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Asterism

Asterism known as the "Little Teapot"
Credit: makelessnoise

An asterism is a small pattern of stars, much smaller than the official constellations.

Asterisms can be made across different constellations, or from within a single constellation, drawing bright stars together to make patterns.

One of the most famous asterisms is the Big Dipper which is actually part of the larger constellation of Ursa Major or the Great Bear.

Although the stars in asterisms may appear to be similar in brightness they are often at very different distances from Earth. For example within the Big Dipper the seven stars range from 58 to 124 light years from Earth. This means that it has taken the light from these stars between 58 and 124 years to reach us!