Star Names

Star Names
From the word star, meaning luminous
astronomical object seen in the night sky.
This constellation Ursa Major contains the group of stars
commonly called the The plough or sometimes it’s called the Big Dipper.

  • most of the brightest stars in the night sky were given individual names by the ancient Greeks. Arabic-speaking astronomers renamed many of these during the Middle Ages.
  • Arcturus means ‘bear warden’ in Greek, and the star was given that name because it appears to follow the Great Beat across the sky.
  • the star Beta Orionis was named Rigel (which mean ‘foot’ in Arabic) because it forms one of the hunter’s feet in the constellation of Orion.

The distinctive pattern of Orion

  • Alpha Orionis has the name Betelgeuse (pronounced ‘beetle-juice’), which is meaningless – the original Arabic name was Yad-al-Jawza (which means ‘the hand of Orion’).
  • the constellation of Libra was once known as the Scorpion’s Claws – consequently, the two brightest stars are Zubeneschamali (‘Northern Claw’) and Zubenelgenubi (‘Southern Claw’).

The Scorpion’s Claws

  • in 1603, the German astronomer Johan Bayer introduced the present system of designating the brightest stars in a constellation by the letter of Greek alphabet.

Johann Bayer
Born: 1572, Rain, Germany
Died: 7th March 1625, Augsburg, Germany

  • variable stars have their own system – they are designated by constellation in order of discovery in the sequence R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z. After Z the next veriable star in the constellation is designated RR, and the next RS and so on
  • England’s first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed preferred a different system in which all the variable stars in  a constellation were given a number – some stars, such as 61 Cygni, are still known by their Flamsteed numbers.

John Flamsteed
Born: 19th August 1646, Denby Village, Derbyshire, UK
Died: 31st December 1719, Smallfield, Surrey, UK

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