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Thread: On the naming of names in astronomy

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    Smile On the naming of names in astronomy

    A post, slightly tongue-in-cheek:

    It is pleasing to know I am not the only person who complains about the myriad names given to each object in the heavens. It seems that every year the same stars are reintroduced with new names in every new catalog, as there is nothing more certain astronomers love to do than create new and personalized catalogs of astronomical things. With new names.

    Let us hear from the learned.

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    Spectral Types of M Dwarf Stars
    Authors: Joy, Alfred H.; Abt, Helmut A.
    Publication: Astrophysical Journal Supplement, vol. 28, p.1 (11/1974)

    QUOTE: "A long-standing frustration regarding M dwarfs has been the usage of names from a wide variety of catalogs.... In table 1 we have compiled most of the designations used; further ones are given by Woolley et al (1970). The designations include numbers from Cincinnati (Publications of the Cincinnati Observatory, No. 18 and 20), Furuhjelm [Frjm] (1917), Gliese [GLS] (1969), Groombridge [Grmb], (Dyson and Thackeray 1905), Luyten [LFT] (1955) and other catalogs, McCormick [McC] (Vyssotsky 1943, 1956; Vyssotsky et al. 1946; Vyssotsky and Mateer 1952), Ross (1925-1939), Weisse-Bessel [WB] (Weisse 1846, 1863), Wolf (1914-1929), Yale (Jenkins 1952, 1963), and the standard Aitken [ADS], Henry Draper, Lalande, variable star, and constellation names."

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    Catalogs of proper-motion stars. I - Stars brighter than visual magnitude 15 and with annual proper motion of 1 arcsec or more
    Authors: Eggen, O. J.
    Publication: Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, vol. 39, Jan. 1979, p. 89-101. (01/1979)

    QUOTE: "In recent years the literature has become polluted with a surfeit of designations for some of these stars, and the present procedure seems the simplest method of avoiding further confusion."

    ===

    High-frequency stellar oscillations. XIII - Observations of apparently quiescent white dwarfs
    Authors: Hesser, J. E.; Lasker, B. M.; Neupert, H. E.
    Publication: Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, vol. 40, July 1979, p.577-581. (07/1979)

    QUOTE: "Because the fundamental data (colors, spectral types, proper motions, etc.) for the white dwarfs are widely dispersed in the literature and because of the commonplace existence of multiple names for the same object,1 we found it necessary to summarize the available data on white dwarfs that have been searched for variability, in order to make an appraisal of the incidence of variability among white dwarfs. The recent appearance of the Villanova Catalog of Spectroscopically Confirmed White Dwarfs (McCook and Sion 1977), which is a compilation and a scheme of identification of these diversely named objects, makes possible the introduction of considerably greater order into the literature.

    [Footnote] 1 The multiple names arise principally from the appearance of certain white dwarfs in more than one proper-motion survey, and the confusion is compounded by various investigators’ selecting different names.

    ===

    A Catalog of Spectroscopically Identified White Dwarfs
    Authors: McCook, George P.; Sion, Edward M.
    Publication: The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, Volume 121, Issue 1, pp. 1-130. (03/1999)

    QUOTE: "Some confusion exists with nomenclature especially regarding multiple names. The volume of data and the nature of its accessibility in the literature strongly suggested the need for a general comprehensive white dwarf catalogue. While there is clearly no substitute for using the primary reference literature, it may prove useful in certain applications for both observers and theoreticians to have the data collected into one catalogue."

