The Names of Stars

Many of the brighter stars in the sky have been given names. During your first lab session, you located the stars Vega, Sirius, and Aldebaran. But many of the less bright stars don't have special names. Astronomers refer to those by the constellation they are in and their brightness. This is done by using lowercase Greek letters and the constellation name (in the possesive).

(Greek Alphabet)

 For example, the brightest star in Centaurus is called Alpha Centauri, the second brightest is called Beta Centauri, the third brightest is called Gamma Centauri, and so on. The star Sirius could also be referred to as Alpha Canis Majori, because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major.


The 20 Brightest Stars in the Sky

In order of brightness. The lower the number for magnitude, the brighter the star.

Star Constellation Color Magnitude 
Sirius  Canis Major bluish - 1.42 
Canopus Carina yellowish-white  - 0.72 
Alpha Centauri Centaurus yellow-orange - 0.27 
Arcturus Bootes orange - 0.06 
Vega Lyra bluish-white 0.03 
Capella Auriga yellowish 0.09 
Rigel Orion bluish-white 0.15 
Procyon Canis Minor yellowish-white 0.35 
Achernar Eridanis bluish 0.49 
Beta Centauri Centaurus bluish 0.61 
Betelgeuse Orion reddish 0.69 
Altair Aquila yellowish-white 0.74 
Aldebaran Taurus orange 0.86 
Acrux Crux bluish 0.87 
Antares Scorpius reddish 0.89 
Spica Virgo Bluish 0.96 
Pollux Gemini yellowish 1.13 
Fomalhaut Piscis Autrinus bluish-white 1.16 
Deneb Cygnus white 1.28 
Becrux Crux bluish 1.28 

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 This page was last update on 12 September 1997
and is © 1997 by Jim McDonald.