Popular names of stars
HERE is a selection of the most frequently encountered popular names of stars, with their Bayer or Flamsteed designations. Note that more than one popular name may be applied to some stars: for example, Alpha Andromedae is known as Alpheratz and Sirrah, both derived from Arabic. In addition, alternative spellings of many names may be encountered in different sources. Astronomers rarely use the popular names of stars except for a handful of the most famous ones. Star names marked with an asterisk (*) are navigation stars and are listed in The Nautical Almanac. Read also my “Brief lament” at the foot of the table.  Ian Ridpath

Popular name
Scientific name
 
Popular name
Scientific name
Acamar*
Theta Eridani
 
Izar
Epsilon Boötis
Achernar*
Alpha Eridani
 
Kaus Australis*
Epsilon Sagittarii
Acrab
Beta Scorpii
 
Kitalpha
Alpha Equulei
Acrux*
Alpha Crucis
 
Kocab or Kochab*
Beta Ursae Minoris
Acubens
Alpha Cancri
 
Kornephoros
Beta Herculis
Adhara*
Epsilon Canis Majoris
 
Lesath
Upsilon Scorpii
Agena
Beta Centauri
 
Maia
20 Tauri
Albireo*
Beta Cygni
 
Markab*
Alpha Pegasi
Alcor
80 Ursae Majoris
 
Megrez
Delta Ursae Majoris
Alcyone*
Eta Tauri
 
Menkalinan*
Beta Aurigae
Aldebaran*
Alpha Tauri
 
Menkar*
Alpha Ceti
Alderamin*
Alpha Cephei
 
Menkent
Theta Centauri
Alfirk
Beta Cephei
 
Merak*
Beta Ursae Majoris
Algedi
Alpha Capricorni
 
Merope
23 Tauri
Algenib*
Gamma Pegasi
 
Mesarthim or Mesartim
Gamma Arietis
Algieba or Algeiba*
Gamma Leonis
 
Miaplacidus*
Beta Carinae
Algol*
Beta Persei
 
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* or Mirphak
Alpha Persei
Almaak, Almach, or Almak*
Gamma Andromedae
 
