  • (ii) people want to give credentials to colleagues or people who were helpful (e.g. a doctor who rescued the life of a relative)

The IAU will never do this because it could cause political discussions. However, the concept of the ascension of souls towards the stars is universal. As all peoples and cultures all over the globe did this, we can also find this concept in the ancient roots of the modern IAU constellations. Here is a list of professions:

IAU-constellation namecultural origin (meaning) original nameculture (place, time) of origin
Aurigahonors the profession of all people who drive cars and transport goods or people: i.e. drivers of taxis, busses, trucks …Erichtonios of Athenspoleis of Athens (~800 BCE)
(Puppis, Vela, Carina),
honors all maritim professions
(captains, navigators, sailors, …)
and discoverers
Booteshonors the professions of farmersPloughmanGreek
Ophiuchushonors the profession of doctors, pharmacists and nursesAsklepios/ AesculapGreco-Roman
Caelum and
honor the profession of sculptorsLacaille (1756)
Pictor, Circinus, Reticulum,
Triangulum Australe, Norma
honor the professions of graphical artists, architects, mathematiciansLacaille (1756)
Fornaxhonors the science of chemistryLacaille (1756)
Microscopium and
honor the sciences and the handcrafts of opticsLacaille (1756)
Octans and
honor the science and handcrafts of navigation and topographical surveyLacaille (1756)
Mensahonors the professions of meteorology and navigationLacaille (1756)
Antliahonors the profession of experimental physicsLacaille (1756)

Of course, there is also a list of asterisms and constellations that have been or are used to celebrate of the descension of souls from the sky when a baby is born and the ascension of souls to the sky when a person dies.

In particular, the Milky Way is considered as a street of travelling souls from/ to/ along the heavens in almost all cultures.

IAU-namecultural origin (meaning) original nameculture of origin
(place, time)
Pleiades & Hyades
(asterisms in Taurus)
“Gate of the Heavens”
i.e. the gate for souls that are born
ancient Greece
(preserved in Plato,
4th century BCE)
Eagle the eagle carries dead souls to the starsancient Babylonian &
ancient Greek
asterism of Antinous
in the constellation of the Eagle
homosexual love
(although the name-giving model is pederasty)
(the Corpse)
Ptolemy (137 CE)
Cassiopeia, Cepheus,
the heavenly family Greek, Syriac
Gemini the symbol of brotherly love
Coma Bereniceslove between
husband and wife
The Lockinvented in Egypt under
Greek reign, in the 2nd
half of the 3rd century BCE
the bright seven stars
in Ursa Major
a pregnant woman D/L/Nakota (North America)
the bright stars of
UMa and Cas
the fruitful couple
heavenly man and heavenly woman
(the couple of origin of all humans)
Navajo (North America)
to be continued