Division C WG Star Names


The Working Group on Star Names (WGSN) consists of an international group of astronomers with expertise in stellar astronomy, astronomical history, and cultural astronomy who research and catalog proper names for stars for the use by the international astronomical community and also to aid the recognition and preservation of intangible astronomical heritage. WGSN maintains the IAU Catalog of Star Names. During the WGSN’s first triennium (2015-2018), the group converged on guidelines for IAU star names, and assembled a catalog of 338 unique star names with standardized spellings based on an extensive review of historical catalogs, star atlases, and the cultural astronomy literature. The focus during the 2018-2021 triennium will be:

(1) to continue an exhaustive search of star names from the cultural astronomy literature,

(2) to adopt new IAU proper names for stars of scientific and historical value for community use following WGSN guidelines,

(3) to maintain the IAU Catalog of Star Names (https://www.iau.org/public/themes/naming_stars/) and assist the IAU with maintaining its web content on celestial nomenclature .

(4) to add etymological information to the IAU Catalog of Star Names in the interests of further preserving astronomical heritage,

(5) to construct a new supporting list or name bank of names for stars and associated asterisms which is culturally and geographically diverse,

(6) to refine the WGSN guidelines for the proposal and adoption of names for stars,

(7) to provide relevant expertise to support other IAU efforts related to celestial nomenclature, including public naming campaigns like NameExoWorlds for IAU100.

Following the past triennium, the naming purview for the WGSN will continue to be for stars, substellar objects, and stellar remnants, but specifically exclude exoplanets (purview of IAU public naming campaigns), interstellar medium features (nebulae), and extragalactic objects. Exoplanet names will be catalogued as well so as to avoid duplication with star names. Cultural names of asterisms have been added to the research purview of the WGSN this triennium in the interests of facilitating etymological investigations among Div C members (many traditions name a great number of asterisms and relatively few bright stars). In some cases, ancient asterism names may provide a potential reservoir of new names for individual stars. WGSN will also deliberate on the process by which “new” names for stars and substellar objects of scientific significance can be proposed by members of the international astronomical community.

The 2018 WGSN business meeting clarified the working group’s policy that in the interests of clarity in the nomenclature, names will be assigned to individual stars (components in multiples), rather than multiples.

The activities of the Division C WG Star Names are well-aligned with the IAU Strategic Plan 2020-2030 and the activities of IAU Division C. The WGSN is specifically called out on p. 22 of IAU Strategic Plan 2020-2030: “The IAU serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and their surface features. To do so, the IAU has a number of Working Groups on various topics, most notably on the nomenclature of small bodies in the Solar System and planetary systems under Division F and on Star Names under Division C.


Working Group Web Page

Working Group Members (18)


Division C Education, Outreach and Heritage

Eric E. Mamajek

Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech
Astrophysics & Space Sciences Section
M/S 321-100
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena 91109
California (CA)
United States

Phone: +1 818-354-2153
Email: mamajekjplnasagov
Personal website: https://sites.google.com/site/mamajeksstarnotes/
Organization website: https://science.jpl.nasa.gov/people/Mamajek/

NCA adherence: United States

Last updated:
March 13, 2019

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