    ===

    The winner-takes-all speech comes from a very old source, over 170 years ago. It is a shame we do not speak like this today.

    https://archive.org/details/catalogu...qgoog/page/n82

    The Catalogue of Stars of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (London: Richard and John E. Taylor, 1845)

    QUOTE FROM THE PREFACE: "It has been too much the practice, of late years, to increase the number of letters by which the stars are denoted: 'a custom more honored in the breach than the observance;' since much confusion has thereby been introduced, which otherwise would not have occurred. Bode was the first and greatest innovator in this respect, and has carried his innovation to a most inconvenient and even absurd length; inasmuch as he has, in his great catalogue, exhausted two or three alphabets on some of the constellations, without the prospect of its leading to any advantage. Other astronomers have introduced a practice of designating stars, contiguous to any of Bayer's known stars, by numerals, according to the order of their right ascension; without any regard to their similarity of magnitude, which is the very essence of Bayer's notation. Thus we meet with α1 Libræ, α2 Ceti, β1 Capricorni, and some others, which can have no pretensions to be classed with the stars designated by those letters in Bayer's maps. Indeed it would have been much better had Bayer himself limited his notation to a few of the first letters of the Greek alphabet, or at least to have excluded all stars below the 5th magnitude, since the smaller stars were very likely, especially in his day, to be mistaken one for the other; even as we now find to be the case when we attempt to identify not only some of his stars, but also those of modern astronomers who have followed in the footsteps of Bode. As a much more convenient and certain mode of designating the stars, by means of a numerical arrangement in the order of their right ascension, is now universally adopted, astronomers ought to discountenance any further innovation on Bayer's method; and perhaps if they were to agree even to discard or disuse his notation altogether, in stars below the 5th magnitude, as above hinted at, it might tend to simplify and improve the subject. This however is a matter in which each practical astronomer will at present use his own discretion, until some general reform is accomplished."

    — Francis Bailey, President of the Royal Astronomical Society


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    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2019-Mar-27 at 06:30 PM.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
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    It was a surprise to discover, looking through old star catalogs, that the stars of the Pleiades were once treated as it they were their own constellation. Instead of using the constellation Taurus in the star's name, you would get stars like 17 Pleiadum (Electra, I think).

    Here is a link to the Pleiades section of the 1861 American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac (USNO).
    https://books.google.com/books?id=O8...eiadum&f=false

    Also a link to the article "Pleiades" by J.M. Gilliss, from 1865, in Astronomical and Meteorological Observations made at the U.S. Naval Observatory, vol. 3.
    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/1865USNOM...3..219G
    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2019-Mar-28 at 12:55 PM.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    That's interesting. It appears there were at least 50 stars designated as such. Did grander survey's come along and lose interest in cross referencing their designation system with this one?
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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    The IAU seems to have come along and revamped the designations recently. Electra is now 17 Tauri.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electra_(star)
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    The IAU seems to have come along and revamped the designations recently. Electra is now 17 Tauri.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electra_(star)
    That's Flamsteed's number. It goes back nearly 300 years.

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    Thanks for the interesting thread, Roger.

    And interestingly, for centuries astrologers and astronomers were essentially the same people. The roots of astrologer mean studier of stars. After the supernatural aspects of astrology became suspect, the more scientifically inclined members of the profession sought an alternate name. The name they eventually agreed upon was of course astronomer, which actually means namer of stars.

    Nowadays, professional astronomers seem to prefer to call themselves astrophysicists. So we amateurs are apparently they only ones left to call ourselves astronomers.
    For astronomical graphics and data visit
    https://www.CurtRenz.com/astronomy.html

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    I think that for old-school astronomers, from the 1500s to the invention of computers, memorization was critical. Stars had names that made it easier to recall, such as Lalande 21185 and Barnard's star and alpha Centauri B. Nowadays, with wall-to-wall data, stars can be tested en masse for any number of things, and the computers remember the stars' names. It isn't necessary to recall every star's name when doing research, so you get impossible-to-recall names like WISEA J110319.67+355722.4, 2MASS J17574849+0441405, and 1RXS J143940.4-605020B, which are the same three stars as before, in order. I still need to know the "easy" names, because those are the names I learned growing up.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Centaur View Post
    Nowadays, professional astronomers seem to prefer to call themselves astrophysicists.
    Is this likely since the degree programs are separate, right? I suspect more graduate with physics and astrophysics degrees to give them more alternative employments, perhaps.

