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International Astronomical Union Approves 227 Star Names

Nov 28, 2016 04:59 AM EST
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The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has formalized the first set of 227 new star names.
(Photo : Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The first set of 227 new star names was approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

A specialized IAU Working Group called the Working Group on Star Names (WGSN), a group composed of an international group of experts in astronomy, astronomical history and cultural astronomy whose purpose is to formalize the names of stars that have been used colloquially for centuries, has recently approved 227 new star names published on the IAU website.

According to Astronomy Now, the WGSN was created in May 2016, and it refers to worldwide astronomical history and culture to catalog traditional star names and to approve unique star names with standardized spellings. In the future, the group will focus on defining the rules, criteria and process by which new names for stars and significant substellar objects can be proposed by members of the astronomical community, including astronomers and the public alike.

With its approval, the WGSN is breaking with standard astronomical practice, Universe Today reports. Astronomers used to name stars using alphanumerical designation for purposes of practicality since catalogs typically contain millions of objects.

"Since the IAU is already adopting names for exoplanets and their host stars, it has been seen as necessary to catalogue the names for stars in common use from the past, and to clarify which ones will be official from now on," Eric Mamajek, chair and organizer of the group, said on the IAU website.

The WGSN guidelines prefer shorter, one-word names, including those that have their roots in astronomical cultural or natural world heritage. According to IAU, among the names that were approved are Proxima Centauri, a star system orbited by the controversial Earth-like exoplanet Proxima b, Rigil Kentaurus (the old name for Alpha Centauri), Algieba (Gamma-1 Leonis), Hamal (Alpha Arietis) and Muscida (Omicron Ursae Majoris).

The star names are expected to grow as WGSN continuously works to revive ancient stellar names and add new ones recommended by the global astronomical community.

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