Learn How Different Cultures Have Contributed To Naming The Stars In The Sky

The names of stars come from many sources that vary in different regions of the world. Many cultures have rich histories of naming stars for mythology, agriculture, timekeeping, and navigation. Some of the most notable ancient cultures to catalog star names are Greek, Egyptian, Chinese, Polynesian, Persian, Indian, Babylonian, and Native American.

The Chinese inscribed star names on tortoise shells and were the first to record a super nova. Early Polynesians were highly skilled wayfinders who sailed thousands of miles over open ocean navigating by the stars. Egyptians created the modern calendar to predict the annual flooding of the Nile river. Halleys Comet has been noted by many cultures including the Babylonians in 164 BCE.


Ancient Arabic Star Catalog

Ancient Native Americans did not leave catalogs of star names, however they did leave behind rock art, pottery, and architecture indicating that they were studying the night sky long before the voyage of Columbus. The Indus Valley Civilization of India used advanced mathematics and astronomy in 800 BCE to properly place religious altars. A Persian astronomer in 894 AD built a giant sextant to measure the axial tilt of the earth. He discovered that the axial tilt is not constant but is in fact currently decreasing.

Most of the names of stars used in the west come from ancient Greek astronomy. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the only internationally recognized authority for assigning star names and surface features on them. So far the IAU has only approved a few hundred historical star names. The rest of the stars just have numbers.

In 1978, the founders of Name a Star developed a way for anyone to show their love and respect to others by assigning the names of loved ones to stars – stars that are otherwise listed as numbers in astronomy catalogs. Name a Star – The Original Star Naming Service – Since 1978® became the world’s first star naming company.