Of the 88 confirmed and recognised constellations, only 3 are thought to be female in origin. While there are countless female stars and planets, the number of constellations is much smaller. Yet despite the limited number, the female constellations have deep and fascinating backgrounds, with all 3 thought to originate in Ancient Greece.
In this article, we look in more detail at each of the officially recognised female constellations and the mythologies behind them.
Complete list of Female Constellations
Andromeda is the 19th largest constellation of the 88 in the sky, consuming around 722 square degrees.
Best seen in the Northern hemisphere, it contains the brightest galaxy in the sky, the Andromeda Galaxy.
The constellation is formed up of nine stars, named Adhil, Almach, Alpheratz, Buna, Mirach, Nembus, Sterrennacht, Titawin, and Veritate.
It contains three extremely bright stars, the brightest of which is Alpheratz.
Its basic form is the shape of the letter ‘A’, although some claim it also forms the shape of a woman.
Visible between the months of September and October, Andromeda is best seen in latitudes between 90 and -40 degrees in the first quadrant of the Northern hemisphere, although some parts of the Southern hemisphere may also be able to view it.
It neighbours other famous constellations including Pegasus, which can be helpful in identifying it.
According to Greek mythology, Andromeda was the Princess of Ethiopia and daughter of the vain Queen Cassiopeia.
Cassiopeia offended the sea god Poseidon by boasting that her beauty outweighed that of the Nereids.
The angered god sent a sea monster called Cetus to destroy the lands Cassiopeia and King Cepheus ruled over.
To appease the god, Cassiopeia and her husband bound Andromeda to a rock as prey for the monster.
She was saved by the hero Perseus, who vanquished the monster and was later responsible for the deaths of her parents.
Andromeda married Perseus and they went on to have six children.
At the time of her death, Andromeda was placed among the stars in remembrance by the goddess Athena, destined to reside forever by the sides of her mother and her husband as part of the Perseus family of constellations.
Also, belonging to the Perseus group of constellations, Cassiopeia is the 25th largest constellation in the sky and, like Andromeda, is visible in the first quadrant the Northern hemisphere.
It is thought to consume around 598 square degrees.
Cassiopeia contains eight stars, officially recognised as Achird, Caph, Castula, Fulu, Nushagak, Ruchbah, Schedar, and Segin.
It is famed for its ‘W’ shape, which is formed by five of its brightest stars.
Its formation has even given it the nickname ‘the W constellation’ because of its distinctive shape.
Cassiopeia is visible all year from latitudes above 34 degrees, particularly in the northwest early in the year and the northeast later in the year.
A good tip for identifying Cassiopeia is by looking for the infamous and easily identifiable Big Dipper, which lies nearby to the constellation.
As we have seen, the myth of Cassiopeia is closely linked with that of Andromeda.
As mother of the Princess and Queen of Ethiopia, Cassiopeia was notoriously vain, which would ultimately cause the downfall of herself, her husband, and their kingdom.
When Princess Andromeda was rescued by the hero Perseus, the two married.
A fight broke out at the wedding between Perseus and a former suitor of Andromeda’s; Perseus used the head of Medusa to turn his opponents to stone and defeat them.
As he did so, Cassiopeia and her husband King Cepheus could not avoid Medusa’s gaze and were also killed.
Legend says that it was Poseidon who elevated Cassiopeia, alongside her husband, to the stars and created her constellation.
In keeping with her vanity, the Queen circles the celestial pole, combing her hair as she sits on her throne.
Part of her punishment is that she will spend half of the year upside down.
Second only to the infamous Hydra, Virgo is the next largest constellation and the largest overall of the twelve zodiac constellations.
It takes up around 1294 square degrees and is visible from both the southern and northern hemispheres at different points of the year.
Virgo contains fifteen stars, the brightest of which is Spica, one of the brightest in the sky.
It is a very symmetrical shape which takes the form of a box with lines of stars extending from the corners.
Some have expanded this shape and claim it forms the outline of a woman lying horizontal in the sky.
Virgo is easily spotted by searching for the Spica star, from which you can identify the rest of the constellation.
It is visible year-round: it is best seen in the Northern hemisphere from March to June, and in the Southern hemisphere later in the year.
There are many variations of the myth of Virgo, but it is most commonly associated with the image of the Virgin or the Maiden.
Let’s look at a few of the most well-known myths associated with the constellation.
The myth of Virgo is often associated with Dike, the Greek goddess of justice and daughter of Zeus and the Titaness Themis.
According to mythology, Dike lived during the idyllic Golden Age of mankind, when she governed over justice.
When the Golden Age ended and humans began to war between themselves, Dike left Earth for the heavens.
Another interpretation connects Virgo with the Greek goddess Astraea, goddess of innocence and purity.
In this myth, when Pandora opened the infamous box that unleashed the plagues upon humankind, the gods retreated to the heavens.
Legend says that Astraea was the final god to leave Earth, becoming the Virgo constellation.
Despite being small in number, the myths and backgrounds of the female constellations are deeply interesting.
Here, we have looked in depth at some of the details of the female constellations and the mythologies behind them.
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