Saturday, November 22, 2008

They don't always ask me writing questions

This just popped up in my email, from a blind woman I know who is writing an SF book: "How are stars named?" My response:
There are 88 constellations; taken in total, they cover the entire sky. The constellation names are mostly from Roman or Greek mythology.

The 24 brightest stars in each constellation are named with Greek letters followed by the possessive (genitive) form of the constellation's name, in descending order of brightness (alpha is the brightest, beta the second brightest, etc.). So Alpha Centauri is the brightest star in Centaurus, the constellation of the centaur.

Many stars also have other names, usually Arabic. For instance Sirius is another name for Alpha Canis Majoris (being the brighest star in Canis Major, the constellation of the big dog), and Betelgeuse is another name for Alpha Orionis, the brightest star in Orion, the hunter).
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