About 350 of the brighest stars were given names by ancient civilisations.
Many of us have heard of Polaris, Sirius, Vega and Betelgeuse, stars
which were named by the Greeks, Arabs and Romans, and these names
are still used. In the 1950s the astronomical community adopted
a policy of not naming stars, and with good reason, since it would
be far too large an undertaking. However, other celestial features, such as asteroids and comets, continue
to be named to this day, usually after their discoverers but sometimes
as a tribute to a well-known individual.
Its been more than 23 centuries since the first known star
catalogue was compiled by Timocharis of Alexandria, although even
more ancient civilisations undoubtedly made observations and recordings
too, such as the Babylonians and the Chinese around 3,000 BC. Since
300 BC, over two dozen different star catalogues have been compiled,
listing stars according to position and brightness. Timochariss
catalogue was the basis for Ptolomys Almagestus, listing some
In 1603 Johannes Bayer introduced a system which classified stars
by brightness within each constellation, using the Greek Alphabet.
So, for example, the brightest star in Orion would be Alpha Orionis
and the 24th brightest would be Omega Orionis. However, this provided
for a total of just 2112 stars.
After the invention of the telescope in 1608, celestial observation
and notation became increasingly more detailed and sophisticated.
The Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, compiled a catalogue in 1712
which listed 3,000 stars by identification number. By the period
immediately following the World War I, Henry Draper had published
a catalogue of 225,300 stars. Flamsteed gave each of his stars a
number based on their celestial longitude, whereas Draper was also
able to catalogue by spectral type. Other well-known 20th century
catalogues include the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO),
with 258,900 stars listed.
To date, the most comprehensive catalogue ever compiled is the photometric
sky survey produced in 1983 by the Palomar and Schmidt telescopes
as a guide for the Hubble Space Telescope. The survey identified
some 16 million stars and it is from this, the Hubble Guide Star
Catalog (GSC) that ISR selects stars for you to name.