How do the stars baptize the sky? / Universe Stories – Science – Life


In the past four centuries, the number of identifiable objects in the sky has increased greatly, thanks to the invention and improvement of one of the most appreciated tools in the history of ScienceThe telescope.

Consequently, we went from knowing a few hundred stars to nearly a billion, and the vast majority were the result of space missions using telescopes designed to survey the skies and responsible for more advanced catalogs than stars.

One of the first tasks that obviously plays a role is to set stars. Ancestral cultures began this work with the most prominent stars: the sun, moon, and stars that grouped them into their constellations. During the Islamic Golden Age (the 9th and 13th centuries), astronomy had a special interest that we remember today in the names of a large number of bright stars, such as Aldebaran, Deneb, Altair, or the three famous stars of the Orion belt: Al-Natak, Al-Nilm, and Al-Muntaka.

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In the West, at the beginning of the seventeenth century and just before the invention of the telescope, German astronomer Johann Baer gave regular names for the brightest stars, which were included in a stellar atlas he called Uranometry – a name that honored the inspiration for the Greek sky, Urania. This will be the first atlas to cover the entire celestial sphere, with 48 constellations for Ptolemy, and 12 new constellations.

With the so-called class Bayer, The brightest star in the constellation assigned the Greek letter alpha, followed by a Latin name related to it. The following stars, according to their corresponding decrease in brightness, took the following letters from the Greek alphabet: beta, gamma, etc., for example, the star Alpha Lyrae, in the constellation Lyra, one of them.

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Later, it was expanded to include the use of lowercase and uppercase Latin letters, and superscripts were included that serve to distinguish the dual systems – with two stars -, in addition to the emergence of new names such as the name of astronomer John Flamsteed, with 2554 stars was first published in the year 1712, or already in the 20th century, the Henry Draper Catalogs and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

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Modern catalogs are computer-generated and deal with hundreds of millions of objects, and their mapping is based on location in the sky.

Nowadays, naming stars is one of the official tasks of the International Astronomical Union, and on some occasions the possibility opens for the public to be able to name the stars, as happened in 2019 when a group of university students from Colombia assumed this name. Macondo awarded for star HD 93083.

Santiago Vargas

* PhD. At the Astrophysical Observatory
Astronomer from the National University

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