2 May: The Shapes in the Sky

Scientists from around the world gathered in Rome on 2nd May 1922 to agree on a definitive list of 88 constellations, which up until then had been an astronomical free-for-all.

The collection of eminent astronomers eventually settled on 42 animals, 29 inanimate objects and 17 humans or mythological characters, which, taken together, offered a complete map of the skies for the very first time.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how different ancient civilisations around the world understood the heavens differently; marvel at the immense contribution of Ancient Greeks to contemporary astronomy; and discuss why Antinous, the boy lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian, is the greatest constellation no longer in use… 

Further Reading:

‘10 Constellations that Never Caught On’ (Mental Floss, 2010): https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/49454/10-constellations-never-caught 

• ‘The Constellations’ (IAU, 2001): https://www.iau.org/public/themes/constellations/ 

• ‘Pictures in the sky: the origin and history of the constellations’ (The Royal Society, 2014):


#1920s #Space #Europe #Science