STARNAME ABBREVIATIONS -------------------- John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc firstname.lastname@example.org www.nyskies.org 1989 January 1
[This article was never previously published, being only handwritten on paper. It was recovered in 2011 August, finished, and placed into the NYSkies website. The date is nominally 1989 January 1 based on internal clues and association with other materials. Altho in some cases the information is obsolete, I left the timeframe as is, with only minor clean up and fix up. [In the 1980s I worked a Sinclair home computer that produced crude, yet effective, graphic printouts. The ones noted here are starmaps done in skyscape mode, one panel for each cardinal direction plus one for the zenith.]
When I travel I compile starmaps on my computer. The program plots only the stars, symbolized according to brightness, but does not label them or even draw the constellation catch-figures. I letter in the names myself on the printed charts. Since the charts are small, 90mm x 60mm per panel, this required a careful steady hand. Sometimes I would contract a starname like 'Zubenes' to stand for Zubeneschemali. Later i came onto an idea. Constellations have fixed and standard 3-letter abbreviations (3LA), typicly made from the initial three letters of their full names. Conflicts among constellations with the same three first letters are resolved by compounding their 3LAs from the first letter and any two others in the name. There being but 88 official constellations it was easy to define unique 3LAs and set them up as regulation abbreviations for all astronomers to use. (There is also a set of 4-letter codes but they fell into disuse decades ago.) To ease the task of lettering my starmaps could there not be elaborated a set of 3LAs for starnames? Offhand I thought not. There are hundreds of starnames. Many stars have aliases. Many names have erratic spelling. I believed that any 3LA scheme would quickly unravel into a hard-to-remember gibberish much like the 3LAs for airports. Despite my first impressions I played around with the customary list of starnames and hit on a remarkable discovery. Among the common, only routinely used, starnames there are very few conflicts in their initial three letters! What conflicts there are could be trivially resolved! OK, of the five or six hundred proper names for stars, only about 100 are in general circulation, mainly those for stars of 2-1/2 magnitude and brighter, plus selected dimmer stars like Thuban and Alcor. Next, surprisingly few stars have strong aliases. Deneb has Arided as an alternative but I rarely heard it used outside of historical discussions. A few stars seem to have traded one alias for an other. Mirfak is alpha Persei nowadays but I grew u knowing it as Algenib. Somewhere around 1965 Benetnash, eta Ursae Majoris, went to Mexico and came back as Alkaid. Only a couple stars have equivalent aliases like Alphecca/Gemma, and Diphda/Baten Kaitos. All in all, tho, there is a single name for each star. Spellings can be quite erratic, being that the original Arabic names aren't consistently translitterated. So we have things like Almach/Alamk/Alamak/Almaak, all for gamma Andromedae. Even so, I found a surprising consensus for a one dominant selling. Gamma Andromedae is Almach, period. The result of all of the above is that among the brighter stars, the ones whose proper names are in common circulation, there is normally only one proper name for each. So I tabulated these and lo! Among the first three letters there were rather few duplications! That is, a scheme of 3LAs naturally falls out. What duplications did occur I could remove by obvious, almost trivial, selection of other letters in the star's name or by dropping the 'al' prefix, which in many cases is pretty much optional. In my compilation of names I discovered an other most curious phaenomenon: 3LAs for the solar system! That's right, the 3LAs for the planets, four charter asteroids, Sun and Moon, blend into the 3LA scheme for stars. What's more I came upon a list of proper names for the brighter naked-eye clusters and nebulae. No, not the 'Andromeda galaxy' type of name.but real cute Latin ones resembling starnames. Did you ever see Vortex? Well, frankly, I don't think that moniker for M31 will ever catch on. However for completeness's sake i include these names in my tabulation and, guess what?, Bingo! The 3LAs for these clusters and nebulae meld handily into the starname scheme. Hence, if these strange proper names ever do come into wide use, their 3LAs will be already in place. I do have a plea for you. I could not find proper names for delta Velorum or epsilon Centauri. I just made up the proper names 'Delvel' and 'Epscen' to fill out my tabulation. If you know of bona fide proper names for these two stars, please tell me. As you look thru the table you find many 3LAs equal to a constellation 3LA. Could there not be a confusion when both appear on a map? Nope. Just write the constellation 3LA in all-caps and the star one in initial-cap or all-smalls. A final point. There is nothing original in my starname list. It is not the result of a scholarly inquiry into the legitimacy or validity of starnames. This list is merely a digest of starnames already in general usage, how ever they got to be that way. Please, then, do not appeal to my tabulation as a prime source for proper names of stars.
