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Observatory Central > Planetarium Forum > Planetariums as a hobby > Planetarium Presentations ~ programs, education, music, and effects
mrgare5050
As one of 5 remaining people who give star lectures, well I used to and I will AGAIN), star names are problematic. After the top 20 of course.

Take the Great Square of Pegasus. Its best star aint even IN Pegasus - any more - when it used to be shared with Andromeda, it was merely Delta. But Andromeda presumably traded for it, giving up a draft pick, and now ALPERHATZ is actually A Andromeda. Its an unusual binary apparently, mercury-magnesium or something.

The other names of the Great Square of Pegasus? Who could forget ol Al Genib, Mark Ab (I went to school with Mark and Al), and my favorite - Scheat. Dont take any Scheat.

More to come.
Ron Walker
I can't even remember the top twenty.
mrgare5050
I know right, is it RI GEL - like hair gel? RE GIL .. what?

Epsilon Pegasus - ENIF (long EE NIF) is literally arabic for NOSE - its the bright star at the end of Pegasus, on his muzzle as it were. This could be used in a star show - the nose of the horse. Interestingly this star was an early parallax measured star thats pretty close to us. Parallax is best demonstrated by when my wife looks at the speedometer needle while I'm driving and doesnt realize how fast wer'e really going smile.gif

According to my sources, the Hubble can now measure parallax out to over 10,000 lightyears. Thats a small angle man.
mrgare5050
Turning from Pegasus to Bootes for no good reason, Arcturus of course gets all the press. But BETA BOOTES is called NEKKAR, and sits at the top of the little mans head. I call Bootes a little man because I learned the constellations from HA REY's THE STARS, and the little oblong shaped head he used has stuck with me. NEKKAR was observed by ROSAT, the big xray satellite, to have emitted a giant flare in 93, which was unusual for a low activity star. (could our Sun do the same and wipe out the new dinosaurs - US?)

Interestingly ROSAT was supposed to go up on the Challenger and then be retrievable. They had to however refit it for Delta rockets, and then it burned up - like Nivana, it was a product of the 90s.
mrgare5050
If you are a super casual observer like me, you have that short list of 5 objects you like to look at quick. The 'beloved Albireo' MUST be on everyones short list, since its one of the few colored double stars. Back in 68, my EJ Korvettes 2.4 inch was NOT showing much color, even through my neighbors window, so this object was burned into my memory.

Albireo is another of these identity crisis stars however - its 'the beak star', being at the head of cygnus, but turn it around and its at the very bottom of the Northern Cross. Ever notice you just cant argue with names like the Northern and Southern Cross. Eastern or Western wouldnt have had the same gravitas.

If you have a 20 inch telescope or better you can split A Albireo into two more stars. I loved double stars as a kid for no good reason. The name 'Albireo', one that we've heard and accepted all our lives, is complicated so I'll lazily quote Dr Wiki:


Its current name is a result of misunderstanding and mistranslation. It is thought that it originated in the Greek name ornis for the constellation of Cygnus, which became urnis in Arabic.[23] When translated into Latin, this name was thought to refer to the plant Erysimum officinale, and so was translated into a Latin name for this plant, ireo. The phrase ab ireo was later treated as a misprint of an Arabic term and transcribed as al-bireo.[24]

A likely story
Ron Walker
I have been giving some thought to doing a series of shows for Boy Scouts to get their merit badge on astronomy. After all, how much could be required to get a badge. I was given, some time ago, a single requirement page for the girl scouts for their equivalent badge. Very simple and the only questions about stars is how bright they are and to pick three and compare their brightness. There is no mention at all of remembering their names. How different could the boy scouts be. To my surprise I was given an eighty page tome for the merit badge on astronomy. Certainly there would be a large section on stars and their names. While certainly more comprehensive then the girl scouts (I wonder why) it was still not intensive. Considering that there are only 20 or so first magnitude stars these would be a good starting point for memorizing the heavens.

The actual requirement is, "Identify at least eight conspicuous stars, five of which are first magnitude or brighter". Since there are 31 other requirements for the badge I would doubt many would go beyond the eight required.

When I first started to give these programs I was indeed terrified that I would run into a lot of terrifying questions the least of which would be the names of dimmer stars that make up the constellations. So far, no one has asked anything at all! This might change with my first home school group but my gut says not.

Basically I think no one really cares.

mrgare5050
Very interesting data on the scout requirements!

Yeah I never got many questions either, although the occasional know it all was worse. This all goes back to how to construct a show etc.

I'm thinking some weird little detail might be what sticks in the mind of each visitor. That atmosphere we talked about - its conjured up with exotic star names. But I'm slanted toward emotion more than science, so that is more my interest. I spent my whole life not caring what most stars were called too - I just last week starting noticing - all these crazy lesser names and it was fascinating. Weve GOT to do something they wont just see anywhere.
Ron Walker
It is interesting that what was once seen everywhere is beginning to be seen nowhere. We, the producers of the simple star show are getting rather rare but I think this is the kind of show people really want to see.

I really haven't been plagued with any "know it all's". I did have one guy who liked to correct my pronunciation but after a while I just said I was far from perfect and it shut him up. I don't think he ever came back.

I just had a couple today that wanted to bring a friend and said they loved doing the intro show as they always caught something new with each presentation. Perhaps I change each presentation enough so that there is something new to catch.
mrgare5050
Well theres all kinds of visitors, and all kinds of crazy star names!

Take MIRFAK - the brightest star in Perseus. If ever a star had an inferiority complex, it would be poor MIRFAK. At magnitude 1.8, its brighter than all but 20 or so stars up there. But TOTALLY overshadowed by 1) Algol, the demon variable 2) the Double Cluster of Perseus 3) the Perseid Meteor Shower 4) that hero/medusa thing

plus its an arabic name that romantically means 'elbow', 'side' or 'flank' ...

scientifically, its what our sun will be someday - an old star expanding as it uses up its fuel

and so, MIRFAK elbows its way into this board ouch!
Ron Walker
That is one of the things I don't have working yet, my variable stars. Since they run with a small motor I want that to be controllable from the mail panel. I'm not at all sure if they indeed originally ran all of the time. I must look for a switch.

Either way, I like the name Mirfak. I will look into it.
mrgare5050
Everyone who ever looked up knows Antares in Scorpius (not Scorpiio, as my Jr High Latin teacher Mr Hanna would have pointed out), but who knows that the other end of the constellation is

the STINGER ... SHAULA ! which means raised tale in arabic.

Shaula appears on the flag of Brazil. The Navy has a ship named Shaula. Its a first magnitude star! But because its so far south, it gets no respect - it was even assigned LAMBDA in the greek alphabet - thats like, way down there!

Shaula has a partner LESATH, and together they are known as the Cats Eyes!

Lesath? the name Lesath is the final result of a long and convoluted history, initially derived from a Greek word meaning a (foggy) conglomeration.

consider yourself unfogged on these great stars!

Ron Walker
I never realized it was a first magnitude star.
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