Humans have been staring at the stars and trying to understand the meaning of life ever since they came into being. In every ancient civilization, there is some explanation to be interpreted from the stars, and patterns and even the future predicted.

The earliest star gazers were the Chinese, and they began grouping stars into what are known as constellations. A constellation is a group of stars that together form a pattern that is then named after the figure that it resembles, or is identified as a mythological figure.

The definitive list of 88 constellations was agreed upon in 1922, and is actually based upon the list made up by Greco-Roman mathematician and astronomer Ptolemy (c. AD90 – c. AD168), who managed to map 48 of them. He was also an astronomer as part of the Greek astrology tradition.  This is why modern constellations tend to have kept their previous Greco-Roman names such as Hercules and Orion.

Learning to study the stars is a worthwhile pastime, especially as it is rare to receive tuition on it. However, it is never too late to learn.

Using your eyes alone, you can already see galaxies 2½ million light-years away, so it’s clear that to get started, you don’t have to have lots of equipment. Raid your local library for star gazing books, or utilize the numerous resources online, and get outside! Familiarize yourself with the most common constellations, so that you can get used to identifying them.

Binoculars can be really useful too, and will not set you back too much. They are definitely cheaper than a telescope too! If the naked eye can already see so much, imagine amplifying that.

Many larger towns and cities also have star gazing societies, so you could consider joining one as then you will have access to sophisticated equipment, as well as other more knowledgeable stargazers. This should also help to keep you motivated too.

Autumn is a great time to take up astronomy, as the days are shortening and the long winter nights await. Wrap up warm, take a flask of coffee and get ready for some cosmic wonders.