THREE-LETTER ABBREVIATIONS FOR STARNAMES -------------------------------------- star full name 3LA | star full name 3LA | star full name 3LA ------ ---------- --- | ------ ---------- --- | ------ --------- --- alpAND Alpheratz Afz | betCAR Mialacidus Mia | alpAQL Altair Alt betCAS Caph Caf | iotCAR Tureis Tur | gamCYG Sadr Sdr alpPHE Ankaa Ank | alpHYA Alphard Alf | alpPAV Peacock Pea alpCAS Schedar Scd | alpLEO Regulus Rgs | alpCYG Deneb Dnb betCET Diphda Dif | gamLEO Algeiba Gba | epsCYG Gienah Gie do B'n Katios Bkt | gamCAS Navi Nav | betUMA Merak Mer | alpCEP Alderamin Adm do Cih Cih | betAND Mirach Mrh | alpUMA Dubhe Dub | epsPEG Enif Eni alpERI Achernar Ach | betLEO Denebola Dba | alpGRU Alnair Nai gamAND Almach Alm | gamUMA Phecda Phe | betGRU Dhanab Dha alpARI Hamal Ham | alpCRU Acrux Acr | alpPSA Fomalhaut Fom do Alhamal Ham | --------------------- omiCET Mira Mra | gamCRU Gacrux Gcr | L M C Nub'a Maj NMA alpUMI Polaris Plr | gamCEN Muliphain Mul | S M C Nub'a Min NMi betPER Algol Alg | betCRU Mimosa Mim |--------------------- | do Becrux Bcr | M31And Vortex Vor | do Alhut Hut alpPER Mirfak Mrf | epsUMA Alioth Ali | chiPER Capulus Cpl do Algenib Gnb | alpTAU Hyades Hya alpTAU ALdebaran Ald | zet UMA Mizar Miz | etaTAU Pleiades Ple betORI Rigel Rig | alpVIR Spica Spi | theORI Ensis Ens alpAUR Capella Cap | epsCEN 'Epscen' Eps | epsCNC Praesepe Pre gamORI Bellatrix Bel | etaUMA Alkaid Alk | etaCAR Foramen For do Benetnash Ben | M 6SCO Aculeus Acl betTAU Nath Nat | betCEN Hadar Had | M 7SCO Acumen Acm do Elnath Nat | do Agena Age | M 8SGR Spiculum Spc delORI Mintaka Mtk | theCEN Menkent Mkt | -------------------- epsORI Alnilam All | alpBOO Arcturus Arc | Sun Sol Sol zetORi Alnitak Atk | etaCEN Marfak Mar | Moon Luna Lun kepORI Saiph Sai | alpCEN Roliman Tol | Mercury Mer | do Rigel Ken' Rik | Venus Ven alpORI Betelgeuse Bet | alpLUP Alsuba Als | Earth Terra Ter betAUR Menkalinan Mkl | epsBOO Izar Iza | do Geos Geo betCMA Murzim Mzm | betUMI Kochab Koc | Mars Mar do Mirzam Mzm | alpCRB Alphecca Phc | Jupiter Jup | do Gemma Gem | Saturn Sat gamGEM Alhena Alh | delSCO Dschubba Dsc | Uranus Ura alpCMA Sirius Sir | alpSCO Antares Ant | Neptune Nep epsCMA Adhara Adh | alpTRA Atria Atr | Pluto Plu delCMA Wezen Wez | epsSCO B'alarab Bkb | Ceres Cer etaCMA Aludra Alu | etaOPH Sabik Sab | Pallas Pal alpGEM Castor Cas | lamSCO Shaula Sha | Juno Jun alpCMI Procyon Pro | alpOPH Easalhague Rah | Vesta Ves betGAM Pollux Plx | theSCO Sargas Sar | -------------------- zetPUP Naos Nao | kapSCO Girtab Gir | gamVEL Regor Rgr | gamDRA Eltanim Elt | | do Etamin Eta | epsCAR Avior Avi | epsSGR Kaus Aus's Kaa | delVEL 'Delvel' Del | alpLYR Vega Veg | lamVEL Alsuhail Suh | sigSGR Nunki Nun | -----------------------------------------------