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 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 200 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 Working Group’s web page.
Ian Ridpath (member, IAU Working Group on Star Names).
Popular name
Scientific name
 
Popular name
Scientific name
Acamar*
Theta Eridani
 
Kochab*
Beta Ursae Minoris
Achernar*
Alpha Eridani
 
Kornephoros
Beta Herculis
Acrab
Beta Scorpii
 
Lesath
Upsilon Scorpii
Acrux*
Alpha Crucis
 
Maia
20 Tauri
Acubens
Alpha Cancri
 
Marfik
Lambda Ophiuchi
Adhara*
Epsilon Canis Majoris
 
Markab*
Alpha Pegasi
Albireo*
Beta Cygni
 
Mebsuta
Epsilon Geminorum
Alcor
80 Ursae Majoris
 
Megrez
Delta Ursae Majoris
Alcyone*
Eta Tauri
 
Meissa
Lambda Orionis
Aldebaran*
Alpha Tauri
 
Menkalinan*
Beta Aurigae
Alderamin*
Alpha Cephei
 
Menkar*
Alpha Ceti
Alfirk
Beta Cephei
 
Menkent
Theta Centauri
Algedi
Alpha Capricorni
 
Merak*
Beta Ursae Majoris
Algenib*
Gamma Pegasi
 
Merope
23 Tauri
Algieba*
Gamma Leonis
 
Mesarthim
Gamma Arietis
Algol*
Beta Persei
 
Miaplacidus*
Beta Carinae
Algorab
Delta Corvi
 
Mimosa*
Beta Crucis
Alhena*
Gamma Geminorum
 
Mintaka
Delta Orionis
Alioth*
Epsilon Ursae Majoris
 
Mira
Omicron Ceti
Alkaid*
Eta Ursae Majoris
 
Mirach*
Beta Andromedae
Alkalurops
Mu Boötis
 
Mirfak*
Alpha Persei
Almach*
Gamma Andromedae
 
Mirzam*
Beta Canis Majoris
Alnair*
Alpha Gruis
 
Mizar*
Zeta Ursae Majoris
Alnasl
Gamma Sagittarii
 
Mothallah
Alpha Trianguli
Alnilam*
Epsilon Orionis
 
Muliphein
Gamma Canis Majoris
Alnitak*
Zeta Orionis
 
Muphrid
Eta Bootis
Alphard*
Alpha Hydrae
 
Muscida
Omicron Ursae Majoris
Alphecca*
Alpha Coronae Borealis
 
Naos
Zeta Puppis
Alpheratz*
Alpha Andromedae
 
Nashira
Gamma Capricorni
Alrescha
Alpha Piscium
 
Nekkar
Beta Boötis
Alshain
Beta Aquilae
 
Nihal
Beta Leporis
Altair*
Alpha Aquilae
 
Nunki*
Sigma Sagittarii
Aludra
Eta Canis Majoris
 
Nusakan
Beta Coronae Borealis
Alya
Theta Serpentis
 
Peacock*
Alpha Pavonis
Ankaa*
Alpha Phoenicis
 
Phact*
Alpha Columbae
Antares*
Alpha Scorpii
 
Phecda*
Gamma Ursae Majoris
Arcturus*
Alpha Boötis
 
Pherkad
Gamma Ursae Minoris
Arkab Posterior
Beta-2 Sagittarii
 
Pleione
28 Tauri
Arkab Prior
Beta-1 Sagittarii
 
Polaris*
Alpha Ursae Minoris
Arneb
Alpha Leporis
 
Pollux*
Beta Geminorum
Ascella
Zeta Sagittarii
 
Porrima
Gamma Virginis
Asellus Australis
Delta Cancri
 
Procyon*
Alpha Canis Minoris
Asellus Borealis
Gamma Cancri
 
Propus
Eta Geminorum
Aspidiske
Iota Carinae
 
Rasalgethi
Alpha Herculis
Asterope
21 Tauri
 
Rasalhague*
Alpha Ophiuchi
Atlas
27 Tauri
 
Rastaban
Beta Draconis
Atria*
Alpha Trianguli Australis
 
Regulus*
Alpha Leonis
Avior*
Epsilon Carinae
 
Rigel*
Beta Orionis
Baten Kaitos
Zeta Ceti
 
Rigil Kentaurus*
Alpha Centauri
Bellatrix*
Gamma Orionis
 
Ruchbah*
Delta Cassiopeiae
Betelgeuse*
Alpha Orionis
 
Rukbat
Alpha Sagittarii
Canopus*
Alpha Carinae
 
Sabik*
Eta Ophiuchi
Capella*
Alpha Aurigae
 
Sadachbia
Gamma Aquarii
Caph*
Beta Cassiopeiae
 
Sadalbari
Mu Pegasi
Castor*
Alpha Geminorum
 
Sadalmelik
Alpha Aquarii
Cebalrai
Beta Ophiuchi
 
Sadalsuud
Beta Aquarii
Celaeno
16 Tauri
 
Sadr
Gamma Cygni
Chara
Beta Canum Venaticorum
 
Saiph
Kappa Orionis
Cor Caroli*
Alpha Canum Venaticorum
 
Sargas
Theta Scorpii
Cursa
Beta Eridani
 
Scheat*
Beta Pegasi
Dabih
Beta Capricorni
 
Schedar*
Alpha Cassiopeiae
Deneb*
Alpha Cygni
 
Seginus
Gamma Boötis
Denebola*
Beta Leonis
 
Shaula*
Lambda Scorpii
Diphda*
Beta Ceti
 
Sheliak
Beta Lyrae
Dschubba*
Delta Scorpii
 
Sheratan*
Beta Arietis
Dubhe*
Alpha Ursae Majoris
 
Sirius*
Alpha Canis Majoris
Edasich
Iota Draconis
 
Spica*
Alpha Virginis
Electra
17 Tauri
 
Suhail*
Lambda Velorum
Elnath*
Beta Tauri
 
Sulafat
Gamma Lyrae
Eltanin*
Gamma Draconis
 
Tarazed
Gamma Aquilae
Enif*
Epsilon Pegasi
 
Taygeta
19 Tauri
Errai
Gamma Cephei
 
Thuban
Alpha Draconis
Fomalhaut*
Alpha Piscis Austrini
 
Unukalhai
Alpha Serpentis
Furud
Zeta Canis Majoris
 
Vega*
Alpha Lyrae
Gacrux*
Gamma Crucis
 
Vindemiatrix
Epsilon Virginis
Gienah*
Gamma Corvi
 
Wasat
Delta Geminorum
Gomeisa
Beta Canis Minoris
 
Wazn
Beta Columbae
Grumium
Xi Draconis
 
Wezen*
Delta Canis Majoris
Hadar*
Beta Centauri
 
Yed Posterior
Epsilon Ophiuchi
Hamal*
Alpha Arietis
 
Yed Prior
Delta Ophiuchi
Homam
Zeta Pegasi
 
Yildun
Delta Ursae Minoris
Izar
Epsilon Boötis
 
Zaurak
Gamma Eridani
Kaus Australis*
Epsilon Sagittarii
 
Zavijava
Beta Virginis
Kaus Borealis
Lambda Sagittarii
 
Zosma
Delta Leonis
Kaus Media
Delta Sagittarii
 
Zubenelgenubi*
Alpha Librae
Kitalpha
Alpha Equulei
 
Zubeneschamali
Beta Librae

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. For a list of known or suspected fake star names on Wikipedia, see here. If you see any of these names repeated elsewhere, you know where they came from!


backbutton.jpg