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Thread: Why is Luyten's Star called Luyten's Star?

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    Why is Luyten's Star called Luyten's Star?

    I mean yes, Luyten determined its proper motion, just as he had for half a million other stars. Several nearby stars already have his name and a catalogue number. What is it about Luyten's Star that so deserved his title?

    I know this is a somewhat off topic question but I've read three biographies of Luyten and I'm flummoxed.
    Last edited by parallaxicality; 2021-Jun-16 at 10:38 PM.
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    The main reason that this particular star was chosen out of the tens of thousands in Luyten's several catalogues to bear his name is (very likely) its proximity to Earth. The paper announcing its discovery ("A Faint Star of Large Proper Motion", by Luyten and Ebbighausen, Harvard College Observatory Bulletin 900, 1935)

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/pdf/1935BHarO.900....1L

    notes that a very approximate parallax of 0.4 arcseconds indicates an unusually small distance from the Solar System. The Gliese catalog of nearby stars, compiled many years later in 1991, listed it as the 29th closest star.

    I spent several hours using the Astrophysics Data Service to try to identify some articles in the technical literature which refer to this star as "Luyten's Star", but I can't find any earlier than about 2000. Anecdotal data indicates that the name was being used in the 1960s and 1970s, if not earlier, but I can't track down any specific references. I'd appreciate it if anyone else can do so.

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    My Everyman's Astronomy from 1974 lists it only as "LFT 527" in its table of nearby stars, despite being happy to list Barnard's, Kapteyn's and van Maanen's by name.
    I have a few old copies of Norton's Star Atlas in the attic, which I'll try to consult later.

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    Wow you guys are awesome!
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    No luck with my Norton's from the '60s and '80s. Their short table of nearby stars doesn't extend quite far enough to include Luyten's. (Though the older volume did introduce me to Innes' Star, which I don't remember hearing of before. It was considered to be very close by for a while, because of an erroneous parallax estimate.)

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    I remember Innes' Star.
    Also, when I was a lad of single digits and first loving the stars, my mother got me a kind of "child's first book of astronomy". It had a table of the closest stars. One of the stars had the odd name Lalande 21158. I used my birth year (1958) to help me memorize it.
    All these decades later I have to consciously think Lalande 21185 to get it right.
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    Those interested in stars named after astronomers can find a list in the following very short paper:

    http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/pdf/1982BICDS..22..105S

    This publication from 1982 does include "Luyten's Star," but doesn't provide any explanation or background for it (or the other entries), alas.

    I was able to find a very few occurences of the phrase "Luyten's Star" dating to the late 1960s (I think), via searches through Google Books. Unfortunately, those results did not provide concrete references, as far as I could tell. Rats.

    Larry Niven's story "The Handicapped", aka "Handicap", is set on a planet circling a star named "LS 1668". This is almost certainly some sort of mixed-up reference to Luyten's Star, which is also known as BD +5 1668 (the 1668'th entry in the list of stars with Declination +5, in the Bonner Durchmusterung). It's a good bet that Niven knew the object as "Luyten's Star", putting the use back into the 1960s.

    The technical literature does NOT include any references to the object under the name "Luyten's Star" at this time, based on a pretty careful search of the ADS. I think a good approach would be to search the full text of "Sky and Telescope" magazine. I've looked at the index of article titles, which is all I could find, and none of them used the phrase.

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    Quote Originally Posted by StupendousMan View Post
    Larry Niven's story "The Handicapped", aka "Handicap", is set on a planet circling a star named "LS 1668". This is almost certainly some sort of mixed-up reference to Luyten's Star, which is also known as BD +5 1668 (the 1668'th entry in the list of stars with Declination +5, in the Bonner Durchmusterung). It's a good bet that Niven knew the object as "Luyten's Star", putting the use back into the 1960s.
    I dunno. Niven's short story doesn't name the star at all--he describes it only as a "soft red" star.
    As far as I know, the first time Down's star acquired a designator is in Rick Sternbach's cover art for Tales of Known Space (1975), where it appears as L5 1665. It then mutates to "L5 1668, 12.3 light years from Sol" in the Explorer Book of the Chaosium "Beneath The Great Arch" role-playing game (1984). Sternbach consulted Niven in preparing his cover art, and the Chaosium game is often considered canon because of Niven's involvement, but the origin of the mashup between the "L" designator for the Bruce Proper Motion Survey and the catalogue number from the Durchmusterung is murky, to say the least.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I mean yes, Luyten determined its proper motion, just as he had for half a million other stars. Several nearby stars already have his name and a catalogue number. What is it about Luyten's Star that so deserved his title?
    Probably because it has the largest proper motion of any star Luyten discovered.

    For example, Luyten 726-8 (which includes UV Ceti) and Luyten 789-6 are better known but have smaller proper motions, even though both star systems are closer to the Sun than Luyten's Star is.

    The phrase "Luyten's Star" appears in the 1969 Edition of Wilhelm Gliese's Catalogue of Nearby Stars.

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    This question intrigued me, probably because my eye fell on a Dutch name. Being curious, I found a reference to "Luyten's Star" in a 1943 paper, "On the choice of configurations of reference stars in long-range astrometric problems" http://adsabs.harvard.edu/pdf/1943AJ.....50..134V Google Scholar gave me this quite readily, so now that makes me wonder why it wasn't mentioned earlier by those here I know to have proper astronomy training, unlike me. Is this a different star?
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    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    This question intrigued me, probably because my eye fell on a Dutch name. Being curious, I found a reference to "Luyten's Star" in a 1943 paper, "On the choice of configurations of reference stars in long-range astrometric problems" http://adsabs.harvard.edu/pdf/1943AJ.....50..134V Google Scholar gave me this quite readily, so now that makes me wonder why it wasn't mentioned earlier by those here I know to have proper astronomy training, unlike me. Is this a different star?
    It's the same star, according to the Durchmusterung number. Good find!

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    Your Google-fu has put mine to shame :-(

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    Brave is a far better search engine: Brave search

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