    So we amateurs are apparently they only ones left to call ourselves astronomers.
    That reminds me of my viewing through the 82" at McDonald with professionals and I was a little puzzled why they were there in the visitors' class. They said it was the only chance they had to actually look through a large telescope. It was a number of years back and I hadn't learned about the ubiquitous use of cameras.
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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    So, what's the dimmest star to have a name rather than just an address?

    I'd have guessed Alcor ... but I'm probably overlooking a few things (or a few thousand).

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    Quote Originally Posted by DonM435 View Post
    So, what's the dimmest star to have a name rather than just an address?

    I'd have guessed Alcor ... but I'm probably overlooking a few things (or a few thousand).
    Contact all of the competing unofficial star naming companies. Then you may be able to get your question answered.
    For astronomical graphics and data visit
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    Quote Originally Posted by Centaur View Post
    Contact all of the competing unofficial star naming companies. Then you may be able to get your question answered.
    Well, I sort of meant stars that were named prior to the big telescope, radio telescope, orbiting telescope era. I'm sure that naming exploded at some point.



    (Now, if I were joking, I'd have said something like: "I understand how we can learn the mass, the distance, the temperature of a distant star, but how do we manage to learn their names?"

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    Checking around a bit and sort of free-associating on possible winners - van Maanen's star is a white dwarf, V magnitude 12.7 (comparable to Boyajian's Star). Krzeminski's Star is a bit fainter (mostly due to dust) at 13.2. Asterope in the Pleiades has V magnitude 6.4, which is kind of weird if it's a traditional name.

    There are fainter named nonstellar objects - Minkowski's Object, Mayall's Object, Hoag's Object (all galaxies), for example.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DonM435 View Post
    So, what's the dimmest star to have a name rather than just an address?

    I'd have guessed Alcor ... but I'm probably overlooking a few things (or a few thousand).
    You know, I'm gonna go with van Biesbroeck 8 or 10. Those were discovered about 1960, IIRC, and are regularly listed as among the dimmest stars known. We see them only because they are close to us.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    If I look at a specific subset of stars, say the closest ones within 10-20 parsecs, it is a LOAD easier for me to remember those stars if they have different names that have something catchy about each one. The stars with proper names, of course (Barnard's star, Luyten's star, Kapteyn's star, van Maanen's star, Sirius, Procyon), constellation names (alpha Centauri AB, Proxima Centauri, tau Ceti, epsilon Eridani, epsilon Indi, UV Ceti), and combinations of catalog names with short numbers (Lalande 21185, Wolf 359, Ross 128, Groombridge 34, Gliese 1). Sometimes it's not hard to recall a star or object if there is something odd about it, like WISE 0855, the truncated serial name of the nearest sub-brown dwarf. I recall the names of the individual stars in the nearest quintuple star system, as I've read about them a lot.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    Quote Originally Posted by ngc3314 View Post
    There are fainter named nonstellar objects - Minkowski's Object, Mayall's Object, Hoag's Object (all galaxies), for example.
    Then there's Hanny's Voorwerp at about 19.
    We know time flies, we just can't see its wings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ngc3314 View Post
    Asterope in the Pleiades has V magnitude 6.4, which is kind of weird if it's a traditional name.
    Allen's "Star Names" notes that "Asterope" is a corruption of sorts from the older "Sterope", which appears in Ovid, among other sources. He casts some doubt on the identification of the modern star (mag 6.4) with the "Sterope" of ancient Rome, but provides no details.

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    Discovered a very curious thing, perhaps someone could check on this further.

    So I like to look up some of the older names for popular stars, and Lalande 21185 (very close to us) came up. I found in one old source that it was once called Argelander’s second star, after an astronomer who noticed its high proper motion AFTER noticing the high proper motion of another star. The source for this is here:

    "Proper motion of Lalande 21185", by Lynn, W. T.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 33, p.52 (11/1872)
    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/abs/1872MNRAS..33...52L

    Then I began noticing that the star was also called 22 H Camelopardalis (the giraffe constellation), one of those old Bode/Flamsteed/somebody designations, and I thought I'd find out who exactly came up with that messy name.

