Popular name

Scientific name

Proper names of stars

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 88 constellations in 1922, 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 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 identifications. Names marked with an asterisk (*) are navigation stars and are listed in The Nautical Almanac. The complete list can be found on the IAU’s Naming Stars web page.

Ian Ridpath (member, IAU Working Group on Star Names).

Acamar*

Achernar*

Acrab

Acrux*

Acubens

Adhara*

Albireo*

Alcor

Alcyone*

Aldebaran*

Alderamin*

Alfirk

Algedi

Algenib*

Algieba*

Algol*

Algorab

Alhena*

Alioth*

Alkaid*

Alkalurops

Almach*

Alnair*

Alnasl

Alnilam*

Alnitak*

Alphard*

Alphecca*

Alpheratz*

Alrescha

Alshain

Altair*

Aludra

Alya

Ankaa*

Antares*

Arcturus*

Arkab Posterior

Arkab Prior

Arneb

Ascella

Asellus Australis

Asellus Borealis

Aspidiske

Asterope

Atlas

Atria*

Avior*

Baten Kaitos

Bellatrix*

Betelgeuse*

Canopus*

Capella*

Caph*

Castor*

Cebalrai

Celaeno

Chara

Cor Caroli*

Cursa

Dabih

Deneb*

Denebola*

Diphda*

Dschubba*

Dubhe*

Edasich

Electra

Elnath*

Eltanin*

Enif*

Errai

Fomalhaut*

Furud

Gacrux*

Gienah*

Gomeisa

Grumium

Hadar*

Hamal*

Homam

Izar

Kaus Australis*

Kaus Borealis

Kaus Media

Kitalpha

Theta Eridani

Alpha Eridani

Beta Scorpii

Alpha Crucis

Alpha Cancri

Epsilon Canis Majoris

Beta Cygni

80 Ursae Majoris

Eta Tauri

Alpha Tauri

Alpha Cephei

Beta Cephei

Alpha Capricorni

Gamma Pegasi

Gamma Leonis

Beta Persei

Delta Corvi

Gamma Geminorum

Epsilon Ursae Majoris

Eta Ursae Majoris

Mu Boötis

Gamma Andromedae

Alpha Gruis

Gamma Sagittarii

Epsilon Orionis

Zeta Orionis

Alpha Hydrae

Alpha Coronae Borealis

Alpha Andromedae

Alpha Piscium

Beta Aquilae

Alpha Aquilae

Eta Canis Majoris

Theta Serpentis

Alpha Phoenicis

Alpha Scorpii

Alpha Boötis

Beta-2 Sagittarii

Beta-1 Sagittarii

Alpha Leporis

Zeta Sagittarii

Delta Cancri

Gamma Cancri

Iota Carinae

21 Tauri

27 Tauri

Alpha Trianguli Australis

Epsilon Carinae

Zeta Ceti

Gamma Orionis

Alpha Orionis

Alpha Carinae

Alpha Aurigae

Beta Cassiopeiae

Alpha Geminorum

Beta Ophiuchi

16 Tauri

Beta Canum Venaticorum

Alpha Canum Venaticorum

Beta Eridani

Beta Capricorni

Alpha Cygni

Beta Leonis

Beta Ceti

Delta Scorpii

Alpha Ursae Majoris

Iota Draconis

17 Tauri

Beta Tauri

Gamma Draconis

Epsilon Pegasi

Gamma Cephei

Alpha Piscis Austrini

Zeta Canis Majoris

Gamma Crucis

Gamma Corvi

Beta Canis Minoris

Xi Draconis

Beta Centauri

Alpha Arietis

Zeta Pegasi

Epsilon Boötis

Epsilon Sagittarii

Lambda Sagittarii

Delta Sagittarii

Alpha Equulei

Kochab*

Beta Ursae Minoris

Kornephoros

Beta Herculis

Lesath

Upsilon Scorpii

Maia

20 Tauri

Marfik

Lambda Ophiuchi

