Star maps and the Greek alphabet
Astronomy names and designations
Astronomy questions and answers – The names and designations of the stars and celestial bodies in the night sky above your head were first officially documented around 1603. In this year, German mapmaker Johannes Bayer published his “Atlas of the Constellations”, in which he plotted the positions in the night sky of more than 2,000 celestial objects. Previous star charts in contrast designated stars according to their position within the mythological figures of constellations in the night sky.
Bayer’s Uranometria star classification system uses Greek letters to differentiate the varying brightness of stars in the night sky. Using Bayer’s system Alpha is normally used to designate a constellation’s brightest star, Beta to designate the second brightest in a constellation, and this trend continues through the Greek alphabet. Bayer would sometimes letter stars in a constellation sequentially as well and under this system, the stars of the Big Dipper, for example, are designed Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, and Eta.
Modern astronomers have made their own additions and tweaks to the star classification system in use today. Celestial Cartographers studying the night sky now use numbered characters as designators for stars and celestial objects in the night sky. They haven’t added any new Greek letters to the constellations in the night sky, so look for the greek letters listed below on star maps of the constellations in the night sky, and this will provide you with stars you can use as road markers on your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”.
Astronomers used the Greek letters to designate objects in the night sky