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Terms

What do you know about stars?

Here are some basic terms used for describing star patterns, galaxies and nebulae. Find more terms in the Glossary.

Asterism
A named group of stars that is part of a constellation; the Big Dipper is an example of one.
Celestial Equator
The imaginary line around the sky directly above the Earth's equator.
Celestial Pole
Points above the Earth's north and south poles.
Celestial Sphere
An imaginary sphere surrounding the Earth where the sun, planets and stars are, a 3 dimensional map of the universe. Click here for more about the celestial sphere.
Constellation
A pattern of stars usually named after animals or people in stories. Now used to designate an area in the celestial sphere.
Ecliptic
The path the sun seems to follow in the sky.
Emission Nebula
A cloud of glowing gas.
Globular Star Cluster
A group of stars that look like a shape of a ball.
Light-year
The distance light travels in a year. About 1013 km or 6 trillion (thousand billion) miles.
Nebulae
A glowing clouds of gas or dust reflecting the light of nearby stars.
Open Star Cluster
A group of stars that look close together in the sky.
Orbit
The path an object takes as it moves around another object.
Planetary Nebula
An expanding ring of gas around a star.
Reflection Nebula
Dust and gas reflecting light from stars close by.
Rotation
An object spinning about its center.
Zenith
The point in the sky directly overhead.

 


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