Star Names

We know that people have been watching the sky for thousands of years. Different cultures have each created their own legends and names for the stars. Many of these names and stories have been lost. Others have been passed down, but altered in the retelling over the centuries. Most modern names are derived from either ancient Greek or Arabic sources. The name of the brightest star in Taurus the bull, Aldebaran, comes from al-dabaraan (الدبران), Arabic for "the follower." The brightest star of Canis Major, Sirius, comes from the Greek Σειριος for "the Brilliant One."

Johannes Bayer (1572-1625) revolutionized the system of star naming when he began systematically designating stars with letters from the Greek and Roman alphabet. By combining a letter with the Latin genitive form of the constellation name, the Bayer system gives us names like alpha Centauri or alpha Canis Majoris. This would be abbreviated as α CMa. For those interested, I have compiled a table of Latin constellations names with genitive forms and standard abbreviations.