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The Question

(Submitted May 17, 1997)

Could you give me the names of all the stars in Pegasus (or any other constellation)?

The Answer

The stars have historically gone by different naming schemes. The Greeks, the Arabs, the Egyptians and other cultures often gave names to the stars, often based on a myth. When astronomers started collecting stars into catalogues they gave them more systematic designations. A common one still in use is a designation in order of brightness using Greek letters and the name of the constellation. Hence, alpha Peg is the brightest star in Pegasus, beta Peg is the second brightest etc. For some constellations, one runs out of Greek letters. Another system simply numbers the stars in a constellation according to their right ascension (a type of "longitude" used in the sky).

The best resource for the names of the stars is a book entitled "Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning" by Richard H. Allen (Dover Publications, 1963). It gives many of the historical names which the Arabs, the Greeks, the Egyptians and other cultures gave to the stars. Hence, there may not be a single name for a star. However, taking the first entries, here are the names for some of the bright stars in Pegasus:

alpha Peg = Markab
beta Peg = Scheat
gamma Peg = Algenib
epsilon Peg = Enif
Zeta Peg = Homam
eta Peg = Matar
Theta Peg = Baham
Lambda Peg = Sad el Barr
tau Peg = Sad Al Naamah

There is a nice web page where you'll find information on the stars in any constellation at

http://www.astro.wisc.edu/~dolan/constellations/

For more detailed information about particular stars (e.g. a star's distance, magnitude, temperature, etc.), see

http://www.astro.utoronto.ca/~garrison/oh.html

Jim Lochner
for Ask an Astrophysicist

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