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The constellations are really just random patterns of stars but, that said, some of the patterns are so distinctive they are recognised by different cultures around the world and through history.

Constellations and asterisms (a smaller patterns within constellations) do make it a lot easier to find your way around the night sky. Anyone with a digital camera with a 'night' or high ISO mode should be able to get reasonable pictures of constellations.

Bootes and nearby constellationsBootes, with Corona Borealis to the left and Hercules at top left. Near the bottom is Arcturus, one of the brightest stars in the sky.

You can see the glow of light pollution affecting clouds at the bottom of this 'wide field' shot taken with a wide angle lens taken on a DSLR and 30-seconds exposure - no tracking. The U-shape above and left of centre is Corona Borealis and to its right is Bootes, with the bright star Arcturus at the bottom of the picture.

The constellation of Cygnus lies across part of the Milky Way

The constellation of Cygnus lies across part of the Milky Way

This picture of the big cross-shape of Cygnus the swan is slightly spoilt by clouds at the right, but it shows how dense the stars of the Milky Way are. Also visible are the 'great rift' and the North America nebula.