Mirzam*
Beta Canis Majoris
Alnair or Al Na’ir*
Alpha Gruis
 
Mizar*
Zeta Ursae Majoris
Alnasl
Gamma Sagittarii
 
Mothallah
Alpha Trianguli
Alnath
Beta Tauri
 
Muhlifain
Gamma Centauri
Alnilam*
Epsilon Orionis
 
Muliphein
Gamma Canis Majoris
Alnitak*
Zeta Orionis
 
Naos
Zeta Puppis
Alphard*
Alpha Hydrae
 
Nashira
Gamma Capricorni
Alphecca* or Alphekka
Alpha Coronae Borealis
 
Nekkar
Beta Boötis
Alpheratz*
Alpha Andromedae
 
Nihal
Beta Leporis
Alrami
Alpha Sagittarii
 
Nunki*
Sigma Sagittarii
Alrescha
Alpha Piscium
 
Peacock*
Alpha Pavonis
Alshain
Beta Aquilae
 
Phact*
Alpha Columbae
Altair*
Alpha Aquilae
 
Phad or Phecda*
Gamma Ursae Majoris
Alya
Theta Serpentis
 
Pherkad
Gamma Ursae Minoris
Ankaa*
Alpha Phoenicis
 
Pleione
28 Tauri
Antares*
Alpha Scorpii
 
Polaris*
Alpha Ursae Minoris
Arcturus*
Alpha Boötis
 
Pollux*
Beta Geminorum
Arkab
Beta Sagittarii
 
Porrima
Gamma Virginis
Arneb
Alpha Leporis
 
Procyon*
Alpha Canis Minoris
Asellus Australis
Delta Cancri
 
Propus
Eta Geminorum
Asellus Borealis
Gamma Cancri
 
Pulcherrima
Epsilon Boötis
Asterope
21 Tauri
 
Rasalgethi
Alpha Herculis
Atlas
27 Tauri
 
Rasalhague*
Alpha Ophiuchi
Atria*
Alpha Trianguli Australis
 
Rastaban
Beta Draconis
Avior*
Epsilon Carinae
 
Regulus*
Alpha Leonis
Becrux
Beta Crucis
 
Rigel*
Beta Orionis
Bellatrix*
Gamma Orionis
 
Rigil Kentaurus* or Rigil Kent
Alpha Centauri
Benetnasch
Eta Ursae Majoris
 
Ruchbah*
Delta Cassiopeiae
Betelgeuse*
Alpha Orionis
 
Rukbat
Alpha Sagittarii
Canopus*
Alpha Carinae
 
Sabik*
Eta Ophiuchi
Capella*
Alpha Aurigae
 
Sadachbia
Gamma Aquarii
Caph*
Beta Cassiopeiae
 
Sadalmelik
Alpha Aquarii
Castor*
Alpha Geminorum
 
Sadalsuud
Beta Aquarii
Cebalrai
Beta Ophiuchi
 
Sadr
Gamma Cygni
Celaeno
16 Tauri
 
Saiph
Kappa Orionis
Chara
Beta Canum Venaticorum
 
Scheat*
Beta Pegasi
Cor Caroli*
Alpha Canum Venaticorum
 
Seginus
Gamma Boötis
Cursa
Beta Eridani
 
Shaula*
Lambda Scorpii
Dabih
Beta Capricorni
 
Schedar*, Shedar, or Shedir
Alpha Cassiopeiae
Deneb*
Alpha Cygni
 
Sheliak
Beta Lyrae
Deneb Algedi
Delta Capricorni
 
Sheratan*
Beta Arietis
Deneb Kaitos
Beta Ceti
 
Sirius*
Alpha Canis Majoris
Denebola*
Beta Leonis
 
Sirrah
Alpha Andromedae
Diphda*
Beta Ceti
 
Spica*
Alpha Virginis
Dschubba*
Delta Scorpii
 
Suhail*
Lambda Velorum
Dubhe*
Alpha Ursae Majoris
 
Tarazed
Gamma Aquilae
Electra
17 Tauri
 
Taygeta
19 Tauri
Elnath*
Beta Tauri
 
Thuban
Alpha Draconis
Eltanin*
Gamma Draconis
 
Toliman
Alpha Centauri
Enif*
Epsilon Pegasi
 
Unukalhai
Alpha Serpentis
Errai
Gamma Cephei
 
Vega*
Alpha Lyrae
Etamin
Gamma Draconis
 
Vindemiatrix
Epsilon Virginis
Fomalhaut*
Alpha Piscis Austrini
 
Wasat
Delta Geminorum
Gacrux*
Gamma Crucis
 
Wezen*
Delta Canis Majoris
Gemma
Alpha Coronae Borealis
 
Yed Posterior
Epsilon Ophiuchi
Giedi
Alpha Capricorni
 
Yed Prior
Delta Ophiuchi
Gienah*
Gamma Corvi
 
Yildun
Delta Ursae Minoris
Girtab
Theta Scorpii
 
Zaurak
Gamma Eridani
Gomeisa
Beta Canis Minoris
 
Zavijava
Beta Virginis
Graffias
Beta Scorpii
 
Zosma
Delta Leonis
Hadar*
Beta Centauri
 
Zubenelgenubi*
Alpha Librae
Hamal*
Alpha Arietis
 
Zubeneschamali
Beta Librae
Homam
Zeta Pegasi
 
 
 
A brief lament:
Sky Atlas 2000.0 by Wil Tirion, first published in 1981, and the associated Sky Catalogue 2000.0 by the good folk at Sky & Telescope, established a sensible set of star names that were widely adopted. A degree of standardization had arrived in this highly confused area at last, or so it seemed. Unfortunately, for reasons that have never been clear, the compilers of the European Space Agency’s Hipparcos Catalogue (1997) chose to adopt a somewhat different set of names and spellings, some of them clearly inferior (example: the name Eltanin, adopted by Tirion and Sky Catalogue for Gamma Draconis, comes from the Arabic al-tinnin. The Hipparcos catalogue compilers chose instead to use the alternative version Etamin, a mistranscription found on some older charts). I have included both sets of names above, along with the names of stars used for navigation as found in The Nautical Almanac. Surprisingly, the Hipparcos catalogue compilers seem to have completely ignored the scholarly list of names given by the German star-name authority Paul Kunitzsch.
The Millennium Star Atlas (1997) and the second edition of Sky Atlas 2000.0 (1998) were both based on the Hipparcos catalogue and hence were obliged to follow that catalogue’s choice of names. However, someone at Sky Publishing, publisher of both atlases, quietly changed the name “Kocab” for Beta Ursae Minoris to the previously used “Kochab”, so there is now an inconsistency between the Hipparcos catalogue and its associated charts.
In 2008, the International Astronomical Union revised its website to include a page on constellations, with star charts provided by Sky & Telescope. It seems that the Sky & Telescope staffers had a rethink about star names, for on these IAU charts they reintroduced a subset of the names used in the old Sky Catalogue 2000.0, including Eltanin.

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!


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