In 2016, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) set up a Working Group on Star Names (WGSN) to compile a catalogue of officially sanctioned proper names for the brightest stars. This working group rectified a long-standing anomaly: although the IAU had adopted an official list of constellations and their boundaries in 1930, it had never rationalized the multiplicity of popular star names encountered in books, magazines, and on star charts.
The IAU’s reluctance to get involved was understandable, since professional astronomers rarely used proper names for anything other than a handful of the brightest stars; instead, they identified stars by their designations in various catalogues. However, amateurs and the general public continued to use popular names for hundreds of naked-eye stars taken from various sources, which led to confusion. Some stars were known by more than one name. Some names had various alternative spellings. And certain names were reused for more than one star. The IAU Working Group has finally brought this profusion of conflicting names to an end.
The IAU star name catalogue contains over 300 entries. The table below lists some of the most commonly encountered IAU-approved names for stars, with their Bayer or Flamsteed designations. Star names marked with an asterisk (*) are navigation stars and are listed in The Nautical Almanac. The full list can be found on the IAU’s Naming Stars web page.
Ian Ridpath (member, IAU Working Group on Star Names).
By: Alan MacRobert Star & Telescope, July 25, 2006
Everyone who starts out in astronomy faces a bewildering variety of numbers and letters denoting the great works of creation. Sometimes the nomenclature almost seems designed to confuse. Anyone can look up and recognize a star as Vega — so why does it also need the names BD +38°3238, Alpha Lyrae, 3 Lyrae, HR 7001, GC 25466, HD 172167, SAO 67174, ADS 11510, and dozens of others? Where do star names come from? FULL ARTICLE
Daniel Bulletts, Special Projects Director, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians
Colorado Dark Sky Cooperative, 1/2/2020
Paiutes have a saying “one person speaks, one person listens. Many people speak, many people listen.” So, in other words, one person can not do it alone and it will take many people to help spread the word of the importance of dark sky conservation.
What words would you use to describe your home?Words to describe my reservation are remote, quiet, untouched, and just plain wonderful. We are a 30-minute drive to the grocery store and a one hour drive to the nearest Walmart.
There are certain sections on the reservation where new constructions are permitted but the rest of the 122,000 acres remains untouched. The Paiute are caretakers of the land because we come from the land, live off the land, and then go back to the land. Preserving things at ground level also preserves things at sky level and the two are very much connected.
Why is dark sky conservation important to your community?For the tribe it is different than for cities and towns in many ways. We see “sky” conversation as a teaching tool to help us reconnect with songs, stories, dances and the spirituality of what the dark/night really means to the Paiute people. Our songs, stories and dances connect us to our surroundings both during the day and night. We look at conservation of the sky through a cultural connectedness aspect which incorporates many different things.
A more modern aspect is that we do have a lighting ordinance which affects all new construction on the reservation. The ordinance applies to our new RV park, billboard signs, and tribal homes.
What are you doing about it?Since our 2015 designation we have been uncovering songs, stories and dances related to the night sky. The songs, stories and dances are structured around our Bighorn Sheep to which we have songs/dances that have not been done since the 40’s and stories that have not been told since the 50’s.
This year we will be teaching our youth the dances, songs, and stories. It has been a 4-year struggle to relearn and find people willing to put their time into helping teach a forgotten, important piece of our culture that was considered lost until the designation happened.
What do you need to be successful?A core group of people willing to commit time and energy into all that needs to be done to make events, classes, or projects happen in fun and friendly ways.
What advice would you share with another community?Paiutes have a saying “one person speaks, one person listens. Many people speak, many people listen.” So, in other words, one person can not do it alone and it will take many people to help spread the word of the importance of dark sky conservation.
Paiute Indians by Timothy O’Sullivan from grandcanyontrust.orgLearn more about the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians at https://www.grandcanyontrust.org/info/kaibab-band-paiute
For information about the Kaibab Paiute Reservation’s International Dark Sky Place Certification visit https://www.darksky.org/the-worlds-first-ida-dark-sky-nation/
It is innately human to see and use the figures in the night sky. To dream, to tell stories, to navigate, and more. Some groups of relatively bright stars are so distinct that cultures from around the world, separated by vast oceans, have connected them into a constellation in almost the same way. It's our human imagination and cultural history that ascribes wildly different figures and meaning to the shapes though. From kings, to legendary & important animals to mythical gods and beings.
So the next time you're outside during a dark but nice warm summer night, lie down in a patch of fluffy grass, look up and imagine your own shapes & figures from the pinpricks of twinkling lights above. You'll probably end up recognizing more shapes than you would've thought.
The same sky, different figuresCompare 28 different "sky cultures" to see differences and similarities in the shapes they've seen in the night sky. Ranging from the so-called "Modern" or Western constellations, to Chinese, Maori and even a few shapes from historical cultures such as the Aztecs. FIGURES IN THE SKY
Created with ❤ by astronomer & dataviz lover Nadieh Bremer