L. l, 1 Carinae 
 John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc 
 2006 March 8 initial 
 2013 August 30 current 
    On 28 February 2006 European Southern Observatory showed newly 
discovered shells or envelopes around three delta Cephei stars. They 
were detected by infrared interferometry at 'delta Cephei' itself, 
'alpha Ursae Minoris' (Polaris), and 'L Carinae'. The astronomy and 
space news media copied over these designations without comment. 
    I caught immediately that there is no such star 'L Carinaw'. 
Perhaps this was a short form of some other name? Reading the many 
accounts of the discovery turned up no explanation.
Bayer Greek letters 
    In 1603 Johannes Bayerus issued his new scheme for naming stars 
using small Greek letters. In general he ordered the stars by their 
apparent brightness. This is a rough guide in that he followed the 
Ptolemaeus order of the stars, which were more or less in brightness 
order. He applied the Greek letters seriatim until he ran out. There 
are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet. 
    To stretch the supply of letters he assigned a single letter for a 
associated group of stars. Look at the pi stars of Orion, tau stars of 
Eridanus, or psi stars of Auriga. He did not number the stars in the 
group but merely noted there were so-many stars for the letter. The 
numbering came later from other astronomers. 
    Later astronomers also doubled up on Greek letters for widely-
spaced double stars. They numbered the members '1' and '2', like 
'gamma-1', 'gamma-2' in Virgo or 'epsilon-1', 'epsilon-2' in Lyra. 
    Even with grouped stars under single Greek letter, many 
constellations had too many stars for the Greek alphabet. Recall that 
he observed with eye alone, the telescope being a few years in the 
future.He sure had good eyesight. 
Bayer Latin letters
    He continued his naming with Latin letters. By chance no 
constellation needed letters beyond Q, an important fact for two 
centuries later. 
    The usual accounts state that Bayer first went thru the small 
Latin letters. When these ran out, he dipped into big Latin letters. 
Within these sequences later astronomers multiplexed the letters, as 
shown below for L1 and L2 Puppis.
    The curious fact is that in the very Uranometria, Bayer's own 1603 
atlas, there are NO complete sequences of smalls and bigs. He used a 
single sequence of MIXED bigs and smalls, like 'a, B, c, d, E, f, G, 
...'. More over, he used different mixes for each constellation! 
    The use of Latin letters is a little known feature of the Bayer 
system, often missed by home -- and campus! -- astronomers. 
    Bayer named stars in southern constellations, not visible from 
northern Europe. His information about them was pretty awful, coming 
from sailors and travellers inept in astronomical cartography. 
    The faulty information resulted in messed-up maps and star 
letters. His letters were rearranged after decent mapping of the 
southern skies was available. 
    More study of this feature of the Bayer system is needed. 
Ex una, plures 
    One of the charter 48 constellations handed to us from the Graeco-
Roman era was Argo. This in mythology is the ship that roved the sea 
in hunt for the Golden Fleece. It was a large sprawling region 
embedded in the southern Milky Way with lots of stars discernible to 
the eye. 
    Bayer lettered these stars, applying a single sequence of Greek 
and Latin letters. The farthest letter he needed was, ta-TAH!, 'Q' for 
'Q Argus'. 
    When in 1930 the International Astronomical Union formalized the 
constellation frontiers, it broke up Argo into four smaller groups. 
They are the present Carina (keel), Puppis (stern), /Pyxis (case for 
marine compass), and Vela (sails). Pyxis has only dim stars while the 
other three are filled with bright ones. 
    However, the IAU preserved the original Bayer names from the 
former humongous constellation. Hence, for all four new groups there 
is ONE SEQUENCE of Bayer letters. There is, for example, we have 
'alpha Carinae', former 'alpha Argus', but no 'alpha Velorum'. There 
is a 'delta Velorum', former 'delta Argus', but no 'delta Puppis'. 
There is a 'Q Puppis', former 'Q Argus', but no 'Q Carinae'. 
    Pyxis had no Bayer stars from old Argo. A whole new set was 
assigned to it. 
