Star Lore

Obsolete Western Constellations

For almost 2000 years, the 48 constellations introduced by Ptolemy have been the astronomical standard in Europe. But for as long as Ptolemy's star map existed, astronomers and politicians alike have tried to add new features to the map. Some were short lived, others lasted for centuries - the longest lasting now defunct constellation was Argo Navis - introduced by Ptolemy himself around the year 150 and dismantled by the IAU in 1928.

Most of these constellations were created out of faint stars located between the outlines of the main constellations, others were attempts to replace classical constellations with new interpretations for a variety of reasons. The period of invention of new constellations reached a climax in 1801 with the publication of the star map Uranographia by Johann Elert Bode.
Northern Hemisphere of Bode's 1782 star map

Bode's artistic plates were the first major star atlas with boundary lines drawn between the constellations, laying the groundwork for a standardization of cosmic topography, which eventually led to the definition of today's 88 constellations.

In 1801, however, there was no governing body and many astronomers tried to get their names (or their ideas) written in the sky and so, Bode's catalogue contained over 100 constellations, among them innovative ideas like Bode's creation Officina Typographica, commemorate Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press, but also an entire zoo with slugs, leeches, sea horses and even a flying squirrel.
At the end of the 19th century, the international astronomic community had worked out an understanding on which constellations should remain and which should be scraped.

In 1922, the International Astronomical Union was founded. At its first General Assembly, the IAU officially adopted a list of 86 constellations covering the entire sky. After one final adjustment, 88 constellations were approved in 1928 and Belgian astronomer Eugčne Delporte was contracted to draw border lines between the constellations.

The final results were published in 1930, rendering a large number of constellation designs obsolete.

However, these constellations still have a historical and cultural significance. Below, you find a list of the most important ones of these artifacts, sorted chronologically and by their designer.
Constellations with modern boundaries
Please note: this list only covers European designs since the time of ancient Greece. Constellations seen by prehistoric societies and by non-western cultures are listed on the respective sites in our Mythology section.

Sources: Wikipedia, Ian Ridpath, Abrams Planetarium, SkyEye,


Argo Navis

Caput Medusae



Triangulus Antarcticus







Cancer Minor



Sagitta Australis



Sudarium Veronicae


Sceptrum et Manus Iustitiae

Year Creator Name Meaning Constellations
132 / 1536 Hadrian / Vopel Antinous Antinous Aquila
ca. 150 Ptolemy Argo Navis Ship of the Argonauts Carina, Puppis, Vela
816 Leiden Arathea Caput Medusae The Head of the Medusa Perseus
ca. 1225 Michael Scot Tarabellum Drill Sagittarius, Virgo
ca. 1225 Michael Scot Vexillum Flag Leo, Virgo
1503 Vespucci Triangulus Antarcticus Antarctic Triangle Triangulum Australe
1540 Apianus Rosa Rose Coma Berenices
1575 da Varese Phaeton Phaeton Eridanus
1592 Plancius Polophylax Guardian of the Pole Hydrus, Phoenix, Tucana
ca. 1603 Unknown Siren Siren Triangulum Australe, Musca
ca. 1603 Unknown Ceneus Caeneus Chamaeleon, Musca
1612 Plancius Apes Bees Aries
1613 Plancius Cancer Minor Lesser Crab Gemini
1613 Plancius Gallus Rooster Canis Major
1613 Plancius Jordanis Jordanus River Leo, LeoMinor, Lynx
1613 Plancius Sagitta Australis Southern Arrow Scorpius
1613 Plancius Tigris River Tigris Pegasus, Ophiuchus
1624 Bartsch Vespa River Tigris Aries
1643 de Rheita Sudarium Veronicae Veronica's Veil Leo, Sextans
1679 Royer Lilium Lilie Aries
1679 Royer Sceptrum et Manus Iustitiae Scepter and Hand of Justice Andromeda

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