Skyful of Animals – Quiz

Skyful of Animals – Quiz
Tarantula Nebula. [credit: Earthsky.org, Spitzer Space Telescope]

In the 2nd century in Alexandria, a great cultural center of the ancient world, Ptolemy wrote the astronomical work that we know as the Almagest. It included descriptions of 48 constellations. In the 20th century, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) listed 47 of Ptolemy's constellations plus 41 newer ones. Many of the constellations depict animals, both real and mythical. And in our time, some animals – not just humans – have gone into space.

Quiz: A Skyful of Animals

  1. Three constellations feature dogs. The “Dog Star” is part of the constellation: (A) Canis Minor (B) Canes Venatici (C) Canis Major.

  2. This feline constellations didn't make it into the 88 modern constellations: (A) Hevelius's Lynx (B) the classical Leo (C) Jérôme Lalande's Felis.

  3. There are many bird constellations. One of the oldest is: (A) Aquila (B) Tucana (C) Phoenix.

  4. Ptolemy listed the reptile constellation: (A) Serpens (B) Lacerta (C) Chamaeleon.

  5. “The Great Fish” is the oldest fish constellation. It's now called: (A) Volans (B) Dorado (C) Piscis Austrinus.

  6. One of these equine-related constellations represents the head and neck of a horse: (A) Pegasus (B) Equuleus (C) Centaurus.

  7. This constellation doesn't represent a mythical creature.: (A) Monoceros (B) Camelopardalis (C) Draco.

  8. The first animals sent into space were: (A) fruit flies (B) a mouse (C) a monkey.

  9. One of these types of spider hasn't been sent into space: (A) tarantula (B) jumping spider (C) cross spider.

  10. The first animal to go into orbit was: (A) the Russian dog Laika (B) the French cat Felice (C) the American chimpanzee Ham.
Answers and notes

1. Three constellations feature dogs. The “Dog Star” is part of the constellation: (C) Canis Major.
Sirius (the Dog Star) is the brightest star in the night sky. Canis Major (Greater Dog) and Canis Minor (Lesser Dog) are included in the Almagest. Canis Venatici (Hunting Dogs) was created by Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius in the 17th century.

2. This feline constellation didn't make it into the 88 modern constellations: (C) Jérôme Lalande's Felis.
Leo (the Lion) was listed in the Almagest, but Lynx was created by Hevelius. Lalande, an 18th century French astronomer, created Felis (Latin for cat). It appeared in an atlas of Johann Bode, but it didn't make the cut for the IAU list.

3. There are many bird constellations. One of the oldest is: (A) Aquila.
Aquila (Eagle) is an ancient constellation. Tucana (Toucan) and Phoenix were among the constellations created from the 16th century observations of the southern skies by Dutch navigators de Houtman and Keyser.

4. Ptolemy listed the reptile constellation: (A) Serpens.
Serpens is a snake. Lacerta (the Lizard) is a creation of Hevelius. Chamaeleon, the chameleon, was created by de Houtman and Keyser.

5. The oldest fish constellation has a Babylonian origin. Ptolemy called it Ichthys Notios. It's also had other names, but we now call it: (B) Piscis Austrinus.
Volans represents flying fish and Dorado is the dolphinfish (mahi-mahi), both creations of de Houtman and Keyser.

6. One of these equine-related constellations represents the head and neck of a horse: (B) Equuleus.
Pegasus is the mythical flying horse, and Centaurus the Centaur is part human and part horse.

7. This constellation doesn't represent a mythical creature: (B) Camelopardalis:
Camelopardalis, the “camel leopard”, has a long neck and spots. It's what the Greeks called giraffes. In the 17th century Dutch astronomer Petrus Plancius gave the name to a constellation.
Monoceros is a unicorn and Draco is a dragon.

8. The first animals sent into space were: (C) fruit flies.
The USA sent fruit flies into space on a rocket in 1947. They were then retrieved to study the effects of radiation exposure at high altitudes. Albert II, the rhesus monkey, was sent up in 1949, but he didn't survive the experience, dying on impact. A year later a mouse took the trip, but also wasn't recovered alive.

9. One of these types of spider hasn't been sent into space: (A) tarantula.
Several kinds of spider have been studied in space, but as of 2022, none were Tarantulas. However there is a Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

10. The first animal to go into orbit was: (A) the Russian dog Laika.
The Soviets sent several dogs into orbit and returned them safely, but Laika died in space, as they hadn't included any way of retrieving her. The French cat Félicette survived her suborbital flight, but a few months after her return, they euthanized her so that the scientific team could examine her brain. Ham the Astrochimp, the first great ape in space, flew a suborbital flight in January 1961. Unlike Laika and Félicette, he not only survived the experience, but lived another 22 years.



You Should Also Read:
Canis Major - the Greater Dog
Volans Flies the Southern Skies
Heavenly Aviaries - Bird Constellations

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