    Note the nominative and genitives of the constellations. They are 
a bit unusual. They are glatt Latin words, so if you have tuition in 
that tongue, their orthographical shift does make sense. 
  | nominative | numb | declen | gentitive  | Pronunciation        | 
  | Argo       | sing | fourth | Argus      | ARR-goh, -goos       |
  | Carina     | sing | first  | Carinae    | ka-REE-na, -nigh     |
  | Puppis     | sing | third  | Puppis     | PUH-piss, -piss      |
  | Pyxis      | sing | third  | Pyxidis    | PIKK-siss, -sih-diss |
  | Vela       | plur | second | Velorum    | VEH-la, veh-LOH-rumm | 
'Declen' is declension, the scheme in Latin for the spelling and 
pronunciation for a noun's various grammatical functions. There are 
five declensions in Latin, each with its own set of rules. 
Flamsteed designations
    Johannes Flansteed in the early 1700s promulgated a new naming 
scheme using only Arabic numbers. From west to east in a constellation 
he numbered the stars from '1' to however many he needed. He couldn't 
run out of numbers, and some constellations do have well over 100 
Flamsteed stars. In Argus, still the one group back then, he numbered 
only the stars he could observe from England's latitude. These all 
happened to be in today's northern Puppis. 
    With the diffraction of Argo, there was nothing special to do with 
the Flamsteed numbers except note that the star such-&-such Argus is 
now such-&-such Puppis. I think the last Flamsteed star is 22 Argus, 
now 22 Puppis. 
    For far southern constellations, with no Flamsteed numbers, we 
employ Gould numbers. They resemble Flamsteed's by progressing west to 
east across each constellation. They were developed by Gould in the 
1870s, with generous overlap into northern constellations, as visible 
from his observatory in Argentina. 
    Today only Flamsteed's own numbers are used in constellations 
originally carrying them. Gould numbers there are abandoned. Gould's 
are used only in constellations with no original Flamsteed numbers. In 
the mid-south declination belt, this left some constellations with 
only a few numbered stars, like Puppis. 
    That's how the globular cluster in Tucana is '47 Tucanae'. This is 
a Gould number in that constellation, not a true Flamsteed name. 
The L star
    In Argo there was a Bayer star L Argus. This is now L Puppis. The 
reason I caught the ESO name conflict on the spot is that this L 
Puppis is a well known variable star. Actually, the star is a close 
line-of- sight pair. Astronomers late named it L1 and L2. L2 is the 
variable. So vera mente there is no star called just 'L Puppis' but it 
is short for 'L2 Puppis'. L1 has nothing of interest for it. 
    Because of the one suite of Bayer letters thruout the former Argo 
region, there can be no star 'L Carinae'. That is historicly 
l and 1 
    In many type styles the '1' and 'l' characters are very similar 
and in a quick reading can be confused. Do you remember the typewriter? 
This was a large heavy mechanical machine for stamping characters on 
paper by pressing the appropriate keys on a console. There generally 
was NO KEY FOR THE NUMERAL '1'! You keyed in the letter 'l' for the 
numeral '1', so similar they would be if they had separate keys!! 
    It wasn't until the IBM electric typewriter that 'l' and '1' were 
given their own keys. That was a result of the typewriter's potential 
to be driven by signals from a computer, where 'l' and '1' had 
distinct IBM character codes. 
The l star 
    Is that 'l' or '1'? For the Cepheid envelope case, the star name 
has the small Latin letter 'l', not the Arabic numeral '1'. How to 
make sure the reader knows which character is intended? 
    Easy! Make the 'l' a big letter 'L'. There's no way that looks 
like a '1', does it? And so, in all likelihood, the authors merely 
wanted to avoid mixing up the two characters and wrote the star name 
with a big 'L'. 
    This is like using 'L' as the symbol for 'liter' rather than 'l'. 
In a value-&-unit set it's too easy to read it as an extra digit '1'. 
    Also in all likelihood the news authors didn't realize they were 
accidently duplicating the name of a whole other star -- also a 
variable of substantial interest! -- in Puppis. They also probably 
never thought there was a Flamsteed '1 Puppis' out there. 
    Note that there is BOTH a small l' and big 'L' star in the Argo 
region! These are 'l Carinae' and 'L Puppis'. I don't know how this 
came about since in the strict bayer system there can be only one star 
with a given letter. As I noted above, more investigation is needed in 
the history of the Bayer system. 
1 L of an l
    Thus now we have a charming example of how some fellows more than 
two thousand years ago who defined the constellations and two European 
chaps in the 1600s and 1700s who marked letters and numbers on the 
stars come to bedevil us in this 21st century. 