    And I discovered it might have been an accident. You can look up "22 H Camelopardalis" on Google (in quotes) and find a lot of 19th and early 20th century texts mentioning this star. Famous astronomers like Luyten state that Lalande 21185 and 22 H Camelopardalis are the same star (1923):

    http://adsbit.harvard.edu//full/1923...00011.000.html

    as does van Biesbroeck (1920):

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr//full/192...c2a4e645432039

    Then I began looking at the RA and Dec coordinates for "22 H Camelopardalis" and discovered there were two different sets of positions. One gave the 1900 RA/Dec as something like 6h 8m 15s, +69° 20' 53". This is NOT the position of Lalande 21185, by a long shot, which was about 10h 58m and +36.6°.

    Then I found a correction note in German by "H. Kobold" (Google Translate calls him "H. Goblin"), from Astronomische Nachrichten, volume 182, Issue 21, p.357 (1909):

    http://adsbit.harvard.edu//full/1909...00193.000.html

    The note reads, as best as I wrote it out, "Berichtigung. In meinem Buche "Der Bau des Fixsternsystems" is der zur Zeit als nächster Fixstern der nördlichen Hemisphäre zu betrachtende und in diesem Sinne in Nr. 4358 p.224 im Anschluss an die Diskussion über die Parallaxe von Σ 2398 auch erwähnte Stern Lal 21185 irrtümlich Seite 72 Zeile 11, Seite 76 Nr. 2 und Seite 231 Nr. 29 22 H. Camelopardalis benannt. Der Stern ist Nr. 104 des Argelanderschen Verzeichnisses von Sternen mit grösserer Eigenbewegung in BB VII, während 22 H. Camelop. Nr. 104 des Argelanderschen Fundamentalstern-Katalogs in BB VII ist. Dadurch ist die Verwechslung entstanden. Herr Professor Elkin, dem ich die Kenntnis dieses Irrtums verdanke, teilt mir noch mit, dass die Newhavener Heliometerbeobachtung von Dr. Chase für die Parallaxe Dieses Sterns etwa +0.40" ergeben. H Kobold."

    Google Translate says, modified by me: "Correction. In my book "The Construction of the Fixed Star System" is the star currently considered as the next [nearest?--REM] fixed star of the Northern Hemisphere, and in this sense in No. 4358 p.224 in connection with the discussion of the parallax of Σ 2398 [a nearby double star--REM] also mentioned star Lal 21185 [which I] erroneously named [on] page 72 line 11, page 76 No. 2, and page 231 No. 29, 22 H. Camelopardalis. The star [Lalande 21185] is number 104 in the Argelander directory of stars with greater self-motion [high proper motion] in BB VII [volume?], while 22 H. Camelop. is number 104 of Argelander's Fundamental Star Catalog in BB VII. This caused the confusion. Professor Elkin, to whom I owe the knowledge of this error, informs me that the Newhaven Heliometer Observation of Dr. Chase for the parallax of this star is about +0.40". H Goblin."

    If I understand this correctly, Lalande 21185 is NOT 22 H Camelopardalis, which is another star entirely. The sky position of 22 H Cam in texts before 1900 are always for the place that is NOT where Lalande 21185 is.

    So the name was entirely a mistake but was perpetuated for decades in astronomy literature anyway.
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    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2019-Apr-04 at 06:05 PM.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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    Remember that if you name a planet for the Multi-Site All-Sky CAmeRA, you get MASCARA-4 b. Choose wisely.

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1904.02733
    MASCARA-4 b/bRing-1b - A retrograde hot Jupiter around the bright A3V star HD 85628
    P. Dorval, et al. (Submitted on 4 Apr 2019
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

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