Division C WG Star Names — Functional


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. The focus during the 2021-2024 triennium will be:

Ongoing Mission

(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 provide relevant expertise to support other IAU efforts related to celestial nomenclature, including public naming campaigns (e.g. NameExoWorlds).


Anticipated Outputs

(1) 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,

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

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

(4) to refine WGSN guidelines for the proposal and adoption of names for stars.

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 the new EC WG Exoplanetary System Nomenclature), interstellar medium features (nebulae), and extragalactic objects. Cultural names of asterisms have been added to the research purview of the WGSN 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 source of new IAU 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 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, and the Working Group is considered Functional. 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.

Etymology Task Group Chairperson: Doris Vickers

Contact Email for WG Chair and Secretary: starnames@exopla.net


Working Group Members (15)


Division C Education, Outreach and Heritage

Susanne M Hoffmann

Friedrich Schiller University
Michael Stifel Center
Ernst-Abbe-Platz 2
07743 Jena

Organization website: https://www.mscj.uni-jena.de

NCA adherence: Germany

Last updated:
November 20, 2023

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
Organization website: https://science.jpl.nasa.gov/people/Mamajek/

NCA adherence: United States

Last updated:
November 20, 2023

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