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The Name Game

Gaggle of stars get official names

International Astronomical Union weighs in with formal designations for 227 stars

By
1:47pm, December 2, 2016
illustration of newly officially named stars

WHAT’S IN A NAME? Names of eight stars in the constellation Orion, plus one (Cursa) in Eridanus, are among the 227 now officially sanctioned by the International Astronomical Union.

For centuries, stargazers have known which star was Polaris and which was Sirius, but those designations were by unofficial tradition. The International Astronomical Union, arbiter of naming things in space, has now blessed the monikers of 227 stars in our galaxy. As of November 24, names such as Polaris (the North Star) and Betelgeuse (the bright red star in Orion) are approved.

Until now, there has been no central star registry or guidelines for naming. There are many star catalogs, each one designating stars with different combinations of letters and numbers. That excess of options has left most stars with an abundance of labels (HD 8890 is one of over 40 designations for Polaris).

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