Viewing Constellations from Virginia to New Jersey
Posted by Long & Foster | Wednesday, May 13, 2020

It's easy to overlook the night sky when we're lucky enough to have beautiful beaches all along the east coast. While hitting the beach and soaking up the sun are definitely on our list of favorite activities, so is star gazing. Did you know that there are 88 officially recognized constellations in the expansive sky above us?

Star gazing at the night sky with a telescope

The naming of constellations is an ancient practice, and Greek mythology offers interesting stories to accompany many of the constellations we know and look for today. Constellation searching is the perfect romantic activity to try with your loved one, and a great educational opportunity for the kiddos. Here are some of our favorite constellations to look for while you're in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.

Constellations to Look for in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland & New Jersey

#1 - Hercules

Hercules the constellation

Hercules is the 5th largest constellation in the sky, and was known to ancient Greeks as The Kneeling One. According to mythology, Hercules became immortal when he was an infant. Eventually, a king named King Eurystheus challenged Hercules to complete a series of 12 tasks known as the Labours of Hercules. It is said that Hercules needed to complete these monstrous tasks before being freed by King Eurystheus, which he did! You can spot the constellation Hercules best if you look for the four bright stars that form his torso: Pi, Eta, Zeta and Epsilon Herculis. You can see Hercules from around April to October.

#2 - Ursa Major & Ursa Minor

The constellation Ursa Major and Minor

This popular duo is often referred to as The Big Dipper and The Little Dipper. According to the myth, a beautiful woman named Callisto was transformed into a bear by Jupiter's (the king of the gods) jealous wife. Ursa Minor is said to be Callisto's son, who was transformed into a dog and placed in the sky by Zeus. These two constellations are among some of the easiest constellations to spot, because they look like cooking pans. Ursa Major is the third largest constellation in the sky, and is also known as the Great Bear. You can expect pretty good viewing of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor throughout the year as they dance around the perimeter of sight. 

#3 - Pegasus

The constellation Pegasus

Pegasus, the mighty winged horse from Greek mythology, is such a fun constellation to spot. According to myth, Pegasus had magical powers and dug out a spring to drink from with his hooves. The water was blessed so that anyone who drank from it was given the ability to write poetry! An orange, supergiant star called Epsilon Pegasi marks Pegasus's muzzle. You should be able to see Pegasus from around late-July to early January. 

#4 - Orion

The constellation Orion

This well-known constellation is visible throughout the world. According to Greek mythology, Orion was a gigantic, extremely powerful hunter. It is said Gaia, the god of the earth, was angry with Orion for saying he would hunt every animal on earth. She was so angry that she sent a scorpion after Orion, which is why the constellation Scorpio and Orion are never visible in the sky at the same time. It is easiest to spot Orion by looking for his belt, which is made of three stars, and the two stars which mark his shoulders. You should be able to see Orion from around November through April.

#5 - Leo

The constellation Leo

Leo, a popular zodiac constellation, is said to be the lion that Hercules laid to rest in the first of his twelve labors. Leo the lion was said to be cruel and indestructible to weaponry, which is why Hercules was sent to stop him. Leo is easy to spot because it contains many bright stars, and almost looks like a lopsided clothing hanger. You should be able to see Leo from around January to July.

#6 - Hydra

The constellation Hydra

Hydra is both the largest and the longest of the 88 constellations, and is often called The Water Snake. In one myth, a crow served the god Apollo a cup of water with Hydra the snake in it. Apollo caught the crow and was so outraged that he threw the cup and snake into the sky. While you can see parts of Hydra for about half the year, you can see the complete constellation from about April through June since it is so long. 

More Constellations

Want more constellations? This interactive sky chart is a great tool to find out what constellations you can see from your current location throughout the year. Just type in your zip code and the date and you'll be all set!

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