Constellations of the Zodiac in Order

Learning the Zodiac constellations in order is a great way to get familiar with the ecliptic and the celestial sphere. The Zodiac is not just for astrology – astronomers use the constellations of the Zodiac to name 13 regions of the sky.

Zodiac Constellations zoomed in on Ophiuchus – the “13th” Zodiac Constellation between Sagittarius and Scorpio. The constellation borders (marked red) show how astronomers divide up the sky into named regions.

Zodiac Constellations List

These are the Zodiac constellations in the correct order from Aries to Pisces.

OrderMnemonicNameDescriptionEmojis
1AllAriesRam♈ 🐏
2TheTaurusBull♉ 🐄
3GreatGeminiTwins♊ 👯‍♂️
4ConstellationsCancerCrab♋ 🦀  
5LookLeoLion♌ 🦁
6VeryVirgoVirgin♍ 👰
7LovelyLibraScales♎ ⚖️
8ShiningScorpioScorpion♏ 🦂
9OrderlyOphiuchusSnake-wrestler⛎ 🐍🤼‍♂️
10StarsSagittariusArcher♐ 🏹
11CreatingCapricornGoat-Fish♑ 🐐🐠
12AnimalAquariusWater-bearer♒ 🚰
13PatternsPiscesFish♓ 🐟
Table showing the order of the Zodiac Constellations, their names, descriptions, and emojis

Memorize the Constellations of the Zodiac in order

This mnemonic (memory device) can help you remember the correct order of the constellations of the Zodiac. This is the best way to memorize the order of the constellations of the Zodiac. It starts with Aries and ends with Pisces.

“All the great constellations look very lovely; shining, (orderly) stars creating animal patterns.”

Alex Davo (original – orderly added by DC)

This sentence is good too – it’s a little bit more romantic.

“A time gone, cowboys loved viewing little stars, (oh) so cold and pretty.”

– Terry Johnson (original – oh added by DC)

Why does the Zodiac constellations list start with Aries?

When astrology was invented it was the same activity as astronomy – observing and cataloging sky objects and their locations) but over the years the two practices have become very different. Astrology is now concerned with how the movement of the skies affects humans while astronomy has become a science. Scientists build knowledge to make predictions about physical events.

During early astrology/astronomy times, the most important thing about the study of the stars was to know where the Sun, Moon, planets, and other solar system objects were located in relation to the steady, orderly background of stars.

Why does the order of the Zodiac constellations read right to left?

The Sun moving “through” Aries into Taurus over a month. Each frame of the animation is about 3 days.

The Sun, Moon, and planets seem to move “through” these 13 constellations in order through the year. Starting with Aries, let’s follow the movement of the Sun against the backdrop of the steady stars. The next constellation that the Sun “moves into” is Taurus. Taurus is to the east (left) of Aries! The Sun appears to move into the next Zodiac constellation about once a month.

We know that the Sun is not moving – that it only appears to move through the sky – and that it is the Earth’s orbital motion that is creating this apparent movement.

Why did we add Ophiuchus to the original 12 Zodiac constellations?

Ophiuchus is a constellation, not an astrology “sign.” However, it is an official constellation that intersects the ecliptic. So, while astrologers do not consider this a Zodiac sign, astronomers include it because the constellation is located on the ecliptic.

The Ecliptic is a path in the sky that solar system objects follow

The solar system objects move generally west-to-east in a small band of the sky – this band of sky is called the ecliptic. All the Zodiac constellations are “on” the ecliptic and all the Sun, Moon, planets and other solar system objects move along the ecliptic over time.

There is another line in the sky called the celestial equator that is an imaginary line the rises from the equator of the Earth. The celestial equator and the ecliptic intersect at a “location” in the sky.

Right now in 2020 that intersection location is “in” the constellation Pisces.

The thin, diagonal line that connects the Zodiac constellations is called the ecliptic. This image shows the ecliptic intersecting with the celestial equator.

However, when astrology was created this intersection point was “in” the constellation Aries.

This image shows the intersection of the ecliptic with the celestial equator in the year 100 BCE.

This was known as the “First Point of Aries.” Astronomer Guy Ottewell writes about this imaginary point in the sky on his website UniversalWorkshop.

Summary

You can learn the order of the Zodiac constellations by using the mnemonic device shown in this article. There is a pathway in the sky that the solar system objects seem to follow. It is called the ecliptic. The Zodiac constellations are the 13 constellations lined up in the sky “on” this imaginary line.

The order of the Zodiac constellations is made because of the way the Sun, Moon, and planets seem to move east-to-west past these constellations in order during the year.

We start the Zodiac names list with Aries because the Zodiac constellations were first named thousands of years ago. At this time, the ecliptic intersected the celestial equator “in” the constellation Aries.