    Here are some specs for the three stars in this tangle of names 
  | Star name | Rt Asc | Declin  | Magn | Sp | LY   | HR # | HIP # | 
  | l Carinae | 09h45m | -62d31m | 3.7v | G5 | 1510 | 3884 | 47854 | 
  | L Puppis  | 07h14m | -44d28m | 4.4v | M5 |  198 | 2748 | 34922 | 
  | 1 Puppis  | 07h44m | -28d24m | 4.6  | K5 |  977 | 2993 | 32648 |
   The distances to the stars remain uncertain. You may find other 
values elsewhere. 
  | Star name | Max-min | Days  | Type    | Comments |
  | l Carinae | 3.3-4.2 | 35.53 | del Cep | = ZZ Car | 
  | L Puppis  | 2.6-6.2 | ~140  | semireg | = L2 Pup |
  | 1 Puppis  |   4.6   | suspected unconfirmed var  |
Naming variable stars 
    The Bayer system of using Latin letters has an important 
consequence today, even if you haven't heard of this part of his 
method. When variable stars were recognized as a new celestial feature 
a naming scheme for them was needed. Most of the early finds were 
already named under the Bayer system" 'beta Persei, omicron Ceti, eta 
Cerinae. As such no additional name was applied to them.
    The first new variable in a constellation having no Bayer letter 
was named 'R' in continuation of the Bayer system. We have as 
examples 'R Andromedae', 'R Cancri', 'R Hydrae'. The  farthest letter 
needed by Bayer was 'Q', so 'R' was merely the next open letter. 
    Most constellations didn't have lettered stars so far in the 
alphabet as 'Q'. To be consistent 'R' was always the first non-Bayer 
variable star, even if this left a gap in the constellation between 
its existing farthest-lettered star and 'R'. Future variables were 
letters forward thru 'Z'. 
    Understand well that 'R' is does NOT denote the very first 
variable found in a constellation. it's the first variable to receive 
its own designation for lack of its own existing Bayer name.. 
    In the 19th century when variable stars were first treated 
seriously, we believed they were rare items. How many could there 
possibly be in a constellation? The letters R thru Z would surely 
cover all that may be found. 
More letters
    When the number of variables in a constellation exceded the 
alphabet thru Z, a double-letter designation was invented. I don't go 
thru the details here but the first letter must be less than or equal 
to the second and letter 'J' is omitted. We have 'CY Aquarii', 'SS 
Cygni', 'BL Lacertae', 'RS Ophiuchi' 
    L2 Puppis when realized to be a variable star already had the L3 
name. We left it alone without giving it a new variable star letter. l 
(small Latin letter) Carinae, on the other hand, when enrolled among 
the variable stars, was given the next available letter combo, This 
happened to be ZZ. We got a ZZ Carinae. This was probably done to 
remove the duplicate Bayer Latin letters in Argo, even tho they are 
mow in different descendents of Argo. 
    After exhausting the possible double-letters, we gave up and went 
to numbers, like 'V361 Orionis' and 'V838 Monocerotis'. Yes, there can 
be hundreds of variables per constellation, specially if it's in the 
Milky Way band in the sky. 
    It would be far better if the discovery authors used the variable 
star name 'ZZ Carinae' in the stead of the mistaken 'L Carinae'. I'm 
sure you saw far worse news accounts in astronomy. 
Collateral history
    When we delineated the frontiers of the constellations we tried to 
keep the named stars of the former amorphous groups together. Once in 
a while we had to let a named star fall across the border into an 
other constellation, mainly because to keep in within its home 
constellation would require delicate gerrymandering of the frontier. 
    One constraint was that variable stars must stay within the home 
constellation. This comes from their names derived from the Bayer 
system. A star 'UZ Lyncis' (which I picked out of the air) must stay 
within the new borders of Lynx, even if the border must be stretched 
to enclose it. Else it would be an orphan star in the next 
    From a news story about shells around three delta Cephei stars we 
ended up exploring some interesting astronomy history. This happens 
often in astronomy, that starting with one topic can expand you 
inquiry into many other, at first unrelated, subjects and themes.
    In some cases you'll come to deadends because the current 
information is obscure or lacking. That's when you may try to build 
out the missing information and then diffuse it for wider access.