Markab*

Alpha Pegasi

Mebsuta

Epsilon Geminorum

Megrez

Delta Ursae Majoris

Meissa

Lambda Orionis

Menkalinan*

Beta Aurigae

Menkar*

Alpha Ceti

Menkent

Theta Centauri

Merak*

Beta Ursae Majoris

Merope

23 Tauri

Mesarthim

Gamma Arietis

Miaplacidus*

Beta Carinae

Mimosa*

Beta Crucis

Mintaka

Delta Orionis

Mira

Omicron Ceti

Mirach*

Beta Andromedae

Mirfak*

Alpha Persei

Mirzam*

Beta Canis Majoris

Mizar*

Zeta Ursae Majoris

Mothallah

Alpha Trianguli

Muliphein

Gamma Canis Majoris

Muphrid

Eta Bootis

Muscida

Omicron Ursae Majoris

Naos

Zeta Puppis

Nashira

Gamma Capricorni

Nekkar

Beta Boötis

Nihal

Beta Leporis

Nunki*

Sigma Sagittarii

Nusakan

Beta Coronae Borealis

Peacock*

Alpha Pavonis

Phact*

Alpha Columbae

Phecda*

Gamma Ursae Majoris

Pherkad

Gamma Ursae Minoris

Pleione

28 Tauri

Polaris*

Alpha Ursae Minoris

Pollux*

Beta Geminorum

Porrima

Gamma Virginis

Procyon*

Alpha Canis Minoris

Propus

Eta Geminorum

Rasalgethi

Alpha Herculis

Rasalhague*

Alpha Ophiuchi

Rastaban

Beta Draconis

Regulus*

Alpha Leonis

Rigel*

Beta Orionis

Rigil Kentaurus*

Alpha Centauri

Ruchbah*

Delta Cassiopeiae

Rukbat

Alpha Sagittarii

Sabik*

Eta Ophiuchi

Sadachbia

Gamma Aquarii

Sadalbari

Mu Pegasi

Sadalmelik

Alpha Aquarii

Sadalsuud

Beta Aquarii

Sadr

Gamma Cygni

Saiph

Kappa Orionis

Sargas

Theta Scorpii

Scheat*

Beta Pegasi

Schedar*

Alpha Cassiopeiae

Seginus

Gamma Boötis

Shaula*

Lambda Scorpii

Sheliak

Beta Lyrae

Sheratan*

Beta Arietis

Sirius*

Alpha Canis Majoris

Spica*

Alpha Virginis

Suhail*

Lambda Velorum

Sulafat

Gamma Lyrae

Tarazed

Gamma Aquilae

Taygeta

19 Tauri

Thuban

Alpha Draconis

Unukalhai

Alpha Serpentis

Vega*

Alpha Lyrae

Vindemiatrix

Epsilon Virginis

Wasat

Delta Geminorum

Wazn

Beta Columbae

Wezen*

Delta Canis Majoris

Yed Posterior

Epsilon Ophiuchi

Yed Prior

Delta Ophiuchi

Yildun

Delta Ursae Minoris

Zaurak

Gamma Eridani

Zavijava

Beta Virginis

Zosma

Delta Leonis

Zubenelgenubi*

Alpha Librae

Zubeneschamali

Beta Librae

Popular name

Scientific name

Want to name a star?

If you are thinking of buying a star name from a commercial company, read the International Astronomical Union’s statement on this practice.

Fake star names

Unfortunately, vandals have introduced a number of fake star names into Wikipedia. These have since been removed by vigilant editors, but not before some of them were picked up and repeated by the unwary. An example is the name ‘Urodelus’, applied to Epsilon Ursae Minoris. This can now be found in a number of sources but all lead back to the same bogus Wikipedia entry. See here for a list of known or suspected fake star names on Wikipedia. If you see any of these names repeated elsewhere, you know where they came from!