Seeing The Zodiac – A Stellarium Script Tutorial

🔭 I am a Live Planetarium Presenter – “Planetariumist” – at the Fresh Air Fund’s Gustafson Planetarium at Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, NY. We Planetariumists are learning to use Stellarium scripts. This article will teach you how to use a Stellarium script to quickly load the art images for the 13 Zodiac constellations:

Aries Taurus Gemini 
Cancer Leo Virgo 
Libra Scorpius (Ophiuchus) Sagittarius 
Capricornus Aquarius Pisces
Inside view of Daniel Cummings presenting Stars are Alive at Gustafson Planetarium at Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, NY
A selfie from inside the Gustaffson Planetarium at the Fresh Air Fund Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, NY

Online Camp programs for Astronomy Education

Like every other camp program during COVID-19 times we have had to move the live shows to an online format. In our case we are doing zoom astronomy presentations for the campers. It’s been a great experience to learn how to do quick and entertaining astronomy shows online and I wanted to share a few tips to make better astronomy online presentations.

Stellarium Scripts for Astronomy Zooms

I want to make Stellarium really work for online presentations like zoom astronomy outreach, so I figured out how to write scripts to control it. To get started, I just copy-pasted and modified an existing script that did something like what I wanted it to do.

Zodiac Art in Stellarium showing the Sun “in” Gemni on July 8, 2020 from Flushing Meadows, Queens, NY

Stellarium scripts help you do the tedious set up and configuration steps. There is no need to open windows and drag and click around while your audience waits!

Below is a Stellarium script I adapted from the original zodiac.ssc that highlights the Zodiac constellations with art, names, and boundaries and it shows the ecliptic. The original script that comes with Stellarium had some features that I didn’t need so I copy-pasted a new one. My new script simply shows the Zodiac constellation art in just 5 seconds. This would take at least a minute to complete by hand! So, this is a great timesaver if you are presenting to a group via online zoom conference.

Stellarium Script – show Zodiac Art, Boundaries, Ecliptic

You can click here to download the script as a zip file. Unzip this download and you will have the .ssc file in your downloads area. Or you can just copy-paste the text below and create your own script file.



Here is a quick gif animation of what the presentation screen looks like while loading the Zodiac Art Boundaries and Ecliptic in the Stellarium Astronomy Zoom presentation.

An animated GIF showing the end result when you install the new Zodiac script.

Using the New Zodiac Art Boundaries and Ecliptic Script – Tutorial

Installing scripts is as easy as creating a text file with this script and placing the “script_name_here.ssc” file in the scripts directory. In this case, name your script file: zodiac_art_boundaries_ecliptic.ssc

After this “Zodiac Constellation Art Boundaries Ecliptic” script is installed in your Stellarium you’ll be able to get to it and run it from the Scripts tab of the Configuration window.

Screenshot of Stellarium script configuration window.

Instructions to Install a Stellarium Script

On Windows: You have to find the Stellarium User Data directory and inside that will be the scripts directory. (NOTE: I don’t have a windows machine so there is probably more information required here. Please add a comment to this post if you discover that I have left something out.)

C:\Users\YOURUSERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Stellarium

If it doesn’t already exist, create a new folder named “scripts” – leave out the quotes.

Windows file explorer view of where to place the script.

Move your downloaded or created .ssc file to this folder.

On Mac: you have to control-click (hold the control button and click the mouse) the Stellarium.app in the Applications directory and choose “Show Package Contents”

Screenshot showing how to use control-click access Stellarium Scripts in MacOSX

You then navigate to the scripts directory in: Contents > Resources > scripts.

Screenshot showing how the directory path to Stellarium Scripts in MacOSX

Place the script file in the scripts directory. Quit and re-open Stellarium and the script will be in the list of scripts in the Scripts tab of the Configuration window (see graphic above earlier in the article).

If you want to be fancy and use the included key command …

Using Stellarium Script Trigger “Sequence” commands

This custom Stellarium Script comes with a key command I programmed which is a “sequence command” – two steps. First do Control/Command-D, then release those keys and type the letter z key.

Try out the script and let me know what you think by typing in the comments field below! Also, if you want me to write a custom script to speed up your Stellarium presentations I’d love to help out – give me your suggestions.

Stellarium is a potent tool to help you see the sky

I have written few other articles about using Stellarium.

Stellarium – a gift to Humanity – Learn to see the sky

Time Travel with Stellarium – See the sky in timelapse!

Stellarium and the Humanity Star – a short-lived satellite

See the Analemma with Stellarium

About the author of this Stellarium script tutorial

🔭 Hello! I am Daniel Cummings – the creator of the fun and fashionable science clothing The Moon Hat (Forbes named it Best Science Gift in 2018). I am also one of the Live Planetarium Presenters – “Planetariumists” – at the Fresh Air Fund’s Gustafson Planetarium at Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, NY. I’ve written about and presented astronomy and space topics since 2008. Sign up on my email list to hear more about astronomy and space.