How did the stars get named?
How do the stars get names. I mean did the same people name them. Also how many stars are there. A lot I know but do you have the answer?
Most of the brightest stars are named after characters in the mythology from various cultures. Many of them (like the planets) therefore have different names depending on where you are in the world. They were often named in pre-history by our ancestors who gazed at the stars trying to find patterns and stories in what they saw (this is also where the names for the visible planets and the constellations came from).
Modern astronomers have given the stars new names so that they can keep track of them more easily. Stars are named for the constellation that they lie in with the brightest star in a constellation being alpha and so on throught the greek alphabet. For example, Betelguese which is the brightest star in the constellation Orion, is also called Alpha Orionis.
Stars that are discovered today are in general named for where they are
in the sky or the person who found them, which gives them really ugly
BD +5deg 1668
Kruger 60 A
Once they run out of greek letters in a constellation, astronomers also use numbers (eg. 51 Pegasi - a famous star because of the planets around it). Variable stars are called things like RR Lyrae (in Lyre) or TT Arietis, in order of discovery (ie. AA is the first variable star in a constellation, then AB. When they reach ZZ they start with number 677!?)
There are probably other ways that stars are names. Each star usually has more than one name which astronomers have to keep track of in the information that they keep on it.
Aparantly about 2-300 stars were named in the past (between 500 to over 2000 years ago), these are the ones with (in general) mythological names.
With the naked eye you can see about 4000 stars in each hemisphere of the sky.
There are probably several million in the most up-to-date astronomical catalogues.
There are at least a billion stars in the Milky Way (our galaxy), probably quite a few billion.
There may be an infinite number of stars in the whole universe, we just don't know yet! There are at least 100 billion billion in the observable universe (this is saying that there are about 100 billion galaxies each with a billion stars, which is most likely an underestimate). This is more than any human can deal with, so the exact number doesn't matter too much. Let's just say that there are a lot of stars!
Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:
- Podcast? Subscribe? Tell me about the Ask an Astronomer Podcast
- Subscribe to our Podcast | Listen to our current Episode
- Cool! But I can't now. Send me a quick reminder now for later.
How to ask a question:
If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.Table 'curious.Referrers' doesn't existTable 'curious.Referrers' doesn't exist
This page has been accessed 59925 times since September 27, 2002.
Last modified: August 13, 2003 11:53:32 AM
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.
Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)